Embrace Bali’s food scene and experience the exotic flavors of Balinese and Indonesian dishes while relishing the intoxicating scenery. Visit a local “warung” (restaurant), or try a quick bite from a “kaki lima” (street cart). Or take a cooking class and learn how to make some of Bali’s fresh, tasty dishes yourself.
There’s a thriving culinary scene on the island, from high-end restaurants with well-known chefs to creative vegan and vegetarian options. This is some of the most mouth-watering Balinese cuisine to try.
Bali is the birthplace of the popular chicken satay, a stand-out culinary delight that is now served in many different versions throughout the world. Traditionally made with either chicken or goat meat, satay is tender, grilled meat on skewers.
Satay is a staple in Indonesian cuisine and can be found in most places. It’s also served during gatherings or festivities such as Galungan Day, a holiday that celebrates the victory of good over evil on the island of Bali.
The meat is prepared one of two ways; “tusuk”, meaning skewered, or “lilit”, meaning twisted. It’s grilled over a fire and then typically served with peanut sauce or spicy sambal chili sauce. Trying this classic dish is one of the best things to do in Bali, and you’re likely to order it more than once during your stay—it’s that delicious.
One of the most multifaceted dishes in Bali, lawar is a traditional culinary concoction served at festivals or ceremonies, as well as in most restaurants on the island. The name lawar means “finely chopped” and a wide variety of meats can be used as the foundation of this meal; pork, beef, chicken, or duck.
The chopped meat is mixed with vegetables (mostly beans) as well as egg, coconut, shrimp paste, turmeric, chili powder, palm sugar, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which adds a flavor similar to ginger. It’s usually paired with rice or served alongside “babi guling” (roast suckling pork).
Versions containing pig blood for color and taste are available, as well as without it. Although this dish is far from being vegetarian in its original form, a version using jackfruit is popular for those on a meat-free diet.
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Spice lovers will love the fiery version of Betutu, a traditional Indonesian dish consisting of roast duck (bebek betutu) or chicken (ayam betutu), that can be spiced to your liking. The dish is prepared with raw meat, and then rubbed with bumbu, a mixture of spices that are hand-ground into a paste.
The fresh herbs and spices blend ginger, turmeric, garlic, shallots, chili peppers, galangal, and shrimp paste. After being mixed with coconut oil, they’re then applied to the duck or chicken, which is then wrapped in banana or plantain leaves. The whole package is then steam-cooked over hot coals.
In some places, it’s cooked over a barbeque, though this is a less traditional method. You’ll find different versions of Betutu depending on the regions you visit. Either way, you’re in for a rich, moist, and flavorful meal.
If you want to eat it like the Balinese do, spice the dish up even further with sambal terasi, a hot chili sauce with shrimp paste, onion, red chili peppers, and coconut oil. Betutu is also quite commonly served with crispy fried peanuts as a side dish.
This classic fried rice dish is one of the best-loved items in Indonesian cuisine. In fact, it’s considered one of the country’s national dishes. Although it’s often served for breakfast, nasi goreng is a staple menu item in Bali for any meal of the day.
What makes this fried rice unique is the addition of a sweet soy sauce, referred to as “kecap manis”, not to mention the tasty addition of shrimp paste (terasi), shallots, garlic, chili pepper, and an egg, served sunny side up on top.
Nasi goreng is usually dished up with a side of crisp prawn crackers, called krupuk udang. The textural contrast makes for an incredibly pleasing pairing. This authentic dish is so popular that you can find it almost anywhere in Bali, from street food vendors and local warungs, to homestays and fine dining establishments.
Bali is the origin of sambal matah, making it the perfect place to try this raw condiment concoction that’s often paired with grilled meat or seafood. Known as a key item in Balinese cuisine, this chili paste or sauce adds a burst of flavor to many dishes, particularly seafood, chicken, pork, and rice or noodles.
Although the recipe differs a touch throughout Indonesia, the combination of fresh spices and oil never disappoints. The main ingredients are Thai, bird’s eye, or other long red chilies, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, salt, lime juice, lemongrass, shrimp paste, and coconut oil, all of which are finely chopped and mixed by hand.
Although it’s somewhat easy to prepare, Sambal Matah offers a unique zest and spice to a wide array of meals in Indonesian cuisine. This is one of the accompaniments to Bali food that is a must-try while visiting the island.
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Translated to “mixed rice”, nasi campur is another Balinese culinary favorite due to its simple but delicious flavors and versatility.
This dish is a choose-your-own-adventure type of meal where you can pick what you’d like to accompany your rice. Side dishes might include chicken, either shredded or in skewer form, vegetables, tempeh, curries, eggs, soy, fish, shrimp, and other stewed meats.
