10 Traditional Balinese Dishes You Need to Try
Balinese Traditional Food | © amrufm / Flickr
Balinese culture is an elaborate and rounded one, manifested in almost every aspect of life, including foods. The traditional dishes in Bali are a big part of its tradition, some of which are almost as old as the culture itself. Here are the traditional dishes to try in Bali if you want to experience the essence of the island on your plate.
Satay, or sate in Indonesian, are basically grilled slices of chicken, goat, beef, or pork skewered on sticks. It’s a traditional food tourists can find in virtually every city in Indonesia. Every culture has their own take and variation on this classic dish. Sate lilit is Bali’s own peculiar creation, which is marinated with coconut milk and other spices. Tourists will also enjoy sate lilit in sticks, but the sliced meat is wrapped rather than skewered, thus the name lilit (wrap). Additional sauce is optional, as the sate itself already has a delicious combination of spicy, savory, and sweet tastes.
Sate Lilit Bali | © Niek van Son / Flickr
Babi guling or Balinese roasted pork is one of the indulgences to try in Bali. The pork can only be roasted as a whole because it will be rolled (guling) over the fire, so it’s originally a communal dish. Often served as a treat during cultural performances or ceremonies, now babi guling can also be enjoyed in restaurant settings. Although the fresh pork (often piglets) meat contributes much to the main course’s juiciness, the mixture of traditional spices stuffed and greased all over the meat also plays an important role in making babi guling an unforgettable dish.
Legend has it that betutu was once the kings’ favorite meal. It’s not surprising, then, that the food is prepared in such a sophisticated way. A whole chicken or duck is often chosen as the meal’s main ingredient, which will then be stuffed with an intricate mixture of spices that includes shallots, garlic, ginger, chili, peanuts, and more. The meal takes at least eight hours to prepare, most of which are spent baking or steaming the poultry with the special mixture. The taste doesn’t betray the effort, though, because that long process yields a rich flavor in every bite.
Ayam Betutu Bali | © .angels. / Flickr
Lawar is made by mixing chopped meat with various green vegetables and grated coconut. As for the meat, the choices are either beef, chicken, duck, pork, turtle, or a combination of those. Balinese know two types of lawar: red and white. The red lawar gets its color from animal blood added to the mixture, which adds a certain savory flavor and umami to the whole dish. White lawar, on the other hand, doesn’t contain blood and often substitutes meat with jackfruit.
Bubur Mengguh is a certain kind of porridge that originated in Buleleng, Bali. This savory dish is an important meal for Balinese people as it’s one of the compulsory treats to be served at traditional festivals or ceremonies. The porridge is topped with a liquid mixture made from spices, shredded chicken, roasted peanuts, and celery. Often, bubur mengguh is served with urab, a vegetable salad with coconut dressing. Warm, freshly cooked bubur mengguh is perfect for breakfast or as a meal on a rainy day.
Although it comes in small portions, nasi jinggo is a big part of the local’s daily life. They say you can fit a portion of nasi jinggo in the palm of your hand, and it seems just about right. Consisting of rice, vegetables, and a side dish and condiment wrapped together inside a banana leaf, nasi jinggo is an affordable food alternative for locals and tourists alike. Usually, the side dish options are shredded chicken, egg, or noodles. Tourists can find nasi jinggo sold on motorcycles parked on the side of Bali’s main streets.
Nasi tepeng is the local cuisine of Gianyar, Bali. Although popular with the name nasi (rice) tepeng, its texture is somewhere between rice and porridge. The soft, mushy grain is enjoyed with a special mixture of spices and herbs, which gives a strong flavor, along with fried chicken, egg, jackfruit, beans, and eggplant. In Gianyar, nasi tepeng is a common breakfast for locals, and its enticing aroma in the morning is a treat in itself.
Many tourists will find their Balinese diet dominated with meat, especially pork and chicken. But the people of Bali also know exactly how to work their vegetables. Urab (also urap) is a traditional vegetable salad with coconut dressing. It consists of a wide array of steamed or raw vegetables, including green beans, cabbage, bean sprouts, spinach, and cassava leaves. You can enjoy urab on its own or as a side dish. It’s a vegetarian-friendly meal rich in both flavor and nutrients.
Urab | © mainur risyada / Flickr
Tourists and cuisine-enthusiasts can find the delicious tum wrapped neatly with banana leaves. The food consists of minced chicken or beef, put together with mashed spices and herbs like garlic, shallots, chilis, bay leaves, gingers, lemongrass, and more. Everything is put together compactly, making it convenient to eat as a main course or snack on the go.
This tasty Balinese hot sauce (sambal) has made its way to restaurants and households from all over Indonesia. Each culture has their own creation of a chili-based condiment but sambal matah is loved for its fresh sensation. Shallots, garlic, and chilis, which are common ingredients for Indonesian hot sauces, are chopped or blended, giving it a delightful texture. The secret for the fresh sensation is the touch of lime leaves and lemongrass. Sambal matah can enhance the flavor of a simple fried chicken, pork, or egg dish.