Bali: A Mystical Foodie Destination

By Ganteng Boy

Back in 2010, Julia Roberts fell in love on this magical island in the famous movie – Eat, Pray, Love. And though I cannot say that I am a huge fan of the movie, I did feel a sense of pride that my beloved country, Indonesia, is finally up on the silver screen.

Although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, Bali is home to 90+% of the nation’s Hindu population. And as such, there are no limitations on pork – rejoice!

In this post, I will walk through the different types of food that make Bali unique…

Breakfast: Ayam Bubur Bali

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The rough translation of this dish is Chicken Rice Porridge. What makes it Balinese is the roasted nuts. Unlike Chinese Rice Porridge, the rice grains here are still discernable. The soup tasted slightly savory, punctuated with the spiciness of the red peppers. There were very few pieces of chicken; I was lucky to find a spoonful worth of chicken in my bowl. Nonetheless, this dish was a solid choice for breakfast.

Lunch: Babi Guling

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What BBQ is to Texas, Babi guling is to Bali. Babi guling, aka suckling pig, is one of Bali’s most famous dishes (for tourists). There are a variety of different warungs (or streetside restaurants) that offer this dish. Typically, Babi guling is plated with an assortment of different samples: minced pork sate-style stick, crispy pork skin, crunchy fried crackling, small chunks of cooked pork flesh, a small spiced long bean salad, and a serving of savory pork broth soup. You can round out your Indonesian experience and order a Teh Botol or Beer Bintang – both of which are excellent choices.

Late Afternoon Cocktail: Arak

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You will be pressed to find Arak sold publicly. I was lucky that my Uncle-in-law had a special bottle stored away for special occassions. They seldom have visitors from outside Bali, let alone the USA. Arak is a local Balinese spirit made from coconut sap, palm sap or fermented rice. The Arak in the picture above was from palm sap. On a scale of Vodka to Bacardi 151, I would rank Arak three quarters of the way to Bacardi 151. It tasted a bit crude and burned my throat on the way down. There are stories where villagers were known to be hospitalized for days because of this drink. From what I gathered, the poor distillation process is to blame. It is safe to say that my Uncle-in-law is an expert Arak maker.

Snack: Assorted Fruits

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From left to right: Longan, Rambutan, Nangka (Jackfruit), Mangis (Mangosteen)

If all of these fruits in the picture above are foreign to you, I am afraid that you have not yet lived life. Longan has a sweet, juicy and fleshy meat that is often used in snacks, desserts and sometimes canned with syrup. Rambutan has a similar taste profile to Longan; however, it is a bit sweet and has a slightly larger seed. If given the choice between Longan or Rambutan, I always choose Rambutan: it is easier to peel and a bit juicier. Mangosteen is a funny fruit; only the white flesh is edible, the purple outer flesh is soft and does not taste good at all. Mangis is slightly sweet and sour in flavor. Much to my surprise, there are certain businesses in Southeast Asia that ban Mangis because the fruit is known to attract insects. Of all the fruits that are shown here, my favorite is the yellow jackfruit. Jackfruit is sweet, and has a slimy/sticky texture. It is a challenge to find a ripe pod of jackfruit; and so often times, you can find jackfruit sold in individual servings or in half/quarter portions.

Dessert: Es Campur

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Translated as Mixed Shaved Ice Dessert, Es Campur is the national dessert of Indonesia. This dessert has a wonderful assortment: Jackfruit, Palm Seeds, Grass Jelly, Basil Seeds, Fermented Cassava, Condensed Milk and Young Coconut. It is considered taboo to stir Es Campur beforehand. If you are ever caught in the situation where Es Campur is served pile high with shaved ice, my advice is to slowly push down the shaved ice with a spoon and stir slowly from the bottom to the edge of the bowl until everything is evenly mixed.

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