The most affordable and authentic way to get to know Bali? One bite at a time! Let's start with the best satay in Bali.
If you're passionate about travel, then Bali, Indonesia, is definitely on your radar. The island has become one of the most visited destinations in Asia . In the early 1990s, Bali emerged as a popular tourist destination but it has maintained its position as one of the best budget friendly tourist destinations in Indonesia. And it's crazy delicious too! Have you ever had satay in Bali? Hang on... I'm getting a bit ahead of myself ;-)
Bali is an amazing ecological wonderland that will be irresistible for budding photographers. Tired of taking gorgeous nature photos? Explore the culture and tradition and the history of Bali by visiting various temples, most of which offer free admission (though a donation is always a good idea). As Bali is focused on catering to the tourism market, there are also plenty of affordable accommodation options available.
Last but not least, Bali is a paradise for food lovers. Foodies are embracing Balinese cuisine as never before. Restaurants and warungs (small local cafes) offer traditional Balinese dishes on their menus, whether you're hobnobbing with locals or sticking with fellow travelers in the "touristy" areas. Here are five traditional dishes that every traveler should try in Bali - including my favourite, satay!
Let's talk satay - the best satay in all of Bali!
No matter where you are in Bali you will definitely come across street vendors and restaurants selling satay (sate in Indonesian). This is certainly one of the most common food items that you will find across the island and it never fails to impress.
Satays are marinated, skewered, and grilled meat served with a spicy sauce. In most cases, satays are made up of sliced and diced chicken, lamb, beef, fish, pork, tofu, and egg. It's also possible that you will visit a food stall that also features a minced blend which includes meat mixed with coconut milk, coconut, assorted vegetables, and local spices. The seasoned meat is skewered around bamboo, lemongrass or sugar cane sticks, grilled, and are made to consume on the move.
Looking for information about where to go to feast on satay? I'm a big believer in the power of guidebooks and the foodie recommendations in Lonely Planet Bali are spot on - including great satay recommendations. Right now, I'm also directing people here - this is a fantastic list to start with when it comes to your satay research and it includes two of my personal favorite spots: Warung Sate Bonbon (Jl. Siligita No. 101C, Nusa Dua) and Sate Babi Bawah Pohon (Jl. Campuhan I - Dewi Sri, Legian). I get hungry just thinking about them!
PS: Are you used to seeing spicy peanut sauce with your satay? That's not always the case in Bali! Instead, you can expect sambal made of shrimp paste.
Nasi Ayam is the Balinese version of one of the world's most popular combinations: chicken and rice. The dish includes white rice served along with the savory chicken and mixed vegetables and is often served with a soup. The dish comes with a dash of spicy sambal that steeps this meal in local flavor. It's a combination that's tough to resist. Being one of the most popular local dishes, you will find Nasi Ayam at most restaurants and warungs.
PS: Rice is grown all over Bali. Ask around to find a Nasi Ayam vendor who uses local rice.
The literal translation of "Nasi Goreng" in Indonesian and Malay means "fried rice". If you love fried rice, Nasi Goreng is something you must add to your meal plans. It's unlike any version of fried rice that you've likely tried before.
While preparing Nasi Goreng, the fried rice is cooked with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), garlic, ground shrimp paste, tamarind, and chili. The combination of all these ingredients, the sweet, salty, tangy, and savory, adds incredible flavor to the dish. The rice is served with a variety of vegetables, meat, and even scrambled eggs.
If you aren't looking to be too adventurous when you first arrive in Bali, this is a good option to start with. It's also tailor-made for the budget minded travelers who are looking to fill up without much expense.
PS: Did you know that Nasi Goreng placed second in a 2011 CNN poll of the most delicious foods in the world?
No trip to Bali is complete without trying the most famed dish of the island – Babi Guling. It is an all-time favorite made from a spit-roast pig stuffed with traditional veggies and spices.
Babi Guling has a golden brown, crispy skin on the outside along with juicy and tender meat on the inside. Spices and seasonings include tamarind, lime leaves, coriander, lemongrass, black pepper, garlic, and ginger. It's traditionally served in celebration on special occasions such weddings and birthdays however you will find it on the menu of many restaurants and warungs. If you happen to make friends with locals you might even get an invite to a local celebration to try it! Every chef has their own special way of preparing the pig and the stuffing, so it's worthwhile sampling it as often as you can.
PS: Babi Guling is the original 'nose to tail' dish. You can never be entirely sure what cut of pork will make it to your plate.
If you are not a pork eater you can always opt for Betutu. This is a poultry dish which can be made one of two ways: the chicken betutu is called Ayam Betutu while the duck version is Bebek Betutu.
For adventurous foodies, this is a great choice. Betutu features a blend of spices that includes garlic, shallots, ginger, turmeric, chili peppers, and coconut oil. The outer flesh is usually rubbed with tamarind puree for taste and color. As a bonus, if you REALLY love spicy food, you can order yours extra hot (just be ready with a cold drink on the side!) Preparing betutu is a labor of love requiring a long, slow cooking process and plenty of patience. It's often served in plantain leaf but the best establishments use the husks of betel nuts.
PS: Craving Betutu? Don't leave it till your last night. Most establishments require you to order this dish 24 hours in advance - it really does take that long to prepare!
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to culinary indulging in Bali. This is also an amazing destination for sweets, ice cream, and - of course - coffee. Make the absolute most of your trip and never hesitate to try something new. You may be pleasantly surprised.
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