Traditionally, this is a fantastic choice for bigger group dinners, as there is something to appeal to every taste. Don’t forget to ask for sambal matah for that extra kick of spice, if you prefer your meals with some heat.
The traditional Balinese cake of laklak will satisfy most cravings for a sweet treat. The green and white cakes are made of rice flour and resemble a pancake. Laklak is the perfect snack food and can be purchased at most markets throughout Bali.
The green coloring is created with pandan leaves, giving the small, round confections their hue as well as a unique scent. The cakes are baked by steaming the rice flour before mixing it with coconut milk, grated coconut, palm sugar, boiling water, and brown sugar. They are then cooked in a clay pan, specially made for laklak.
Some versions of the cake are topped with coconut flakes or sugar. Laklak is often served at breakfast time, but can be eaten anytime during the day, and is particularly enjoyed with coffee or tea. Laklak is one of the most popular delights in Balinese cuisine.
Enjoy the Indonesian comfort food of bakso, a versatile meatball dish or meat paste (beef surimi), that is very popular in Bali. Inspired by the Chinese meatball, bakso is made of ground beef, salt, and tapioca flour, although it is sometimes made using chicken, fish, shrimp, or pork.
The meatballs can be served as an individual meatball, in a soup (bakso kuah), or with noodles such as rice vermicelli (mie bakso).
If spice is your thing, test your limits with bakso mercon, meaning “firecracker” bakso. This version has sambal with bird’s eye chili peppers for extra fire. Whichever version you order, it’s usually topped with a selection of items like hard-boiled eggs, various sauces, bok choy, tofu, fried shallots, sambal (chili paste), or wontons.
You’ll find bakso in its various versions throughout Bali. Although it’s a well-loved street food item, it also graces the pages of menus in local warungs and higher-end restaurants.
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This fried noodle dish found throughout Bali will leave you swooning. Although it was originally influenced by Chinese cuisine, Indonesians have certainly put their own twist on the quintessential and well-loved meal.
Yellow wheat noodles are the most typical option for mie goreng, although rice noodles and even instant noodles might be used, depending where you order. The fried noodles are cooked in a soy sauce with sambal, kecap manis (sweet soy), sesame oil, ketchup, and oyster sauce that offers an ideal blend of savory and sweet.
Mixed in with the noodles is usually a combination of cabbage, bean sprouts, green onions, and egg omelet ribbons. Variations that include chicken, shrimp, or pork just touch the surface of this dish’s versatility.
Other options include vegetables only, beef, squid, and more. Shrimp crackers typically accompany mie goreng as well, for that added crunch. Street food stalls, warungs, and fine dining restaurants all feature this beloved dish on their menus.
Treat yourself to one of Bali’s finest dessert items, pisang goreng. These fried bananas or plantains are served all over the island, and in many different forms. Also known as banana fritters, the bananas are coated with batter and deep-fried in oil, creating that satisfying combination of a crispy exterior and a soft, sweet interior. They can also be fried without the batter.
This popular confection can be found on street food stalls as well as in restaurants. Although a sweet treat, it’s not limited to dessert time, as pisang goreng is often enjoyed at breakfast with a cup of coffee.
Roast suckling pig is the star of this Indonesian dish, which is filled and rubbed with a spice paste before spending hours roasting to perfection over an open fire. The spiced paste (basa gede) is stuffed inside the entire pig and consists of turmeric, lemongrass, shallots, galangal, garlic, chili, coriander, and shrimp paste.
On the outside, the skin is rubbed with turmeric. The result is a very popular and well-loved dish of pork meat that bursts with flavor, topped with a piece of crisped skin. The meat is usually paired with vegetables and steamed rice, and topped with sambal, of course.
Although this meal is usually reserved for special events, ceremonies, and festivities, you’ll be able to find it in local warungs that serve traditional Indonesian fare.
Another Indonesian culinary staple, ayam pelalah is shredded chicken with myriad delicious spices. This dish is anything but simple; the blend of chicken, herbs, and spice paste create a culinary delight that should be on any visitor’s Bali food bucket list.
The spice paste combines hot chili peppers, turmeric, shrimp paste, and garlic with oil. The herbs mixed into the chicken include kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and Indonesian bay leaves. After the meat is grilled and shredded, it’s stir-fried with the spices and then dished up with cucumber, tomatoes, and rice. A lime wedge usually tops it all off and you’re ready to enjoy.
You’ll find ayam pelalah almost anywhere on the island, as it’s a popular menu item in restaurants and homes alike.
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