Hot, sweet, sour, savoury and utterly addictive, traditional Balinese cuisine takes full advantage of the isle’s superb produce, meat and seafood. Over the course of centuries, locals have incorporated elements of other Indonesian styles of cooking to create something unlike any other. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of these specialities on your next trip to the Island of the Gods.
What It Is: Though Bali boasts many culinary highlights, few command the same level of reverence as the mighty babi guling, a whole suckling pig slow-roasted for hours over smoldering coals. Cooks typically marinate the meat for a full day in a mixture of dozens of herbs and spices, then baste it with coconut milk. The finished dish is a masterpiece with ultra-moist meat and shatteringly-crisp skin.
Where to Try It: Anthony Bourdain is a fan of Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka 3 in Ubud, which serves a magnificent roast pig with cracklings and glossy, lacquered skin.
What It Is: Once primarily reserved for members of the royal family and important ceremonies, this roasted duck demands both time and skill on the part of the chef. As with many Balinese dishes, bebek betutu relies on a bumbu (spice paste) for its sumptuous flavour. Individual recipes and ratios for this seasoning blend are often closely guarded secrets passed down through generations of cooks.
Where to Try It: Bebek Bengil, or the Dirty Duck Diner, serves a flawless duck in Ubud.
Nasi Ayam Campur
What It Is: To describe this popular staple as “chicken rice” hardly does justice to the riot of textures and flavours Balinese cooks manage to pack onto a single plate. Nasi ayam campur typically comes with succulent shredded chicken, chicken satay, fiery sambal, a hard-boiled egg, long beans and other garnishes.
Where to Try It: Pay a visit to Warung Nasi Ayam Ibu Oki in Nusa Dua, where the chicken is tender and each grain of rice is al dente.
What It Is: Bali’s seafood is so fresh that it requires little embellishment to shine. Ikan bakar (grilled fish) is a sublimely simple dish best shared with friends or family. A squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of salt, and the smoky char from the flames make for a truly delicious dish. Though many of Bali’s top restaurants serve ikan bakar, there are few places more atmospheric to savour it than down by the sea.
Where to Try It: Head straight to Kedonganan Beach in Jimbaran where dozens of local vendors grill up the catch of the day over charcoal.
What It Is: No discussion of Indonesian cuisine would be complete without a nod to the nation’s most famous dish. While nasi goreng (fried rice) is all but ubiquitous on tables across the archipelago, there are dozens of different regional variations. Depending on how a cook chooses to prepare it, nasi goreng can either be humble comfort fare or an elaborate creation worthy of the finest restaurants.
Where to Try It: Bumbu Bali on the Bukit Peninsula is legendary for serving authentic fare with a laid-back atmosphere. The nasi goreng is practically perfect.