“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…
the people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez
Like most locales, food is an integral part of life. This is particularly true of Bali; some dishes are eaten daily while others are reserved for special ceremonies, but no matter the occasion Balinese food has an unique and interestingly complex flavour found nowhere else. This post serves as an introduction to some of the most popular dishes many of which are prepared in one or another of Bali’s cooking schools. That said, it is not meant to be a cookbook (there are plenty of those in bookshops around Bali and on-line).
As an aside one interesting fact is that whilst the day to day meal preparation is done by women, food preparation for temple ceremonies, celebrations and special events is the exclusive domain of men. The reason for thesis that during temple ceremonies women have other duties and are too busy.
Kare Ayam (Chicken curry)
Kare ayam is a specialty soup dish made from chicken, coconut milk and some spices. This Balinese curry/soup is served for Balinese ritual and traditional ceremonies. However it is popular and available in many Balinese restaurants.
Sup Jamur (Mushroom Soup)
Mushroom soup is typical of Indonesian cuisine. The main ingredients are mushrooms, vegetables and seasonings such as chili, onion, garlic.
Sate Lilit (Meat paste satay)
Sate Lilit is one of the most well known dishes on Bali. You can make sate lilit from pork, chicken or seafood that is mashed into a paste with various spices. The paste is packed around a bamboo stick and then grilled. Sate Lilit was once reserved for Balinese ritual ceremonies but it is now available in many hotels and restaurants.
Gado-Gado (Vegetable salad with spicy peanut sauce)
Gado-Gado is one of the most popular foods served throughout Indonesia. Some of the common ingredients include: blanched cabbage, blanched bean sprouts, blanched snake beans, blanched green beans, blanched spinach, raw cucumber, boiled chayote, deep fried tofu, deep fried tempeh, and emping (melinjo cracker) and spicy peanut sauce. Gado-Gado (or a similar version) is available at pretty much every restaurant in Indonesia.
Tempe Manis (Sweet tempe)
Tempe is a common alternative to meat in the Indonesian diet. Made from deep fried tempeh, sweet soya sauce and some spices. Sweet tempe is very versatile and works really well as a starter, main course or used as a garnish and can be easily adapted for vegetarians.
Pepes Ikan (Spiced fish paste in banana leaves)
Pepes Ikan is a typical Indonesian side dish and eaten from one end of the Indonesian archipelago to the other. Pepes Ikan is fish which mashed into a paste and mixed with spices. This mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf, steamed and then grilled over a charcoal grill or baked on an oven. The combination of spices blending with the banana leaf’s aroma makes this absolutely tasty. Easy to serve this dish is often found at family parties.
Serombotan (Balinese Vegetables)
Serombotan is one of the typical dishes from Klungkung Bali. Serombotan is a melody of various vegetables. Usually Serombotan is served with one of three types of sauces: sambal nyuh (grated coconut sambal), peanut sauce, or Unyah Sere Limo sauce. Serombotan is available in most restaurants around Bali.
Babi Guling (Balinese roast suckling pig)
If visitors know nothing else about Balinese food they know Babi Guling, bali’s signature dish. Babi guling has a complex mix of flavours – turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir and chili are all present. You can serve with lawar, rice and sambal embe (a very spicy sambal). Babi Guling used to be served for Balinese rituals and traditional ceremonies but with demand to taste this delectable food that there are now many Balinese restaurants specialising in serving only Babi Guling.
Jukut Ares (Soup with banana stems)
The tender centre of young banana palms is used for this dish in Bali. Originally Jukut Ares was made by steaming banana palms with turtle, chicken or pork however nowadays only chicken or pork are used. Jukut Ares is usually served in Balinese ritual ceremonies and traditional ceremonies and accompanied by rice, lawar, and sate lilit.
Sambel Bongkot (Torch ginger sambal)
Sambal Bongkot (bongkot is a young shoot or bud from the torch ginger plant) is an unique sambal originating from Bali. As mentioned, made from Torch ginger together with shallots, bird’s eye chillies, shrimp paste, coconut oil. This item is hard to find outside a Balinese home.
Urutan Babi (Balinese pork sausages)
Urutan babi is made of minced pork meat mixed with spice paste (bumbu) and encased the intestines that have been saved from a roast pig. Urutan is served with rice and various kinds of sambal matah (raw sambal). A popular menu item in many Balinese restaurants.
Lawar (Green Bean Salad)
Lawar is a dish created from a mixture of vegetables, coconut and minced meat mixed with rich herbs and spices, originating from Bali. The ingredients in Lawar are ‘half cooked’ and are often made for religious ceremonies with a mixture of fresh pig blood. Lawar is most often served with rice, satay lilit, and sambal embe (spicy sambal).
Note: There are two Lawar preparations, ‘red’ Lawar which contains pig’s blood and is reserved as an offering for special ceremonies. The other is ‘white’ Lawar without the blood. Not to worry, in hotels and restaurants only ‘white’ vegetable will be served. However… still we caution visitors invited to a ceremony not to try any Lawar red in colour.
Sate Languan (Fish satay)
Sate Languan is made of sea fish, green coconut, spices, and brown sugar. It is another traditional food of Klungkung regency but can be found in all over Bali. Sate Languan is most often served in Balinese rituals and ceremonies. It is better served right after it is grilled (while it’s still hot).
Sate Lembat (Meat satay)
Sate Lembat is made of minced meat paste mixed with grated coconut and spices. The meat is usually pork or chicken and sometimes duck. Sate Lembat had its origins in Balinese ritual and traditional ceremonies but is now often available in many Balinese restaurants, along with Urutan, Babi Guling, and Lawar.
Sayur Urab (Cooked vegetables with spiced grated coconut)
Urap-urap sayur is a traditional meal, from Indonesia. In Bali it is known as Lawar. The vegetables which are usually used in urap are spinach, water spinach, young cassava leaf, papaya leaf, Chinese longbeans, bean sprouts and cabbage. The shredded coconut is seasoned with ground shallot, garlic, red chilli pepper, tamarind juice, galangal, salt and coconut sugar. Sayur Urab is commonly served in Balinese ritual ceremonies as well as in many Balinese restaurants.
Kolak Pisang (Banana compote with coconut milk)
Kolak pisang is an Indonesian dessert made from bananas (plantains), coconut milk, and palm sugar. There are many others fruits that also can be used i.e. sweet potatos, cassava, jackfruit and even palm seeds. This tasty dessert is very easy to prepare and such very popular. It can be easily found on most restaurant menus as well as on the street around the country.