Your gastronomical experience in Bali is as enchanting
and full of discovery as your cultural experience. I am
a total believer that a significant portion of traveling
should also involve your tastebuds. Of course, if you prefer
to stick with cheeseburger or a Colonel Sanders' meal-deal,
or to drink your regular Bud light in your Hard Rock Cafe,
they all exist in Bali as well. But we know that's not why
you come to Bali, is it?
(Oh, by the way, the picture above is not a picture of
food for you - it's food for the gods and goddeses. However,
the Balinese believe that the gods and goddesses like and
enjoy things that the mere mortals enjoy - so you would
see offerings consisting of excellent food, and feasts and
parties thrown as ceremonies.)
Let us take this culinary adventure (would you care for
the java of Bali first?):
What's in a meal?
Well, typically, a meal consists of a plate of steamed rice,
and a number of main courses. Instead of eating one course
at a time a la Western meals, the main courses, and sometimes
including the soup, are all eaten at once. Soup is poured
over the rice much like a steak sauce is poured over the
steak. Desserts are mostly tropical
fruits, which by themselves are enough of a feast and
a reason to visit Bali!
Balinese usually eat three meals in a day, with lunch as
the primary, heaviest meal. Breakfast can be as light as
a cup of coffee (which is usually not light), or a plateful
of "nasi goreng" or fried rice. Lunch is the heaviest
meal, with a plate of steam rice (or a mound if you prefer),
accompanied by a number of main courses, usually consisting
of a meat or fish dish, a vegetable dish, and a soup. Dinner
is a smaller version of lunch. Desserts for both lunch and
dinner can vary from various kinds of fruits, depending
on the season, to a specially prepared dessert like pisang
goreng (fried banana fritters) or tape (fermented sticky
As my grandmother used to say, you haven't had a complete
meal unless you have had rice. Rice is the basic food for
most of Asians. But it is more than that for Balinese -
it is the basis of life itself. One of the most respected
goddesses in Bali and certainly the most popular is Dewi
Sri - the goddess of rice. The rituals
of rice, from planting to harvesting are an important
part of a Balinese life.
But we digress. How do Balinese prepare rice? First
and foremost, to guarantee absolute freshness, threshing
rice is done daily by the women of the family. In a clay
pot, you wash the result twice, enough to clean it yet does
not wash out the taste. You pour water until it is about
one joint of your middle finger above the surface of the
rice. Covered with a lid, the pot is put on top of a medium
fire. When it boils, you slide the lid a little bit, allowing
the steam to escape. When the water is gone (but the rice
still looks very wet and sticky), you lower the fire and
keep the pot there for a few minutes. You will get a delicious,
aromatic, and moist steamed rice that even the royalties
of Bali will appreciate.
Of course, if you can't manage your daily rice threshing,
or a clay pot, the modern stainless.
Of course, if you can't manage your daily rice threshing,
or a clay pot, the modern stainless steel version would
do. Or a rice cooker, if you must.
Besides steamed rice, Balinese also eat a lot of fried rice,
usually for breakfast. The idea is that you fry rice that
you have left over from the previous night. It is simple
to prepare, yet it has such a glamour.
First, you heat oil in a large wok, throwing in chopped
shallots to flavor and to add a nice aroma into the oil.
Then you put things that you want in the fried rice. You
can put shrimp or pork or vegetables. Next comes the rice.
You add salt to taste and pour a good amount of soysauce
until the color turns brown. You can also add chili pepper
to taste. Leave it for a few minutes, and it's done.
Now, the presentation. Balinese like to eat their fried
rice with eggs, either a super thin omelette cut into thin
slices and mixed with the fried rice, or a sunny-side up
(we call it "mata sapi" - cow's eyes, literally).
Additionally, you slice cucumber into thin slices, and decorate
the sides of the plate with them. Lastly, add a touch of
fried shallots and a krupuk. With a glass of es teh manis
(iced tea, sweetened), you are ready for a wonderful breakfast.
This is childhood memory of Sunday morning for many Indonesians...
If you are not ready to do all the cooking above, any
decent restaurants or hotels
will gladly prepare it for you
There are different kinds of soups:
- Bakso: chicken or beef broth, usually accompanied by
various kinds of spices. It usually has either fish balls
or meat balls.
- Bubur ayam (Chicken porridge): thick rice porridge with
chicken pieces. Usually served with cah-weh (a Chinese
- Bebek betutu (Darkened duck):
- Sate (satay)
- Babi guling (Roast pork)
- Babi Panggang a la Karo (Karo-style Barbeque Pork)
The primary desserts in Bali as well as in the rest of Indonsia
is fruit, which is available in more varieties than you
can think of. There are literally tens or even hundreds
of different kinds of bananas alone, from a small, pinky-sized,
gold-colored bananas to a foot or foot-and-a-half, dark
One favorite dessert is pisang goreng or fried banana fritter.
Traditionally, my mother would make pisang goreng for afternoon
snack. And you can find numerous street vendors who would
make these and other snacks out in the open air (with all
the dusts from bemo spicing the food).
Another traditional dessert is tape (ketan or ubi) or fermented
sticky rice or cassava. This dessert is made by first steaming
the sticky rice or boiling the cassava, pouring ragi or
yeast powder to help the process of fermentation, and storing
it for several days to allow the fermentation process to
take place. The result is a sweet (if you do it right),
delicious, and aromatic tape ketan or tape ubi. (Incidentally,
the side product of a tape making process is the wine that
comes out of the rice that becomes a light alcohol beverage
There are various kinds of beverages that are unique to
Bali or to Indonesia.
- Cendol: jello-like consistency, green pieces of tapioka,
mixed with water and santan or coconut milk, and sweetened
by a liquified gula jawa or brown sugar.
- Es campur (Mixed drink): somewhat similar to cendol,
but it contains a variety of things. In addition to different
kinds of tapioka products, sometimes people different
kinds of fruits like avocado, nangka or jackfruit, etc.
- Air kelapa muda (Young coconut juice):
- Fruit juice: you can find various kinds of fruit juice
drinks, from papaya to markisah (passion fruit) to sirsak
For alcoholic beverages, there are two primary drinks: