Tasting Balinese cuisine should be part of the whole Bali experience especially for first-time visitors. Bali is not just about white beaches and temples dating back to thousands of years ago. It is also about the distinct flavors of a variety of spices, mixed with fresh vegetables, chicken, meat and fish. Balinese cooking is part of Indonesian cuisine that shows indigenous traditions with Chinese, Indian and generally Asian influence.
Every trip to another country is a chance to experience its unique culture through our palates. Thanks to all the generous bloggers and visitors around the world who gave reviews of their travels, I got to list down the top dishes and food places in every part of Bali I visited. Now it is my time to share some insights for would-be travelers to Bali by describing our daily food experience.
On our first day, we had got to sample fried and roasted “bebek” or duck at Bebek Uma Menuh Asian Fusion Restaurant at Kemenuh Kelod, Gianyar near Ubud. The duck meat was soft and tasteful. The side dishes were really a treat, a good match with fresh air coming from the ricefields. We spent around 374,000 IDR of 1,370 PHP for two plates and two glasses of iced tea. There are power sockets all over the place and they lend you adapters should you need to recharge your phone battery. Tip: I liked the roasted duck more because of the vegetable salad with garlic and ginger flavor garnishing it well. Although the crispiness of fried duck is always a winner for many.
We spent our first dinner in Bali in a “warung” near our hotel. “Warung” is a type of small family-owned business, a small restaurant or café in Indonesia. The prices are reasonable for the quality and quantity of food serve. For a beer and a soda, three dishes, crispy “ayam” or chicken, seafood “cap kai” (or what we call chop suey or stir-fried vegetables) and crispy “babi” or pork, we paid just around 200,000 IDR or around 700 Php.
On our second day, we had lunch at Warung Makan Ten Ten Bamboe after visiting Tanah Lot, rock formation in Bali with ancient temples perched on the rocks. This time we ordered a whole fish, sweet and sour shrimp and “nasi goreng” (rice plate with egg and side dishes). Together with a can of soda, we paid around 250,000 IDR or 900 PHP.
Our second night dinner was at the famous Gourmet Sate House in Kuta, Bali, which is actually a 15-minute walk from our hotel, Kuta Central Park Hotel. It had really good reviews and bears a Grab Food signage, which to me means great food traffic. The “satay” or “tusok” comes in different varieties – beef, lamb, fish, shrimp. We tried everything. But the best part of the meal was the “satay” or peanut sauce. We had to asl for around six saucers until the end of the meal. We also tried the Japanese style satay – raw tuna but the spices and the sesame nuts around it made it more flavorful. Foreigners were practically lining the streets waiting for us to stand and leave our table.
Lunch on the third day was at the Pandawa Beach in South Bali, our first stop for what will turn out to be a beach day. We ate in one of the “warungs” alongside the beach area. This time we mastered the art of ordering and got “nasi campur” or what is equivalent to lauriat in Chinese and bento in Japanese. Meaning everything on the plate. We also ordered “Kambing” which is goat soup, more like a curry and again, “cap kai” or chop suey, this time with lots of tofu. With my husband finishing three bananas just sprawling on the table and a can of soda, we only paid less than 100,000 IDR or less than 500 PHP.
After Pandawa, we went to Dreamland Beach and Padang-Padang Beach and finally went back nearer to Kuta, a place called Jimbaran Beach where we had dinner at Ganesha. The view of the sunset was spectacular along with the price of the meal. We had a kilo of grilled squid, buttered shrimp and a whole white snapper. All grilled as suggested by the waiters, although I was at first insisting that they fry them. I was glad I listened to the advice because the variety of sauces that accompanied the grilled seafood were all so memorable. Again, there was the sweet satay or peanut sauce, garlic with oil, sambal and a chili sauce that has the Indonesian smell (like a rotten fish but tastes really good). We paid 1,100,000 IDR or around 4,000 PHP for the meal and two bottles of Bintang (Indonesian beer) plus a treat to listen to Balinese crooners which I suspect one to be Filipino and had the chance to watch a Balinese performance. Well, it’s my husband Arnel’s birthday and we both tried not to feel guilty. Back to the warungs!
We spent our fourth day in Bali since we opted for a late evening trip back to Manila so we still enjoyed the hotel’s buffet breakfast which by the way is not bad at all for the price of less than 2,000 PHP per day per room.
Then we tried to hail Grab Car after three days of curated tour with a driver, who was so kind. The cost of the Grab Car within Kuta area was just 14,000 IDR or 50 PHP! So we went to Warung Cahaya which is known for its satay. It’s a hip place, a hole in the wall, with many young foreign visitors. We tried their pork and chicken dish. The side dish was really spicy, but I love how the shallots (baby onions) were treated in oil and vinegar. Our total meal was less than 200,000 IDR.
In the afternoon, we sampled their gelato. Gelato stops are almost everywhere because of the tropical whether plus free wifi everywhere. So for a 20,000 IDR or less than a 100 PHP worth of gelato, you get really strong connectivity.
Finally, our last dinner on the way to the airport was supposedly reserved for “babi guling” or the Balinese dish equivalent to our Philippine lechon. But it was late in the evening and so we headed to Sunset Road, to another most well-reviewed place serving great pork ribs, a nice substitute for lechon. After a more Western inspired slab of pork ribs in delicious barbeque sauce with some fruit juices along with it – we were ready to head back home.
We gave a tip of 10,000 or 20,000 IDR every time even when it is not asked and even when there is service charge because we appreciated how warm the service is.
Every meal was a delight, especially when you do not know what to expect. But in Bali, we got lots of great hospitality and warmth every time. We ended every meal with “terimakasih” (thank you) and hear them say “sama-sama” (welcome).
As our kind driver and tour guide – Kumang said – “This is not good bye! But See You Later!” So see you later Bali!