Bali is home to age-old recipes passed down through generations, with fresh herbs and spices commonly used in its recipes. To experience what Indonesian food is all about, here are five of the best local dishes for you to try, and the best roadside warungs—family-owned restaurants—that serve them best.
If there’s one local delicacy that’s an absolute must-try for meat lovers, this is it. Also known as Balinese suckling pig, babi guling is probably the region’s most iconic dish. Roasted on a spit, the suckling is stuffed with various spices including turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir, and coriander seeds.
Hours of slow-cooking result in tender chunks of meat, usually served with steamed rice, lawar (a blend of long beans, grated coconut, jackfruit, minced meat and a generous dose of herbs and spices) and the crispiest crackling skin. In Ubud, the Warung Ibu Oka restaurant is considered a local institution, widely recommended as the place to try babi guling in Bali. If you’re looking for something closer to Seminyak, then Warung Pak Malen is another famed spot.
No trip to Bali is complete without trying nasi campur at least once. This local favorite is a pick ‘n’ mix of Indonesia’s best bites. Start by choosing red, yellow or white rice, then simply point at the dishes you’d like to try and add them to your plate. It’s only one meal but you’ll leave feeling like you’ve tried a combination of ten. Some of the more popular dishes to sample include ayam panggang (grilled chicken), beef rendang (beef curry) and a classic hard boiled egg doused in spicy sambals. Try Warung Murah or Warung Eny, both in Seminyak, to get a nasi campur fix.
Sate Lilit Ikan
Almost everyone has tried or at least heard of sate (pronounced satay), Indonesia’s famed grilled skewered meat (in beef, pork or chicken) served with peanut sauce. But not everyone has had the pleasure of tasting traditional Balinese sate lilit ikan, or fish sate. Made with spiced, minced fish, it’s wrapped around lemongrass stalks or barbecue sticks and grilled over glowing embers of charcoal or coconut husks. The result is a sweet and absolutely delicious grilled fish that melts in your mouth. Head to Warung Ari in Denpasar or Warung Merta Sari if you’re planning a day trip to the east coast of Bali.
Nasi or Mie Goreng
Nasi goreng literally translates to “fried rice”. Not a rice fan? No problem, mie goreng is the noodle alternative. Think of it as Indonesia’s version of comfort food that comes in a plate of spiced, lightly fried rice or noodles with mixed veggies, your choice of meat (chicken and prawn are the most common) and topped with a fried egg. You cannot leave Bali without trying it. Hidden away from the bustling streets, Poppies cooks up a great nasi goreng, as does Warung Padmasari.
This unique dish on Bali’s must-eat list is smoked duck. The bird is stuffed with a mix of spices, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit of embers underground for up to 24 hours. To spot an authentically-cooked bebek betutu, the lashings of smoky duck meat should fall apart and melt in your mouth, bursting with flavors of lemongrass, turmeric and ginger. If bebek (duck) isn’t for you, then try ayam (chicken) betutu. A good spot to sample the succulent duck dish is at Bebek Bengil in Ubud, and Bumbu Bali in Benoa. Bumbu Bali also has a cooking school where you can learn how to make some of these local dishes and enjoy them back home.
For a taste of foods beloved by Bali locals, book a stay at Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach. Our perfect spot on the island’s most vibrant beach provides an idyllic backdrop for a getaway dedicated to eating your way through Bali’s most delicious meals.