Bali’s culinary scene is easily as vibrant as its beach landscape, filled with colourful tastes, traditional customs and stories. Although there are many excellent high-end restaurants in Bali, you’ll never fully experience Balinese cuisine before trying the classic, affordable but rich street food. Here’s our selection of the best local street food dishes to try in Bali.
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Sate lilit (satay) is basically pieces of grilled meat on skewers. As one of Indonesia’s classics, sate can be found in fine dining restaurants or at street food vendors. Being a country with a diverse culture, almost every region has their own sate variant, and luckily sate lilit is among the best in taste and popularity. The meat for sate lilit – usually pork, chicken, or fish – is minced, soaked with grated coconut, coconut milk and other spices, then wrapped around the sticks before getting grilled. While most Indonesian sate is served with condiments, additional sauce is optional for sate lilit, as it already has a delicious combination of spicy, sweet and savoury taste.
Imagine a full dish — rice, side dish, vegetables, and condiments, packed conveniently inside a banana leaf: that is nasi jinggo. The catch is, tourists can only find nasi jinggo in small portions, there’s even a saying that you can fit a whole one in the palm of your hand, making it the perfect on-the-go meal – and an easy and affordable way to eat without missing any nutrients. Tourists can find nasi jinggo in almost every main street in Bali, sold on food street kiosks or on parked motorcycles, with side dish options ranging from fish, beef and chicken to seafood and eggs.
Being an equatorial paradise, tropical fruits like coconut and banana are abundant in Bali. And when you combine the two, you get Pisang Rai. This Balinese snack is made from boiled banana wrapped with rice flour, then rolled in grated coconut. Its soft texture is almost in contrast with the tempting sweet and savoury taste from the mix. Many street food vendors will offer an additional sauce made from brown sugar and pineapple pieces, making the tropical feels even stronger.
Nasi tepeng is a common breakfast choice in Bali. Street food vendors line up on the main streets in the morning with their carts, presenting an appetizing aroma of spices and herbs. Local people love the solid but soft texture, which is somewhere between rice and porridge. Nasi tepeng can be enjoyed with fried chicken, eggs, beans, eggplant and jackfruit – and is often served on banana leaves.
Laklak is a traditional Balinese cake made from rice flour and coconut milk. Laklak got its green colour from suji leaves and pandan leaves, greeneries that can almost exclusively be found in Asia. The snack is often served with grated coconut or a brown sugar sauce with jackfruit – giving it a distinctive fresh, sweet and savoury taste. Laklak can be enjoyed along with afternoon tea or morning coffee or as a sweet dessert.
Rujak Bulung/Rujak Kuah Pindang
Rujak is an Indonesian fruit salad with a traditional dressing. There are many variations of rujak throughout Indonesia, and Balinese’s take on the traditional dessert is rather quirky compared to others. Most rujak dressings are made from brown sugar or peanut sauce, but the Balinese use their abundant seafood products to enhance the flavor. Balinese use tuna and other spices to create the dressing for rujak kuah pindang and add fresh seaweed to create rujak bulung. You’d never thought that fruits and seafood could go along that well.
Bakso is an Indonesian meatball served in a hot broth, often with noodles and fried dumplings. Many street vendors sell bakso on portable carts pushed around a neighbourhood or on modified motorcycles that allow the cart to be attached alongside. The warm food is not only perfect for cold days in Bali – which do not appear very often – but also makes for a perfect snack between meals.
Sweetcorn makes a wonderful companion when hanging out on Bali’s stunning beaches while watching the sunset. Tourists can compensate the chilling breeze with warm, freshly grilled whole sweetcorn from vendors on many popular beaches like Kuta or Jimbaran. Before the grilling process, the sweetcorns are coated with butter and other additional sauces – like chilli or barbecue sauce – making them enjoyable for all.
Terang Bulan is one of Asia’s classic desserts and is also popular in Bali. It is like a pancake in texture and kind of like a crepe in mixture and taste. In between two pancake-like layers, tourists can choose what to have: chocolate, cheese, nuts, condensed milk, a combination of those or all of those at once. Terang bulan, or martabak, is a much-loved snack in Indonesia, often sold by street vendors in kiosks or parked cars.
Due to its massive popularity, tourists can now find babi guling – or Balinese roasted pig – from fine dining restaurants and on the streets. Originally a ceremonial dish, babi guling can now be enjoyed casually at street food vendors, at an affordable price without discounting the taste. The meal owes its flavour to the distinctive roasting technique and traditional spices greased all over the meat, making it a truly outstanding dish.
Tempted to try some of these dishes for yourself? You can do so with Culture Trip on our immersive 12-day Bali adventure, which includes a cooking masterclass in Ubud.
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