It feels like forever ago but the sweet taste of every spice and herb lingers on my taste buds when I think about Bali. Not only is southeast asia one of my favourite places in the world, it is where I grew up so returning to the familiar smells and bustling streets always brings back childhood memories. Prior to this trip, my only other memory of Bali was when we visited Nusa dua for a long weekend to celebrate my cousins marriage. I never truly saw the vast landscapes this island has to offer.
It was D’s first ever visit to southeast asia so I wanted him to soak every bit of it in and we all know that food is the way to every man’s heart, and he fell in love. Most people always caution you about the “Bali belly”, mainly due to the still unsophisticated irrigation systems. We made sure we were extra cautious, avoiding fresh salads and brushing our teeths with bottled water. But one thing we were not going to do is let this stop us from trying the real local delicacies. While there are many dishes that make up a local’s diet, these three in our opinions are the must haves if you want to discover the real side of Bali (outside of the many tourist traps crowded by aussies).
- Nasi Padang
Mixed rice: this dish is a local staple and allows you to add whatever you want to your rice. There are the more tourist friendly warung’s which are slightly more pricey but the authentic flavours are found on the street sides. On the night we landed, we had our driver pick us up from the airport to drive us to Ubud and on the way we asked him to stop at a good nasi padang stall. It was 10:30pm and we were on a dark country road when he pulled over to this humble store. There were three other people in who had just come out of the temple and they looked curiously at us tourists as our driver orders a very simple nasi padang with chicken curry and cooked cabbage. What really sets this dish off is the sweet sambal sauce (chilli) , mix everything together and you have a beautiful combination even the most expensive 5 start restaurants couldn’t match, all at a price of £1.50.
- Ikan Bakar
Chargrilled fish:you will see this everywhere and it is favourite for anyone who loves fish! Soft on the inside but a crisp coating with chilli sambal and rice and again, you can get obsessed.
Meat sticks: a popular Indonesian dish famously paired with peanut sauce and rice cakes. You can get satay in chicken, beef or lamb. Cooking the seasoned meat on a fire is what gives it that smokey touch, but finding the best peanut sauce is the challenge. I love it when it is nice and thick and slightly sweet, drizzled all over the meet and rice cakes. We tried some really good ones cooked on the side of the road, this was the same day that I drank this green juice that flushed me completely out the next day while trying to make our way to Nusa Penida island…. But that is another story for another day.
While we ate in many local stalls, we were still very careful with where and always asked for suggestions from locals that we met. Be vigilant, avoid ice in drinks and freshly washed vegetables that aren’t cooked. Buy fruit that has not been opened and washed (except for in hotels or proper restuarants). A good tip is to buy carbon pills as they really help with any possible mishaps when it comes to your belly. Either way, be smart but be adventurous and try some of these dishes. We met a few travellers who only ate in establishments and looked at our food dishes in envy – don’t be that guy, make sure you try.
What are some of your favourite local foods from Bali?