In Bali everything revolves around food and spirituality!
The street food here is nothing out of the ordinary. The usual fried this and that accompanied by rice. But where you’re actually going to find great food is in the local eateries called warung. Warung which stands for “food stall” are everywhere and have alongside the term warung another name which is either the street is located on or the style of food it offers.
If you find yourself in a small – traditional warung while in Bali I suggest you take a seat at the counter overlooking the street. Is the best people watching spot while slurping your food. I probably tried around 6 or 7 different warungs while in Bali. For me the most memorable one was Warung Biah Biah on Gotama Street, in Ubud. I loved the atmosphere and the food was nothing but simply delicious.
Balinese cuisine surprised me in many ways. I say that because it involves more than I thought so. I love everything about South East Asian cuisine, but this part of the world was an undiscovered gem. My guide was very cautious in explaining how spicy the foods are in Bali, but little did they knew about my take on food :). I was amazed to learn it’s not that spicy as they say! Hell, yeah Mexico you won that part! But despite it all it’s incredibly aromatic. Coming from Thailand and thinking of the level of aroma that country puts into its foods, Indonesia and Bali in particular has it all! Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, kaffir leaf, lime, lemongrass, coriander seed, anis seed, garlic, chilies, palm sugar, coconut and pretty much all the niceness that goes into Thai and Indian cuisines mixed together. Perfect balance and flavour!
I learned a few things while I was there and haven’t skipped the chance to cook some Balinese food!
I booked this cooking workshop In Ubud, recommended by my friend with the Paon Bali Cooking School. A must try if you’re into cultural travelling and if you’re a foodie. Puspa, the owner and head chef at Paon Bali Cooking School is the sweetest person I met so far this year. She explains all the step-by-step into shaping the dish in a very clear way. We made everything from scratch using seasonal and local ingredients. The dishes we made and ate outside in her amazing patio overlooking the Balinese jungle were:
- “Kuah Wong Sup Jamur” or Clear Mushroom and Vegetable Soup
- “Base Gede Bumbu Kuning” or Basic Yellow Sauce
- “Be Siap Mesanten Kare Ayam” or Chicken in Coconut Curry
- “Sate Siap Sate Lilit Ayam” or Minced Chicken Grilled on Bamboo Sticks
- “Kacang Me Santok Gado Gado” or Vegetables in Peanut Sauce
- “Jukut Urab” or Coconut and Snake Beans Salad
- “Pepesan Be Pasih Pepes Ikan” or Steamed Fish in Banana Leaves
- “Tempe Me Goreng Tempe Kering” or Deep Fried Tempe In Sweet Spy Sauce
- “Kolak Biu Kolak Pisang” or Boiled Banana in Palm Sugar Syrup
Unfortunately for protection of recipe rights I will not share them here, so you’ll have to go to Bali and try them for yourself guided by Puspa! 🙂
The old school / traditional way of making this yellow paste was by grinding the spices into a lava stone bowl using an enormous wooden or stone stick. Nowadays people use a blender to make the paste. Easy and effective!
I will share below a list of places I enjoyed eating at while in Bali. I stayed in Ubud over 10 days therefore my recommendations will be from this area:
- Clear Café – on Jalan Hanoman Street, Ubud (healthy, creative food)
- Dish I enjoyed the most: Shrimp skewers on cucumber boat
- Atmosphere: trendy and very cool; the place to meet anytime during the day while in Ubud
- Tip: enjoy a foot massage before your lunch / dinner; they have a Spa at the back
- Cool facts: there is a firemen pole to get down easier from level 1 to ground floor!
- The Seeds of Life – Jalan Gotama No.2, Ubud (raw food)
- Dish I enjoyed the most: Raw veggie and avocado pizza slice + made my own juice out of beets, tomato, celery, chili, ginger and apple – amazing kick!
- Atmosphere: calm, hippie, cool, low seats, yogui vibe, nice terrace at the top
- Tip: make your own fresh juice
- Cool facts: like most of Ubud’s cafes this is a barefoot café, so take your shoes off at the door!
- Sayuri Healing Food Café – JL Sukma kesuma no 2 , Br Tebesaya – Ubud (healthy food)
- Dish I enjoyed the most: Reuben Sandwich – toasted dark sourdough rye with avocado, cashew pesto, eggplant, tomato, sauerkraut, coconut chips.
- Atmosphere: people come here to work; to meet, great wi-fi, chatty, friendly
- Tip: sit on the low cushions at the back for a more relaxed feel
- Cool fact: you can shop most of the cool ingredients they mix into their foods!
- Warung Siam – Goutama Sel. No.17, Ubud (Thai)
- Dish I enjoyed the most: chicken green curry!
- Atmosphere: calm, small crowd kinda place, amazing Thai food
- Tip: sit at the counter overlooking the street for some good people passing by watching
- Garden Kafé at the Yoga Barn – Jl. Pengosekan, Ubud
- Dish I enjoyed the most: Ayurveda morning wrap was simply divine! But their green juices are great too!
- Atmosphere: yogui vibe, friendly, chatty, meeting people
- Tip: save room for their amazing raw or vegan sweets made with Ubud Raw Cacao! To die for!
I really think you should step out of your comfort zone while in Bali and try out some of the good local food stalls. Most people are worried about trying out the street food in Bali but believe me it’s worth it! This is where you’ll find the best kept secrets and flavour.
I probably had around 50 fresh juices while in Bali over two weeks and they are amazing and addictive! I love that they have watermelon juice at every corner of the street. I simply love watermelon! But be careful, although Bali is known as a mecca for good, healthy food, they often add palm sugar in pretty much everything. So ask for your juice without sugar, to enjoy its full flavour and health benefits!
And please do try the sotto ayam or their version of mum’s chicken soup! So delicious. Almost always comes served with red rice and a wedge of lime. Also the local curries are pretty good. Quite different from Thai curries. I would say a bit saliter and less spicy.
Another drink it’s worth mentioning is the lwak coffee. This coffee is the most acclaimed coffee in the world and a big treat to have! Why? Because the coffee comes from beans that have been fermented in the stomach of a mammal called lwak (pronounced – looahh). You’re probably grossed by the idea but let me tell you: this is considered a delicacy! And it certainly is. So, how does it work? The animal (which by the way is this lovely, cute, cat-looking like mammal) selects the fresh coffee beans and eats them. As the fermentation process begins in the stomach, the coffee gets it’s amazing flavor. Then the nasty part comes… the animal poops out the coffee beans, the beans get collected, cleaned, toasted sometimes with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and there you have famous lwak coffee. Although the process sounds uninviting, I can assure you the coffee is exquisite and doesn’t need any milk or sugar. A cup goes normally for 5 – 6 euros in Bali but in the USA or Mexico can be even 15-20USD!
I could probably write a small novel on the 2-weeks experience on Balinese cuisine, but I’d rather go back and make more memories, which I am planning to do! You should too!
Go to Bali! Make memories! Be adventurous! Eat local! Be happy and healthy!