When you’re traveling, it’s always nice to try the local cuisines of the destination. Local food in Bali is often much different from what you’re used to at home, and can be a pleasant surprise from what you’re used to.
Meals may smell and look unfamiliar and may even be made with ingredients that you’ve never tried before. Therefore, it can be a bit scary at first, but in my opinion you should always err on the side of trying the local dish.
During my stay at Bali, I tried many local Asian meals. The assortment of food in Bali is great. The Balinese people really know how to cook.
They have a wide collection of main courses, but also know how to satisfy your sweet tooth, because they have plenty of delicious snacks, cakes and desserts.
I would like to share my top twenty local meals from my time in the country, which you should try in one of the warungs of Bali. If you’re really interested in learning about the local cuisine in Bali, join this local food tour.
Food in Bali: Top 20 Local Meals to Try
1. Babi Guling
Babi guling, or suckling pig, is one of Bali’s most famous and important dish. The whole hog will be barbecued and served to eat. Previously, babi guling was served only during the important Hindu ceremonies. It was offered first and when the ceremonies were finished, the babi guling could be eaten. Nowadays, the babi guling can be found widely served at warungs and restaurants specialising in this dish.
Most of the time, the babi guling is served with lawar and steamed rice. The skin of the pig looks crisp brown and the meat has a tender and juicy taste. It is not my most favourite and delicious dish I know, but definitely the number one dish which you should try in Bali, because it is the most traditional and local dish you can find on this island.
Satay (or sate) consists of skewers of meat flavored with spices. The meat usually consists of chicken or pork and is wrapped around bamboo, sugar cane or lemongrass sticks. The satay will be grilled or barbecued and can be enjoyed with or without (peanut) sauce.
During the day and night, you can find a lot of food stands on the street which sell the famous satay. To be honest, I almost never ordered the satay on the street, but always chose to eat it in a local warung or street. When you order the satay on the street, you have no idea how long it is already waiting in the sun to be eaten or how well the satay is baked.
3. Nasi Campur
This dish can be found served at many warungs and restaurants throughout the island. The dish is mainly white rice served with many different elements of Balinese delights. This meal is very varied and you will never get bored to eat this.
You can buy take away packages of nasi campur, but there are also plenty of warungs who offer all the different elements and you can choose your own nasi campur. You pick which sides you want. I always really liked this meal, because you can choose the Balinese delights you like.
4. Jimbaran seafood
Jimbaran is a city in the southern part of Bali. The city has plenty of beachside cafés where fresh fish is served. You can find different fresh caught seafood, ranging from shrimp, clams, crabs, calamari, lobsters and a wide assortment of fish.
The beachside cafés are very cozy during the night and the different cafés which I tried so far, do offer an amazing quality of seafood. It is definitely worth to go one evening to Jimbaran to try the fresh fish.
Lawar is a dish which is composed of very finely chopped combinations of various ingredients, usually containing fine chopped meat, vegetables, grated coconut and spices. Sometimes lawar is prepared using fresh blood mixed with the ingredients to strengthen the flavor. Lawar is usually served on top of banana leaves. There are two main types of lawar, white and red. The white version usually does not contain any meats or blood.
6. Nasi Goreng
Most of the people know nasi goreng. It is pre-steamed rice stir-fried with a combination of meats and vegetables. Usually it contains of fried eggs, diced beef, strips of chicken, onions and a blend of sweet soy sauce or kecap manis and hot chili sauce. Most of the time, the nasi goreng is served with sliced tomatoes and cucumber, fried shallots, shrimp krupuk crackers and mixed pickles.
7. Mie Goreng
Like nasi goreng, mie goreng is also a well-known dish. It consists of fried noodles, onions, prawns, chicken, pork or beef, chili, tomatoes, egg and other vegetables. Mie goreng can be found everywhere in Bali, namely at street food stands, warungs or expensive restaurants.
