The Balinese cuisine is characterized by a mixture of culinary influences from Malaysia, southern India, China, and Europe. The base of the Balinese cuisine is rice, pasta, vegetables, chicken, pork, duck, and seafood. The seasonings part of their traditional dishes are garlic, coconut milk, shrimp paste, and palm sugar.
The Balinese eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, using it as a main dish, as a side dish or as a dessert.
The fruit is also essential in their daily life and can be found in any traditional food market. We recommend you to try the island’s native fruits, even those you do not know very well, as you will experience a new flavor that will be very delicious for your mouth.
As a curiosity, in Hindu Bali, one of the most typical dishes is Babi Guling, which is the Balinese version of roast suckling pig (pork), something that in the rest of Indonesia, a country with a Muslim population, you cannot eat.
Eating cheap in Bali is easy because, on the island, you have restaurants for all budgets. We recommend you to try the typical dishes in the warungs (small family businesses similar to a free buffet in Western culture) since they are also cheaper than restaurants in tourist spots. You can try a different dish and fruit every day so that you can discover Balinese gastronomy in depth.
If you don’t feel comfortable or know that you are a bit special with food, don’t worry. You can always order another kind of food because in Bali you will also find Italian restaurants where you can eat pizza or pasta. You will even find fast-food restaurants (like McDonald’s) in the most touristic areas like Kuta.
The Balinese food prices are quite low and will depend on where you are going to go. Usual restaurants offer you typical dishes for about €2 and offer natural fruit juices for about €1. The price of food can be higher if you choose more luxurious restaurants.
The meal times are very flexible as the Balinese eat when they are hungry. Almost all the restaurants are open all day, so it is easy to find a place to eat at any time of the day.
Before going into detail and presenting each typical dish of Balinese gastronomy, it is good to know some words that will be of great help when reading a menu:
Here are some of the most traditional dishes in Balinese cuisine.
THE TRADITIONAL DISHES
NASI CAMPUR - the indonesia combo meal
Nasi Campur is one of the most common and cheapest dishes in Indonesia and is a recipe based on rice (nasi) that is accompanied by vegetables, pieces of meat (chicken and pork), tempeh (fermented soya), eggs and sauces. There is also a vegetarian version, and you only have to ask to not include the meat. Usually, this one is not spicy, but if you want to make sure, you can always ask for it not to be spicy or to put the sauce on the side.
NASI GORENG - the daily dish
Nasi Goreng is the typical Balinese dish based on fried rice, cooked with sweet soy sauce and accompanied by vegetables, chicken, and a fried egg. As with almost any Balinese dish, there is a vegetarian version, ordering it without meat. If spicy isn’t your thing, be sure to order it without spice or have the sauce poured on the side. You can have Nasi Goreng for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at any time and in any warung or local restaurant.
MIE GORENG - the most typical noodles
Mie Goreng is Nasi Goreng’s version, but instead of rice, the base is noodles. It is another of the most common and delicious dishes of the island’s gastronomy. They are wok-stirred noodles with soy sauce, onion, chicken, accompanied by egg and vegetables. It is just as common as Nasi Goreng and can be found in practically every restaurant on the island.
SATAY - THE MOORISH SKEWER FROM INDONESIA
Satay is a skewer of meat (usually chicken) prepared on the grill and marinated in a peanut sauce. It is generally accompanied by rice, is very cheap and can be found anywhere in Bali. You can also find them in pork, tofu, or fish versions.
SOTO - THE MEAT AND VEGETABLE SOUP
Soto is a soup based on meat and vegetables and is another typical Balinese dish. It is a favorite dish of those who are more spoonful and can be found in practically all restaurants.
GADO GADO - THE VEGETABLE DISH WITH PEANUT SAUCE
Gado Gado is a vegetarian dish prepared up of vegetables, chopped hard-boiled egg, tofu, cabbage, tomato, tempeh, accompanied by a little salad, prawn chips, and peanut sauce. If you like it spicy, you can ask to have it with hot sauce on the side.
