Balinese cuisine is full of indigenous traditions, as well as influences from other parts of Indonesia, plus some Chinese and Indian touches.
Bali’s culinary traditions are somewhat different from general Indonesian cuisine, with part of this being down to the fact Bali is a Hindu island, compared to the rest of Islamic Indonesia. In Bali, Rice is almost always consumed as a staple accompanied with vegetables, meat, and/or seafood. Pork, chicken, fruit, and vegetables are routinely utilized, however, beef is rarely consumed. As a popular tourist destination, Bali has quite a lot of cooking schools with daily courses of the local cuisine, whereas night markets and warungs sell local delicacies.
Hopefully the five timeless dishes I have listed below will give you a good idea of the uniqueness of Balinese cuisine.
Bebek Betutu is a dish of steamed or roasted duck. This highly seasoned and spiced dish is popular in Lombok, as well as in Bali and Lombok. It can be found in the menu of luxury hotels or restaurants in Bali. It takes at least 24 hours to cook. As well as being popular with international tourists, many travellers from other regions of Indonesia such as Sumatra and Java purchase Betutu dishes as a kind of Balinese memento, and take it back to their families.
In Indonesia, Babi Guling is a kind of roast suckling pig, and is usually served with lawar and steamed rice. It is a popular dish in Balinese restaurants and warungs. Occasionally, babi guling is presented as a wedding gift for the family of the bride. In Bali, it is not uncommon to see the suckling pig being severed on to a bamboo spit and roasted above an open fire on the side of the street!
Telur Bumbu is a dish of hard-boiled eggs that are coated in a spicy Balinese sauce. I do not know much else about telur bumbu, but it is a very popular dish all over the island of Bali.
In Bali, even the traditional sate is given a special new meaning, as with Sate Lilit, the meat is cooked on strong sticks of lemongrass, which are used as skewers. It all adds to the flavour!
Nasi Campur is a delicious rice dish, and is sometimes simply referred to as Nasi Bali and is a certain favourite among the tourists here. While nasi campur can be found all over South East Asia, the Balinese version is probably the most internationally renowned. The tastes are often punctuated by distinctly local spices. The Balinese version of mixed rice may have grilled tuna, fried tofu, cucumber, spinach, or even vegetable curry on the bed of rice. You will see nasi campur being sold in warungs all over Bali (particularly in Ubud), wrapped in a banana leaf.
These foods all contribute to the Bali Factor when travelling to the island. Bebek Betutu in particular is a firm favourite meal from my travels around Asia and Africa. Which of these timeless Balinese dishes transport you ‘bebek’ to the future?