Bali’s culinary scene is only as vibrant as its beach landscape, filled with colorful 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 classics, affordable but rich street food. Here are our selection of local street food dishes to try in Bali.
Sate (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 Bali’s 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 being grilled. While most Indonesian sate are served with condiment, additional sauce is optional for sate lilit, as it already has the delicious combination of spicy, sweet, and savory 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 the whole nasi jinggo in the palm of your hand. That makes nasi jinggo a perfect on-the-go meal, 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, chicken, and seafood, to 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 savory 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 Gianyar, Bali. Street food vendors line up on the main streets in the morning with their cart, 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 Balinese traditional cake made from rice flour and coconut milk. Laklak got its green color 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 savory taste. Laklak can be enjoyed along with afternoon tea or morning coffee, or as a sweet dessert.
Rujak is Indonesian fruit salad with 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 Balinese use their abundant seafood product to enhance their rujak’s 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 with hot broth, often with noodles and fried dumplings. Many food street vendor sell bakso on portable carts pushed around a neighborhood 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 a perfect snack between meals.
Sweet corn 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 sweet corn from vendors on many popular beaches like Kuta or Jimbaran. Before the grilling process, the sweet corns are coated with butter and other additional sauces, like chili 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 crepes 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 dessert/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, with an affordable price without discounting the taste. The meal owes its flavor to the distinctive roasting technique and traditional spices greased all over the meat, making it an outstanding dish.