BAKSO - THE NOODLE AND MEATBALL SOUP
Bakso is a soup of noodles and meat or fish balls. Keep in mind that the meatballs are a little different as their texture is much more compact and glutinous. Bakso is one of the most famous dishes and one of the favorites of Indonesians.
LAWAR - THE VEGETABLE, COCONUT AND MINCED MEAT DISH
Lawar is a dish made from vegetables, coconut and minced meat accompanied by all kinds of herbs and Balinese species. This dish can be found in any warung in Bali.
BABI GULING - THE BALINESE VERSION OF THE ROAST PIG
Babi Guling is the roast suckling pig, a very famous dish among the Balinese, usually reserved for special occasions when eating at home. It can also be found in the most famous restaurants (don’t expect to see it in the warungs). It is essential to mention that it is a tradition only in Bali since the rest of Indonesia are mostly Muslims and do not eat pork. It’s served in pieces with rice and vegetables.
KARI AYAM - THE CHICKEN CURRY
Kari Ayam is a dish of chicken curry cooked in coconut milk, usually accompanied by white rice. It is a dish full of flavor and delicious, especially for curry lovers.
LUMPIA SEMARANG - THE BALINESE SPRING ROLLS
Lumpia Semarang is the local version of the typical spring roll, which can be filled with various things, but the most common is meat, vegetables, and noodles. When in doubt, it’s always better to ask what’s in it before you order it, so you can be sure of what you’re going to eat.
BEBEK BETUTU - THE CRISPY DUCK
Bebek Betutu is a dish usually made for special celebrations and consists of wrapping a duck with banana leaves and betel nut until it is well tightened. Afterward, it is charged with an ember for about 6 hours. It is a long process of cooking, but it is prosperous. Like Babi Guling, you can’t find it everywhere because of its long cooking process, but you can order it from a more famous restaurant.
PEPES IKAN - THE FISH COOKED IN BANANA LEAVES
Pepes Ikan is a fish dish cooked inside banana leaves, which gives it a very peculiar and unique taste and texture. If you are a fish lover and want to try something different, this is your option.
THE TRADITIONAL DESSERTS
After a few main courses you’ll want a dessert to finish off your meal. You can order one of the following traditional desserts to surprise you or your partner.
PISANG GORENG - FRIED BANANA
Pisang Goreng is a delicious (though not very light) dessert and is nothing more than a fried banana. It is usually accompanied by ice cream and even cheese and chocolate.
BUBUR INJIN - DARK RICE PUDDING
Bubur Injin is a delicious sweet black rice dessert served with coconut. You may not find it everywhere. We recommend you to look at the menu before entering.
Being a tropical island, Bali is well known for its fruit, where there are a large number of grains that are unknown on the European continent. The best places to find good fruit are the local food markets. Some fruits you can see in these markets are durian (famous for its bad smell and strong taste), snake fruit or dragon fruit.
DRINKS TO GO WITH YOUR MEAL
Along with the meal, you will probably want to drink something. Apart from the water, which by the way, we advise you to always drink bottled water, the most typical drinks in Bali are undoubtedly the delicious natural fruit juices.
Other options can be the following:
- Tea – it’s quite good, especially taken with lime and ice.
- Balinese coffee or Kopi Bali – is also another option. It is the regular coffee and should not be confused with Kopi Luwak, which is the most expensive coffee in the world and is obtained by grinding the coffee beans extracted from the excrement of an animal: Luwak.
- Beer – we recommend you try Bintang or Bali Hai (they taste great).
- Wine – is sold at a golden price due to the high rates paid for imported alcohol. If you like wine, it is advisable to bring a bottle in your suitcase (the law allows one liter of alcohol per person to be brought to the island).
These are some of the most exquisite dishes, desserts, and drinks that you can try in one of the small paradises of the world.