Although a part of Indoneasian cuisine, the cuisine in Bali has a very distinct and special identity of its own. I for one, thoroughly enjoyed Balinese cuisine. From their Gado Gado to their Satay’s, one commonality in the variety of the food they have is that it is very spice oriented and that I think is the biggest enthrallment of their cuisine.
Before I write about where and what to eat in Bali there are a few things I must share.
The very arch thing that you must know about the food in Bali is that there are no restrictions on what to eat. You can be a Vegan or a Carnivore. No one really cares. No one judges. You have everything at your disposal.
The next most important thing about Balinese cuisine is that it is very “RICE” oriented. They absolutely cannot do without their Rice.
The other thing, and this is not just limited to Bali, is that if you really are a food lover…always….like ALWAYS eat local! Only that is when you taste the essence of the region you are in. You will never ever see me eat at a Mc Donalds or a Pizza Hut when I am travelling. Also, because I ate at a lot of small street joints, I might not be able to guide you with the names of a few places I ate at. But I guarantee that most of these small joints in Bali will never disappoint with their food.
Across Bali, you will see a lot of “Warung this”” Warung that”. Well, Warung basically means a small food stall. So, when you see “Warung” its nothing but a “not so posh” restaurant and in my opinion, the smallest of the places have the best of the local food.
Two things that you have to try in Bali are the “Bebek Betutu” (Smoked Duck) and the “Babi Guling” (Suckling Pig). Somehow, due to my packed sight-seeing schedule, I couldn’t really eat these dishes, but i am definitely going back for them. 🙂
Another important thing, specially for people who have restrictions with eating any meat other than Chicken. It is very common in Bali where more than 1-2 meats are served in one dish. So, a Chicken fried rice is sometime accompanied by beef satay. So be very careful when you read the menu and double-check the meats used to make the dish.
In all decent cafes and restaurants outside the large hotels you can expect to pay from INR 200 to about INR 900 for a main course (the Warungs are cheaper). For an average of INR 500, one can eat really well. Each local beer adds INR 120 to your bill, and if you really want to live it up and order a bottle of imported wine or champagne this will set you back at least INR 1500 and more. (most prices in restaurants are ++, this means that 11% tax (VAT) and between 5 to 10% service charge is added.)
Bali is culturally very different from Mumbai. People like to eat early and barring a handful, most of the food joints close by 10pm -11 pm.
When you eat in Bali you need to understand that Bali is not a developed metro city! Dont strut about expecting truffles and Kobe beef. Eat local keeping in mind the region and culture it is coming from and if you do that, I promise you will enjoy the food as much as I did.
Two things that I didn’t like about most of the places in Bali are that firstly I just didnt like the desserts. Neither their Black Rice Pudding nor their Fried Banana! The other thing that really annoyed me was that food places here just DO NOT serve plain water! They charge for bottles (around INR 80) which I don’t like to pay in restaurants. My advice is that buy a big bottle of water from a supermarket before going in a restaurant in Bali.
So, now that I have all (almost all) of my disclaimers out, let me share my experiences of food and drinks in Bali!
Now, I love myself a good-looking cocktail and for those who share the same taste, Bali is like Disneyland! All the cocktails and mocktails that you get in Bali are just pretty looking. Bedecked with fruits, flowers and umbrellas, I loved most of the cocktails and mocktails I had here. I remember this one specific drink made with Elder flower, Lemon,ginger, honey and Dragon fruit iced water which was so bloody amazing!
BINTANG! This gorgeous beer that I tried for the very first time in Bali is like one of the very best beers I have had. So light and so refreshing, this beer is literally made for the Bali weather. It’s very cheap too and if you like your beers, don’t even look at anything else!
You also absolutely must try the “Ice chilled Coconut Water” that you get everywhere in Bali. The coconuts are kept in ice and after a huge hike or a bout of sight-seeing, nothing is better than the icy and sweet coconut water. Please note that 1 Coconut can be shared between 3 people. They are bloody huge!
Across Bali, you will see this Bubble Tea outlet called “Chatime” and when you do, you must stop your car and try their “Hazelnut Chocolate Milk” with a cup of the “Pearls”. I was addicted to this like crazy! In fact, I took a 3 hour detour just for this damn thing! The things I do for food….
Coffee cultivation and consumption is huge in Bali and there are a lot of places in Ubud which give you a tour of how coffee is made. They also give free samplers of the coffee they make. You must, if you get a chance, definitely visit one of these coffee sampling places.
I remember the first time I had a “Satay”. It was at Sachin Tendulkar’s restaurant in Mumbai. Though now I know it wasnt even close to the best one I have had, I fell in love with the concept of chicken on sticks. Basically, I love Satay and Bali gave me a lot of love!! Fish Satay, Chicken Satay, Beef Satay, Paneer Satay….you name it and you have it! Infact, Satay is a part of most of the main meals that are served in Bali.
Bali gets quite cool in the evening and I tried a lot of soups on those cool, breezy nights. Though I mostly had the Tom Yum’s and the Tom Kha’s at local cafes, my favorite soup was the Pumpkin cream soup that I devoured at this cafe in Sanur called 3 Monkeys which I am going to write about more ahead!
Most of the soups served across restaurants in Bali come with complimentary fresh-baked bread and that becomes quite filling. So if you want to eat anything else, it is advisable to avoid soups or at least share it with someone. This bread basket was served at Janger Restaurant at Puri Wulandari and was accompanies with the most amazing Tomato Butter.
One of the places in Bali that I fell in love with was this hip looking cafe “3 Monkeys” at Sanur. Apart from serving some bloody delicious food, it is located besides a rice paddy field has a gorgeous view of the green paddies. I had a lot of food at 3 Monkeys out of which my picks are the Pumpkin Cream Soup, the Goat Cheese Fried Ravioli and the Soft Shell Crab Burger.
There are a huge variety of rice and noodles that you will see in the “Indoneasian” part of the menu out of which Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng are absolutely must haves. Along with them I tried some Pad Thai and some Char Kwey Teow too!
Another restaurant which I really enjoyed was the Janger Restaurant at this amazing resort called “Puri Wulandari”. Located in the interiors of Ubud, Bali (which is a hill station), this resort is just plain breathtaking. The Janger restaurant is located right next to the infinity pool that they have and the view along with the stunning food is a surreal combo. Even though this is quite expensive, you must visit and have a meal here at least.
Sea food! Where do I even begin man! There is no way you can return from Bali before having the absolutely pulchritudinous sea food at Bali. Though there are a lot of similar options at the beach stretch of Jimbaran, I highly recommend Cafe Matahari (Jimbaran). You can eat on the beach as the waves come and tickle your toes. Make sure that you go for dinner cos it is bloody hot in the afternoon.
Last but far from the least, Nasi Campur is something you shouldnt miss in Bali. Nasi Campur is a dish of a scoop of rice accompanied by portions of a number of other dishes, which includes meats, vegetables, peanuts, eggs and fried-shrimp, depending on where it is served. I had different versions of Nasi Campur throughout Bali and my favorite was the Nasi Campur I had at Cafe Seminyak.
So, as you can see from the copious amounts of food I have eaten in Bali, that I enjoyed the food here like crazy. Generally, when I travel, after around 5-6 days of eating the local food of that country I start missing Indian masaaledaar food. But Bali was one of those few places where I didn’t miss Indian food even a little! Lastly, I would like to mention that if you can, try the Churros at Denpasar Airport departures. They are dreamy and will help you get over the sadness of leaving Bali.