Food & Restaurants in Bali
Bali has a huge variety of cafes and restaurants, serving both Indonesian and international food (see Indonesia for a menu reader). For better or worse, some American chains have established a presence here, although almost exclusively confined to the southern tourist areas. You will see KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Starbucks. Interestingly, the menus are often highly adapted to the local tastes. The menu at Pizza Hut looks nothing like one you find in western countries.
Try the smaller local restaurants rather than touristy ones; the food is better and cheaper. Be sure to try the ubiquitous Indonesian dishesnasi goreng (fried rice), nasi campur (pronounced nasi champur, steamed rice with various vegetables and meats), and mie goreng (fried noodles). These dishes should rarely cost more than Rp 25,000 and are often considerably cheaper.
Some of the most authentic food can be found from roving vendors called kaki lima, which literally means "five legs". This comprises the three legs of the food cart and the vendor's own two legs. Go to the beaches of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak at sunset and find steaming hot bakso(pronounced ba-so), a delightful meatball and noodle soup, served up fresh for a very inexpensive Rp 5,000. You can season it yourself but be forewarned: Indonesian spices can be ferociously hot. Go easy until you find your heat tolerance level!
Padang restaurants are a good choice for both the budget-conscious and those visitors wishing to experience authentic Indonesian (but not Balinese) cuisine. These are usually marked with a prominent masakan padang sign and serve food from Padang, Sumatra. The options are usually stacked on plates in the window, you choose what you want and it is served with steamed rice. The most famous Padang speciality is rendang sapi (spicy beef coconut curry) but there are always a number of chicken, fish, egg and vegetable options. Padang food is always halaland you will eat well for Rp 15,000-20,000.
Actual Balinese food is common on the island but it has made few inroads in the rest of the country due to its emphasis on pork, which is anathema to the largely Muslim population in the rest of the country. Notable dishes include:
- Babi guling — roast suckling pig. A large ceremonial dish served with rice that is usually ordered several days in advance, but also often available at night market stalls and selected restaurants. A very notable outlet for babi guling is Ibu Oka's in Ubud.
- Bebek betutu — literally "darkened duck", topped with a herb paste and roasted in banana leaves over charcoal. The same method can also be used for chicken, resulting in ayam betutu.
- Lawar — covers a range of Balinese salads, usually involving thinly chopped vegetables, minced meat, coconut and spices. Traditionally, blood is mixed into this dish but it is often omitted for the more delicate constitutions of visitors. Green beans and chicken are a particularly common combination.
- Sate lilit — minced seafood satay, served wrapped around a twig of lemongrass.
- Urutan — Balinese spicy sausage, made from pork.
Other local Balinese specialities include:
- ayam panggang bumbu bawang mentah-Grilled chicken with sliced shallots, chillies and lime
- ayam panggang bumbu merah-Grilled chicken with red chili and shrimp paste sauce
- ayam tutu-Steamed chicken cooked with Balinese herbs and spices
- tum ayam/ketopot- Sliced chicken mixed with herbs and spices and steamed in banana Leaves
- ikan kakap bakar bumbu terasi-Grilled snapper in local hot spices
- sudang lepet-Salted dry fish
- pepes ikan laut-Sliced fish mixed with herbs and spices grilled and served in a banana leaf
- pelecing kangkung- Water convolvus with shrimp paste and lime
- pelecing paku- Fern tips with shrimp paste and lime
Unlike Indian Hindus, virtually all Balinese eat meat, and vegetarianism has traditionally been limited to part-time fasts for some priests. However, cows are considered sacred, consequently Bali traditional foods do not include beef but do include pork which is not halal for Muslims. It's best to assume that all local food is non-vegetarian unless assurances are given to the contrary. In particular, the Indonesian spice paste sambal is a hot paste of ground red chillies, spices and usually shrimp paste. Always check to see if the sambal being served to you contains shrimp paste—you can find it without at a few places. Additionally,kerupuk crackers with a spongy appearance contain shrimp or fish. Instead, ask foremping which is a delicious cracker made from a bean paste and is meat free—it resembles a fried potato chip in appearance. However, restaurants catering to tourists do nearly always provide some vegetarian options, and in places like Seminyak and Ubud there are even dedicated vegetarian restaurants. Beef are served in almost all big restaurants.
Halal restaurants catering to the Muslim minority exist, but may require a little searching for and tend to be downmarket. Padang restaurants (mentioned above) are a good option, and Muslims may also be able to eat in Java or Sunda restaurants. Kosher food is virtually unknown.
A meal in a basic tourist-oriented restaurant will be around Rp 20,000-50,000/person. In a local restoran or warung the same meal might be about Rp 15,000 or less. Simple warungs sell nasi bungkus (a pyramid shaped paper-wrapped parcel of about 400 g of rice with several tasty extras-to take away) for as little as Rp 3,000-5,000. One very reliable option is nasi campur (rice with several options, chosen by the purchaser) for about Rp 10,000-15,000. Note that rice is often served at ambient temperature with the accompanying food much hotter, this is common practice in Indonesia.
At the other end of the scale, Bali is home to a number of truly world-class fine-dining restaurants. Seminyak is home to many of the trendy independent options, and elsewhere on the island, the better five-star resorts have their own very high quality in-house restaurants with prices to match.
At all but the cheapest local restaurants, it is normal for 10% government sales tax and 5% service charge to be added to your bill. Some restaurants include this in the price, but most expressly state these plus plus terms.
July and August is the busiest season in Bali but the best deals can be had between March and October.
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