Information before you go
Are you ready to try it for yourself?
Bali is just one of the 18,307 island that make up the Indonesian Archipelago. Of those islands only 922 islands are permanently inhabited and with more than 300 ethnic groups you'll have the perfect culinary explosion what is now called Indonesian Food.
The Indonesian cuisine has around 5,350 recipes and every island is home to a different range of dishes. Many of these dishes have been influenced by other islands and it is therefore hard to point out which Balinese specialities exist but there are a couple of them which are indigenous to the island alone and can be considered as the authentic Balinese cuisine.
Rice is extremely important to the Balinese, not just for food but also used in offerings to their deities. Dewi Sri is the Goddess of Rice/Fertility and many rice farmers have placed shrines in their rice paddies to honour this goddess. There's even a temple on Jimbaran beach called Pura Ulun Siwi in honour of this goddess.
Balinese sticky rice is mainly eaten with meat, seafood and mixed vegetables but since the majority of Balinese are Hindu Dharma people they will not eat beef as this is against the laws of their religion.
The Balinese like their food to be spicy and use spices (called bumbu) such as sambal matah (raw challots, chopped bird's eye,shrimp paste with lemon) and seasonings such as lala manis (chilly peppers in soy sauce) in many of their dishes such as their Chicken or Pork Satay with spicy peanut sauce or the famous Gado-Gado vegetable dish.
All of the Balinese ingredients, spices and seasonings can be bought at the markets such as the pasar malam (night markets) or the early morning markets in the bigger Balinese villages such as Sukawati, Ubud, Sanur and cities such as Denpasar (Badung Market and Kereneng Market) and Klungkung (Galiran Market). Here you can often try street food such as satay, basic dishes with meat and fish, bakso (rice vermicelli with beef/chicken or shrimp balls in broth) and Nasi Bungkus (little selection of meat, vegetable and rice wrapped in banana leave). There's always somebody who is famous for a certain recipe so ask around.
Authentic Balinese Dishes are:
Since Indonesia is mostly a Muslim country you will have a hard time to find any pork dishes on Sumatra and Java island, unless you go to a Chinese restaurant of course. But on Hindu Bali that’s no problem. The Balinese have a special dish called “Babi Guling” which is spit-roasted suckling pig stuffed with spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, laos (peppery, ginger-like spice), chillies, lemon grass, black peppercorns, kafir lime leaves and salam leaves.
Babi Guling is eaten with steamed rice and young jack fruit cooked in coconut milk (Jukut Nangka Mekuah). You can find it in many restaurants or food stalls around Bali. The most popular place on the island to eat this dish is at the Ibu Oka restaurant in Ubud village.
Another speciality is 'Bebek betutu', which is roasted duck in banana leaves and includes almost all of the same seasoning as used in the 'Babi Guling' except for laos and salam leaves. This dish is only eaten on special occasions but you can try it in several Balinese restaurants as long as you give them 24 hours notice of your order because it takes a couple of hours to prepare.
Indonesia is the birth place of the Satay and every region has his own way of preparing the satay with beef, lamb, chicken, turtle (unfortunately), rabbit, or fish. In Bali you’ll find the delicious 'Satay Lilit'. It's usually made of snapper fillet, raw prawns, coconut, spice paste for seafood, lime leaves, black peppercorns, brown sugar and lemon grass. Some restaurants also offer their own satay lilit version such as replacing the fish with chicken or duck but still using the same basic ingredients.
Satay Lilit is really tasty and it is nice when they serve it grilled on a lemon grass stick instead of the common wooden satay stick. I bet everybody who tries this Balinese dish will love it!
Satay Lilit a la Warung Pregina style, Sanur
Another dish worth mentioning is the typical Balinese 'Lawar'. There are several Lawar dishes and they are differentiated by the type of meat used such as pork, chicken, sea food, beef, turtle ( hard to get nowadays due to conservation efforts) and even dragon flies for the most expensive Lawar. This Balinese dish is served during religious ceremonies and other Balinese events. It’s made of pig’s blood, coconut, garlic, shallots, chillies, ginger, turmeric, laos, kencur, shrimp paste, fruits, vegetables, meat and mixed into a salad.
You will not find it on the menu since it involves lots of people, it takes hours to make and after it’s ready it has to be eaten directly or it will lose its taste.
The preparation of this Balinese traditional food is mainly a men’s job and serves as a social gathering where various men sit in a circle, chit-chat, drink and chop till they drop. Only the oldest and most experienced of the men are allowed to mix the ingredients together into Lawar.
Preparing Lawar is a men's job and prepared together
This is one of the favorites on any tourist menu in Bali and the dish is almost identical to the Nasi Campur found in the rest of Indonesia. Only difference is that they have often included satay lilit and use typical Balinese sambal matah to accompany the many ingredients.
This nasi campur consist of a cone of mixed rice with vegetables such as urab, spinach,jack fruit, tempe and a meat dish such as chicken, beef, egg and fish such as tuna or mahi-mahi. Once you order best is to pick out the dishes yourself when they have a display such as at Warung Indonesia at Gong Ronta in Kuta, Warung Murah on Arjuna street in Legian or Ocha on Raya street in Seminyak.
