Indonesia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. And this is reflected in its cuisine. In Bali, which is one of its 17,000 islands, the cuisine on offer is an unending delightful feast of local, national and international recipes.
Food on the isle is a celebration of nature’s bounty with a fascinating variety of cereals, meats, vegetables and fruits. However, rice is the staple of every self-respecting islander.
The ubiquitous local everyday foods are Nasi Campur, Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng.
Nasi (rice) Campur (mix) offers a delicious combination of rice, veggies, with options of chicken/pork/fish topped with a prawn cracker. Nasi Goreng (fried rice) is mixed rice with veggies and the meat of your choice; and Mie Goreng (mixed noodles) with the same ingredients as Nasi Goreng.
The fabulously long list of Balinese delicacies begins with succulent Babi Guling (roast suckling pig), Betutu (steamed chicken and duck), and the mouth-watering range of satay (pork, chicken and beef) smothered in peanut sauce or satay lilit (minced meat or fish pressed onto bamboo stick or lemon grass stalks and then grilled) served with sambal matah or sambal ulek.
Grilled or steamed fish in banana leaf is an experience by itself. But enough about the non-vegetarian fare for there is so much more on the table for vegetarians. Here are a few samplers:
Gado-Gado is poached vegetables, which includes wild fern leaves, white cabbage, spinach, long beans, carrots, bean sprouts, crackers, fried tempe, fried shallots, topped with warm peanut sauce.
Jukut Paku Salad made with wild fern leaves, shallots, garlic, coconut oil and lime juice.
Jukut Urab is mixed poached vegetables. It includes bean sprouts, long beans, grated coconut, Balinese yellow paste, fried shallots, green chilies, and kaffir lime leaves.
Tempe and Tofu are fried and served with the main course or as a snack with a side portion of spicy sauce called Sambal Ulek.
An essential accompaniment for every meal of the gastronome is the mind-numbing Sambal Ulek, a red spicy sauce made with a creative mix of different types of chillies, shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, and lime juice. It has achieved legendary status after many encounters with unsuspecting connoisseurs of the exotic. Adding a teaspoon to your food brings out the flavours and enlivens the palate.
The Balinese prepare a spice base (bumbu genep), which includes, turmeric, palm sugar, cumin, red chillies, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, shallots, coriander, bay leaves (salam) and shrimp paste. It is this basic seasoning that gives a distinctive flavour to the local food on the island of Bali.
Shrimp paste and peanuts are standard ingredients in many recipes and hence it is important that tourists who are allergic to one or both should mention this while ordering food.
An early morning visit to the local market with an expert guide is highly recommended for those tourists who wish to see the source of Bali’s culinary delights. The encounter with farmers bringing in their fresh produce from neighbouring villages is quite an experience. This is best followed up with a cooking class to learn how to prepare some of the popular Balinese dishes.
Experience delicious Balinese culinary presentations at Bamboo Forest Restaurant by WHM, in a unique setting surrounded by a rain forest. The restaurant serves authentic Balinese lunch from 11am to 4pm every day.
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