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I had the most satisfying vacation to Bali, Indonesia, with my besties last week. You can tell if you look at me, I am glowing from all the Bali love. I can’t stop gushing about how great the place was. The natural beauty, the flora and fauna, the friendly folks, the warm hospitality, everything came together to make a magical experience. But, if there is one thing about Bali that would stay bright in my memory for eons to come, it is Bali’s food. Dear foodies, if Bali is not on your bucket list yet, read this. I am confident you would add it ASAP:
Nasi & Mie
The versatile Nasi Goreng (fried rice) is often called the National dish of Indonesia. Every nook and cranny of Bali has a version of it, everyone of them equally delectable. It is a fried (pre-cooked) rice, with sweet soy sauce, shallot, garlic, shrimp paste, tamarind, and chilli. The plate is then topped with chicken, prawns, and a fried egg. Nasi Goreng was born as an idea to use leftover rice from the previous day, and therefore, was typically served as breakfast. Of course, now it is available almost everywhere, and at any time, anywhere in Bali.
The cousin, Mie Goreng, is the product of Chinese influence on Indonesian food. This is fried noodles, in stead of rice, made with the exact same ingredients as the Nasi (rice) version. We had both almost every day of our stay at the island, and enjoyed it every single time.
This is Bali’s favorite salad, made with blanched veggies, potato, eggs, fried tofu, and tempeh. This is served with a scrumptious, peanut sauce dressing, with a side of banana-leaf wrapped, steamed rice.
Gado Gado means ‘mix-mix’ in Indonesian – a reference to the mixed veggies on the plate. But, what makes a Gado-Gado stand out from its Western counterparts is the generous helping of that gorgeous peanut sauce dressing. Made with fried crushed savory peanuts, sweet palm sugar, garlic, chilies, salt, tamarind and a squeeze of lime, it is a divine experience for the taste buds.
Well, the famous dish is betutu – and can be made with a Bebek (duck), or Ayam (chicken). However, the duck dish is a clear winner among the two. The betutu spice mixture consists of shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, wild ginger, galangal, candlenuts, chili peppers, shrimp paste, and peanuts all finely ground using mortar and pestle. Then the spices are sauteed in coconut oil to release a splendid aroma, before being rubbed onto the meat. The meat is then steamed or roasted. The whole dish (including the marination time) takes more than 24 hours to prepare!
Over the years, this Indonesian dish has crossed the borders of its country, and come to be loved as Satay all over the world. Essentially, it is spiced, minced meat (pork, fish, beef, or chicken), wound around lemongrass sticks, and grilled over charcoal. The minced meat is mixed with grated coconut, thick coconut milk, lemon juice, shallots, and pepper. This mix is then wrapped around the sticks, in stead of skewered, as is common in many variants across the world. Warungs (stalls), restaurants, street shacks all over Bali, sell this delicacy for next to nothing. You could munch over your Sate, dipped in yummy peanut sauce, as you stroll the beaches or the streets of the Island Province.
This is a wholesome, savory porridge, topped with a handful of shredded chicken, peanut fries, and peanut sauce. It was easy on the palate, and a favorite of the youngest member of our crew – the one year old. Not to say that the adults didn’t gorge on this off-beat breakfast option!
When in Bali, you would be bombarded with joints that offer this signature Bali dish – the Suckling Pig. Traditionally, the dish is a prerequisite in wedding offerings to the Bride’s family, among Batak people. Of course, this delicacy is limited to the Hindu majority, Bali, in the otherwise Muslim Indonesia. A pig (still suckling at its mother’s) is roasted whole, over 6-8 hours, in low flames. The process of cooking is communal, and is typically done by men. While travelers far and wide make culinary trips just to track down the best version of this (Ibu Oka in Ubud is the most famous place), we gave it a miss. The mothers in the group couldn’t wrap our heads around eating a suckling baby. (Yups, we are aware of the hypocrisy – since mined meat is squarely on our plate). But, if you can brave a young pig looking at you, from a pit – go for it. It is undoubtedly one of the stars of Balinese cuisine.
While these were the top guns in our food adventures at Bali, I also want to talk to you about the lesser known, but equally delectable snacks. that Balinese markets offered us. The foodie group that I traveled with, spent some time on the aisles of Balinese super marts – like Mini Mart, Carrefour, or Alfamart – spread all over Bali. And we did discover a few snacks that we recommend:
This is Indonesia’s famous layer cake. The recipe originated in Sarawak, Malaysia – but, the whole region seems to be fascinated by it. For good reason though, as we found out, when we finished a pack before you could say Kek Lapis!
Well, we were not supposed to meet Mr. Luwak on hypermart shelves. But, we did. Luwak, made famous in the popular Hollywood movie, ‘ The Bucket List’, is also known as ‘poo coffee’. Rodents, called Civet cats, roan the Kopi Bali fields, and get high on the beans. When they discard coffee pellets, the same are collected, finished and sold as Kopi Luwak. It is extremely expensive outside Bali. But, the hypermart sold a accessible variant of it (might be a rip off)! There are Kopi Luwak refineries around Bali where you may taste the real thing. My take – not bad at all, you can’t smell shit in it, if you know what I mean…
Hopia or Mooncake
The Chinese mooncake, called Hopia or Bakpia in Bali, made its presence felt. The Balinese seem to love their Green gram lentil. They even have an energy drink made of that, that I kind of liked, but my friends hated. The mooncakes where also stuffed with green gram paste – known in Bali as Kacang Hijau.
Have you had your gastronomic tour of Indonesia’s Hindu island, Bali? If yes, what would you add to our list? Comment below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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