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Home » Bali » Balinese Traditional Cuisine: The Taste of the Island of the Gods

Balinese Traditional Cuisine: The Taste of the Island of the Gods

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Overview

Dubbed as the “Island of the Gods”, the enchanting island of Bali is blessed with more than just pristine nature and mesmerizing culture, but also the sheer exotic taste of its traditional cuisine. Regarded as one of the world's most complex cuisines, the art of Balinese food is a culinary cocktail of fresh ingredients, intricate flavors and aromatic spices, wrapped up in an incredible commitment to preparation and cookery.

Bali has its own distinct cultural identity which is largely influenced in by Hinduism, the dominant religion of this island province. This provides somewhat distinct culinary traditionswhen compared to  the rest of the archipelago. With the large  number of sacred festivals and religious celebrations, many special foods must be  prepared as  offerings for the deities, as well as to be consumed communally during the celebrations.

Balinese cuisine has been influenced by more than just its immediate neighbors. Throughout history, Indonesia has been inhabited and shaped by many peoples with different cultures from across the world, from the Netherlands to China, and from the Middle East to India. This richness in diversity has allowed the Balinese to capture time-honored recipes and cooking techniques from across the globe, with unique tweaks that have since defined the Balinese culinary ways.

Balinese dishes mostly feature what is locally known as Basa Gede or Bumbu Bali which is a basic spicy paste that gives them their distinct flavor and kick. Infused with shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, galangal, pepper coriander, candlenuts, chilies, lemongrass and a little fish paste, basa gede is thinner than a Thai curry paste, and can be used in a myriad of ways. Fresh produce wholeheartedly creates the flavor in the cuisine and has shaped an incredible acuteness to taste amongst the Balinese, Indonesian people, and even international tourists. There are no any artificial flavorings or additives added here; only natural ingredients are used  that have been grown and sourced locally, and selected specifically to achieve that  certain flavor.

Here are some of the most distinctive and popular dishes from the Island of the Gods:

 

Ayam or Bebek Betutu

Betuitu is a distinct traditional Balinese technique of cooking chicken (Ayam Betutu) or duck (bebek Betutu). Traditionally cooked in a pit of embers for up to twenty-four hours, Ayam or Bebek Betutu is a roasted poultry that has been stuffed with spices and wrapped in banana leaves and coconut husks. This exceptional menu features a lavish smoky look of the duck or chicken, cooked to a “melty” softness and slathered inside and out with a pleasantly charred basa gede, lingering with hints of lemongrass, turmeric and ginger.

Here are some of the restaurants that are renowned for their Ayam or Bebek Betutu:

 

Ayam Betutu Men Tempeh
Gilimanuk Bus Station, Gilimanuk Village, Jembrana Regency
Phone: +62 828 3726 239, +62 8523 850 7435

 

Ayam Betutu Pak Man
jalan Raya Kuta No.72, Kuta
Phone: +62 361 8633570;+62 8133 861 0963
Website: www.ayambetutupakman.baliklik.com

 

Babi Guling

Perhaps Bali's most famous delicacy is Babi Guling or the roasted suckling pig. Babi guling is an all-time favorite, consisting of spit-roast pig stuffed with rich traditional spices and vegetable mixes such as cassava leaves, slowly ‘rolled’ (hence its name, guling means ‘to roll’) over  a coal fire. The crisp brown skin is prized, while the meat is a tender and juicy treat. At first the dish was a communal treat cooked only during special festivities and ceremonies, but now babi guling can be found widely served at warungs and restaurants specializing in this succulent dish.

The best place to try Babi Guling is at:

 

Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka
Jl. Tegal Sari/Suweta No. 2, Ubud
Phone: (0361) 976345 / (0361) 2077490

Babi Guling Candra
Jl. Teuku Umar 140, Denpasar
Phone: +62 361 221278, +62 361 9940098, +62 361 225559

 

Sate Lilit

A slight twist on what is  generally known as Indonesian Satay or meat skewer, Sate Lilit is a uniquely Balinese dish. It is similar to a typical meat skewer, however, sate lilit uses minced or ground meat, fish or other seafood that is blended with basa gede and other traditional spices. The minced meat mixture is then molded around a wooden skewer or lemongrass stalk, and cooked atop a grill or open fire. Unlike the traditional Indonesian satay which is doused in rich peanut sauce, Sate Lilit is often served plain, letting the aromatic spices speak for themselves.

Sate Lilit is a very popular dish in Bali and can be found in many restaurants serving Balinese food throughout the island.

 

Lawar

Brimming with extraordinary flavors and a rich history, Lawar is one of Bali's most significant dishes. Lawar is a chopped and blended mix of traditional spices, shrimp paste, kencur (galangal) and other roots, which are combined with grated coconut, green beans, boiled young jackfruit and occasionally singkong (cassava) leaves, adding a fresh twist to the hearty spice. Different meats are added to the dish.

What makes this dish rather unique is that traditionally it uses fresh blood of the meat in the dish. This gives it its signature red coloring. However, nowadays the vegetarian or the “white” Lawar (without blood) are becoming more popular, using strips of mango and juicy coconut.

Here are some of the places where you can try Lawar:

 

Warung Selat Lawar
Jln. Raya Kerobokan 106, Denpasar
Phone: +62 812 3639883

 
Warung Lawar Kodi
Gang Harum No. 10, Jalan Sekuta, Sanur

 

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Nov 2014

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