A little bit of everything makes Nasi Campur
This is a mixed vegetable salad with grated coconut, green beans, papaya leaves, spinach, cabbage, Chinese long beans, cassava leaves, kafir lime, garlic, salt, palm sugar, shallots, shrimp paste, green chilies and red chilies peppers and can be accompanied by rice with grilled fish or grilled chicken.
There are several types of coffee available on Bali and with Indonesia being the world's third biggest producer you can try out some very good and unexpected coffees. The most famous on the island is of course Bali Kopi, which is produced on the slopes between Kintamani and Munduk.
This coffee is made of Robusta and Arabica coffee beans and then there's Kopi Luwak, one of the world's most expensive coffees. This type of coffee is made from dropping of the Civet cat which eats the coffee berries, defecates the beans so humans can collect them and start brewing.
Teh Panas is hot tea with a lot of sugar and can be ordered anywhere especially at those small road side shacks where they sell candy, washing powder and all other stuff you can think of. If you ask for Teh Panas with milk it's going to be super sweet as the Indonesians love to use sweet condensed milk which is cheap and which can be preserved for a long time. If you want to avoid sugar in your tea ask for Tea Pahit (bitter tea), same counts for coffee called Kopi Pahit.
The Balinese also know how to make some strong liqueurs such as the Balinese rice wine called Arak Bali, made from coconut palm flower and can contain over 50% alcohol. Less strong is the milky fermented Tuak 5% alcohol and made from the same palm juice as Arak.
Brem is made from black/white glutinous rice and is available in a solid form (known as Brem cakes) and liquid form and often sprinkled on offerings during Hindu ceremonies on the island.,
Since the Indonesian Government has installed 300% import tariffs on many alcoholic beverages it has made the local made Hatten Wines more popular on the island. Started by two smart Balinese in 1994 they are now producing wine in Sanur from their vineyards near Pemuteran and their wine has already won some awards.
A typical Balinese dessert you should try out is called Black Rice Pudding (Bubuh Injin) made from black and white glutinous rice, grated palm sugar, vanilla pod and some sea salt. It is often eaten during breakfast and lunch but don't feel guilty if you like to order it in the evening as well.
Other well-known Indonesian desserts are Pisang Goreng (banana fritters), Dadar (stuffed pancake with grated coconut), Kolek Pisang (Bananas in coconut milk) and Jaja Batun Bedil which are glutinous rice dumplings in palm sugar.
Don't skip dessert
Nowadays you'll find more and more vegetarian and raw food restaurants in Bali even though the Balinese are not vegetarians they know how to cook many of vegetarian dishes since many of their side dishes (lauk-mauk) are made of vegetables.
Famous common Indonesian dishes are the vegetarian Mie Goreng (fried noodles with vegetables), Nasi Goreng (fried rice with vegetables) and with or without the fried egg, Gado-Gado (mixed vegetables with spicy peanut sauce), Sayur Lodeh (vegetable soup with coconut milk broth) and Tempeh Pedas (spicy, sweet fried tofu). Don't worry there are many more so as a vegetarian you'll have a great time.
As for raw food. Raw food is mainly popular in Ubud, of which Alchemy is a leading restaurant offering cooking classes too.
Many of Balinese dishes mentioned above are found in restaurants in town, particularly Nasi Campur, Sate Lilit and Sayur Urab. The other dishes take some time to prepare and often the restaurant can cook it for you, but you have to let them know one day in advance you want to order it.
We do think you should at least try some of the Balinese or Indonesian dishes. If you can't decide by looking at a menu, head to the many warungs were they have a dozen or more dishes displayed and just point out the ones you think look good.
People return not only for the people and the beautiful nature, but also for the food. So don't leave before trying it!
Ketupat in Kuta Bali is a wonderful restaurant that serves all kinds of dishes from whole of Indonesia. The best place to try Balinese food but also other Indonesian specialities.Read more
There is no better way to enjoy food then to eat local food. Indonesian food is delicious. Surprisingly the best place to eat it is at the cheapest restaurants.Read more
Do you love the Balinese food too? Why not join one of the many cooking classes so you can learn the secrets of Balinese cooking and prepare it at home too.Read more
Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
WOW...what an awesome website. I could only dream that there would be a website like this for all our travel destinations! You guys have done an fabulous job and now, I am sooo excited about our upcoming trip to Bali. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure Bali was the place for us considering some of the travel warnings (we are Americans). But I can tell from your experiences that the Bali people are so very kind and peaceful.
hi and congratulations on the blog it s brilliant and helpful....we are going to Bali in September with my family (including 2 little girls) so we need to have nice spaceous rooms garden and pool access rooms preferably in Semikyak but not too far from it all...I hope you can recommend a great place thats not full of Australian crowds as we like meeting people from other countries.
Hi, I have been travelling for years and I want to say that this website is the best I have EVER come across. It is easy to navigate, it is really descriptive, gives all the info that you could ever want and is accompanied by the best photos and advice. GREAT.