Over my two months living in Bali I think I’ve tried at least 75% of the cuisine and definitely got a grasp of the flavours they work with. One thing for sure is Balinese food consists of a lot of frying, sugar, chilli/spice and crackers! If you’re heading to Bali or just curious as to what food to expect there, I would say these are 10 of the most common food you’ll find on the street and in local eateries.
*note: half the pictures are from google!
1. NASI GORENG & MIE GORENG
Nasi = rice. Mie = noodles. Goreng = fried.
Everyone in aussie land knows Mie Goreng right? At least in Sydney. They’re the best packet noodles out there and kecap manis is the star of the dish. Indonesia OWNS kecap manis and it’s a staple at almost every restaurant table – local, western, or 5 star hotel. It’s used as a dressing, a marinate, a dipping sauce, a spread.. it’s a versatile sauce here. But these two dishes wouldn’t be without it. Like Pho is to Vietnam, Nasi/Mie Goreng is to Indonesia. You can pretty much find it at any warung (local eatery) and I think they’re both made with the same ingredients except one is rice, one is noodles. Typically a deep fried egg compliments the dish, along with crackers of course.
2. PISANG GORENG
Anything ‘goreng’ means fried so ‘pisang goreng’ literally refers to ‘banana fried’. It’s pretty common to see food carts or stalls on the side of the street selling them and you’ll find the best ones in the morning when they’ve been fried fresh. Some places sell more than just fried banana; they’ll have fried potato patties, fried rice dough and even fried CAKE. Like imagine a plain butter muffin. Then coated in batter and fried. Your cholesterol levels would go through the roof having this every morning! I’ve only had the fried banana once and dipped it in blueberry yoghurt – SO GOOD. The light saltiness and then cool sweet blueberry yoghurt was delicioussss. And well, blueberry and banana are one of those matches made in heaven.
As will become apparent, Balinese food is all about the frying.
I don’t know about everyone else, but when I think ‘satay’ I immediately think that it’s peanut satay because I’ve never known satay any other way! My first few times seeing ‘satay’ in bali I got excited because I love chicken satay sticks. But I’ve learned that satay in Indonesia is different to what I know. It’s actually got no peanuts at all. It just means a coating of sweet soy sauce or soy sauce. Now I haven’t tried sate (satay, sate, same difference) that many times but it’s a popular local food. Who can’t see why? The smell of charcoal grilled skewers of meat, that essence of BBQ in the air.. It makes me hungry even when I’m not. Unlike us Australians that have chunky pieces of coated meat on the skewers, the sate sticks on Balinese are small and they would sell them by portion = 10 sticks with rice.
Pretty much beef ball soup which varies from vendor to vendor. It’s a warming meal and so filling even though it looks like a small portion. Probably because they usually serve a variety of meat balls (chicken, beef, pork) along with boiled and egg and/or tofu if you prefer. I’ve tried Bakso a handful of of times – sometimes it’s vermicilli noodles, sometimes mie (egg noodles), and sometimes they have chopped up sticky rice with noodles (which I find odd, sticky rice in soup). But all the local vendors have a cool steaming pot with all the meatballs and tofu and the soup underneath. These guys are popular in the evenings!
This is one of my go-to meals! I love it, mostly because it involves peanut sauce haha. I can eat peanut sauce with rice for days in a row. Gado-Gado is a dish composed of white rice, hard boiled egg, fried tofu and tempeh, and boiled or steamed vegetables topped with a generous serving of Indonesian peanut satay sauce. I’ve only had gado-gado a handful of times too – some good, some bad. But the first time I had it in Ubud, it was amazing and I thought it was pretty healthy considering the veggies and egg are boiled and it’s just steamed white rice. I think the only potentially fattening portion is the sauce but I tell myself it’s mostly peanut butter which is the good fats :P. (I did do some youtubing though, and of course, the sauce is made with some deep frying of ingredients).
6. BABI GULING (SUCKLING PIG)
A lot of balinese will tell you you need to try Babi guling before leaving and they seem pretty proud of the dish. I haven’t yet because I’ve had suckling pig before, mostly during traditional ceremonial times back home or Vietnam. And my sister makes mean crispy pork belly. Also, I don’t like to eat pork very much. I’ve seen how it’s sold at local vendors though and I imagine it’s just pieces of suckling pig served with rice and condiments. To me, not THAT appetising but I do see it at warungs here and there.
Oh I love tempeh. The way it’s made here. I’ve had tempeh before in Japan but I never really grew a liking for it. But they way they make it here is deep fried so it’s crunchy, then stir-fried in a little chilli, sugar and salt so it’s got like a sweet’n’sour taste. Tempeh is usually served as a topping to other dishes too but I love just eating with with plain steamed rice. Though I’ve tried to not have it too much because it is deep fried and it seems every balinese dish has something fried! Tempeh is awesome for vegetarians though. High protein, high fibre 🙂
What’s a food post without desert?? I first came by Kolak at school and at first I thought it was a weird desert because it was banana, sweet potatoes, and perhaps it was carrot, in a sweet coconut milk. It was pretty sweet on it’s own but I like having it with rice (one of my weird food combinations). But actually, I think I quite like it because it reminds me of a couple of typical Vietnamese deserts that my mum makes, particularly the green mung beans in coconut milk. I haven’t seen this sold in food carts or on the streets but it’s well known to the locals.
9. SWEET MARTABAK
Another street food which is the Indonesian version of pancake – and quite a thick one. I was astonished first coming by the local street cart one evening and watching the guy make it because a crazy amount of saturated fat is used. He would coat the pan in a LOT of butter and when the pancake is cooked more butter is laid on. The traditional fillings of condensed milk, chocolate, cheese, fruits and crushed peanuts is then spread on the pancake It’s then folded and chopped into chunky squares before being neatly placed in a cardboard box for take-away.
10. DADAR GULUNG
Dadar = omellete / pancake. Gulung = to roll
This is actually one of the many sweet cakes found at a typical balinese street vendor selling packeted snacks. There’s often the fried bananas, potato fritters, rice meals wrapped in banana leaf, then there’s a variety of sweet rice cakes, chocolate cakes, donuts, and flour cakes. Dadar Gulung is a sweet coconut pancake, kind of like an omelette that’s pandan flavoured and rolled with a filling of shredded coconut and palm sugar. I thought this was a Vietnamese desert because I have this in Vietnam and Sri lanka also has the same thing but it’s yellow (the crepe is flavoured with turmeric). I’ve just learned it originated in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Anything pandan is amazing though so whatever!
Hopefully this has now prepared your taste buds for Indonesian cuisine! 😛