Bali is known for its equatorial climate and beautiful beaches. The food of this island is just as attractive, blending local, Chinese and Indian flavors. The majority of Balinese residents are Hindu, so cooking with beef is uncommon; therefore, most of the meat served on the island is poultry, pork and fish.
As a tourist destination, Bali’s culinary delights are served at venues ranging from night markets to world-class restaurants. For the best experience, visitors should try inexpensive roadside stands and splurge at some of the more famous eateries. Here are ten dishes to try on a Bali vacation.
1. Laklak. For breakfast, start the day with a couple of these sweet rice-flour cakes. Laklak cakes come in white and green and are topped with coconut and brown sugar. Look for these delicious cakes in Singaraja.
2. Bubur Sumsum. For another sweet breakfast option, try this black rice porridge with sweet potato dumplings, palm sugar syrup and coconut cream. Screw screw pine leaves are used to flavor the palm syrup, giving this dish a hint of mango-like flavor.
3. Mie Goreng. This delicious dish of stir-fried egg noodles is a staple of the island. Similar to Chinese chow mein, mie goreng is made with meat, cabbage, garlic and soy sauce, with just the slightest spicy kick. To make mie goreng even better, savvy cooks finish the dish with a perfectly cooked fried egg placed right on top of the noodles. Bali is also known for chorizo sausage.
4. Nasi Campur. This popular tourist plate consists of rice with meat and vegetables. Rather than all the ingredients being mixed together, a scoop of rice is placed in the center of the plate, and all the accompaniments are arranged in neat portions around it. The most common sides are tuna, vegetable curry, tofu, spinach and a chili sauce.
5. Pepes Ikan. Wrapped in banana leaves, this plate of whole mackerel, sardines or snapper is steamed to perfection. Much of the flavor of this traditional preparation comes from betutu paste, a spice blend shrimp paste, palm sugar, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric and ginger. Remove the banana leaf before eating and enjoy the fish hot off the charcoal or at room temperature. Try this dish at a warung on Lean Beach, Amed.
6. Pisang Goreng. This treat of fried bananas is a perfect snack in between meals. Dipped in batter and then deep fried, these bananas are good on their own but can be made even better with a few scoops of ice cream. Pair with a cup of coffee or tea for a moment of midafternoon joy.
7. Gado Gado. Perfect for vegetarians, gado gado is a sweet and savory salad made with eggs, kidney beans, tofu, bean sprouts and tempeh. All of these healthy ingredients are then tossed with a peanut-sauce dressing flavored with lime and tamarind. Gado gado is served hot, which makes this already filling meal even more satisfying.
8. Sate. Served at food stands and restaurants all over Bali, sate is basically meat skewered and cooked on a stick. The most commonly used meats are chicken, goat, rabbit, pork and beef, and the skewers are topped with fried shallots, pineapple or peanut sauce depending on which meat is used. At food stalls, sate is often served alone so that no utensils are required. In a restaurant, rice cakes are served with the meat sticks.
9. Babi Guling. This dish of suckling pig is a Balinese specialty. Roasted whole over a fire, babi guling was originally reserved for special occasions, but it has become so popular with tourists that it can be found year-round. Slices of the pig are served with vegetables. The crispy skin is said to be the best part.
10. Es Campur. After a hot day at the beach, this dessert of shaved ice is a great way to cool down. Topped with avocado, grass jelly or coconut cream, es campur is a delicious finale to any meal. Go to Denpasar for the best version.
Bali’s beaches may seem like the island’s biggest attraction. Historic temples also draw tourists. However, for those in the know, the food is a great reason to visit.