Martabak is a crepe-like dish with a filling of egg and other ingredients, such as onion, beef and seasonings. The filling is incorporated while the pastry is still being fried in the large flat woks. It is delicious and can be bought at the many street food stands.
9. Terang Bulan
This is the sweet variety of martabak. It is essentially a thick pancake with a filling, such as chocolate or banana, sandwiched between two pan-cooked buttery layers. These are most commonly cooked by street vendors in the evening. The taste is very sweet, but I love it! It is really delicious.
Basko is a soup containing Indonesian meatballs. You can find the bakso at the street food stands or in the warungs. Depending on the bakso stand, you’ll find some noodles, tofu, and some herbs thrown in the soup. I don’t really like the bakso. The meatballs taste different than I am used to in the Netherlands. You should try the bakso and form your own opinion about it.
11. Gado Gado
This dish is a vegetable salad covered with a peanut sauce. Mostly it has mixed cooked vegetables and tofu, but it is also possible to eat the vegetables raw. Although this dish is not originally from Bali, gado gado is served in many warungs and restaurants. It tastes very good.
12. Tahu and Tempe
Tahu (tofu) and tempe (boiled soybeans pressed and fermented) can be find in every warung. They are mainly used as ingredients of meals or are served as a main course dish. The tahu and tempe can be cooked or fried. I personally like the fried tempe very much. Both tahu and tempe are a vegetarian dish.
13. Sayur Urab
Sayur Urab is a delicious and healthy dish of mixed vegetables. It can be served hot, but it’s more common to eat it cold, because the owners of food stalls will prepare the vegetables and spices in advance and then mix them together to sell later during the day. The main ingredients consists of bean sprouts and green beans. Usually this salad is a bit spicy.
14. Bebek betutu
The translation of bebek is duck. With this dish, the chili and garlic stuffed duck is wrapped in a coconut tree bark or banana leave and steamed. It tastes delicious.
15. Ayam lalapan
As you probably know, the meaning of ayam is chicken. If you order ayam lalapan, you will get fried chicken with tomato chili sambal.
16. Cap cay
Cap cay is a popular Chinese Indonesian dish. It consists of stir fried vegetables like cauliflowers, cabbage, carrots , baby corn and mushrooms. Cap cay is a vegetarian dish, but in many warungs and restaurants you can order cap cay including chicken, beef or fish. I always ordered the cap cay with chicken. I love it!
17. Ayam koloke
This dish is delicious! It consists of deep fried sweet sour chicken, pineapple and sweet chili sauce.
18. Pisang Goreng
Pisang goreng is a snack food made of banana or plantain being deep fried in hot cooking oil. You can buy it at the street food stands or order it as a dessert in a warung or restaurants. At the street food stands you can choose a topping. Most of the time you can choose between cheese, chocolate or blueberry. When you order pisang goreng in a warung or restaurant, it sometimes will be served with ice-cream. I love pisang goreng, it is very delicious!
19. Bubur Injun
This dish can be translated as black rice pudding. It is black sticky rice mixed with coconut milk. The Balinese people eat it as breakfast, dessert or snack.
20. Luwak Coffee
This last dish is not really something you can eat, but I thought it should definitely be on the list of the local dishes of Bali. This one you can drink. In Indonesian they call it ‘kopi Luwak’. Luwaks are weasel-like animals and they eat coffee berries. The animals eat the coffee berries, but they only poop out the coffee beans. Their coffee-bean filled turds are collected and washed. The harvested coffee beans are then roasted over a fire.
In my opinion the coffee tastes the same as other coffees. You can try the ‘kopi luwak’ at one of the many coffee plantations of Bali. It is a bit expensive to try, namely around 50.000 Roepia (€3,50) per cup. However, at most of the coffee plantations you can try different kinds of tea and coffee for free. Only for the Luwak coffee you have to pay. Definitely worth a try.
Well, I am really in love with these 20 local meals. I hope you like them as much as I did.
Which one is your favourite?
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