The food in Bali is wonderful. Many restaurants serve European and American dishes that are quite delicious. But the biggest treat is to sample the local dishes, both from Bali and from the other Indonesian islands. During our stay here we have eaten at street corner warungs, incredibly inexpensive small food shops serving local dishes like sate (grilled meats, often with a spicy peanut sauce), nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles), etc. And, of course, there are the street vendors selling their particular specialty. We especially enjoyed the sate shops.
Most of these foods are from the other islands of Indonesia. It isn't that easy to find traditional Balinese foods, probably because they take so much time to prepare. We made an effort to find more of the traditional foods of Bali. We took a cooking course at Bumbu Bali Restaurant, we visited the local markets, and we attended the Balinese Feast at Ketut's Place.
The Food Markets
We visited the central market in Ubud, and other markets as we traveled around Bali. We found an interesting mix of tourist souvenirs, live pigs, chickens, fish, spices, tempeh (fermented tofu), vegetables, and even tapioca. The variety was astonishing. The climate of Bali varies with elevation, and they are able to grow everything from tropical fuits in the lowlands to strawberries and cabbages high in the mountains. Some foods are also imported from Jawa (Java) and other islands.
Street-side food vendors
Many tiny sate shops are set up along the streets in Bali. There are two styles of sate, and many variations on each. In the traditional Balinese sate, the meat is mixed with spices and ground or minced to produce a sticky paste. (The paste looks really awful, but the grilled sate tastes great!) It is then formed onto a thick stick and grilled over a charcoal fire (see the photo at left). In the Indonesian style, chunks of marinated meat are skewered on thin pieces of bamboo, grilled, and seasoned with a sauce. We prefer the Balinese style sate, although both of them can be quite delicious.
Balinese Feast at Ketut's Place
We found out about the Balinese Feast from our Lonely Planet guide to Bali. Ketut and his wife, Wayan, have been serving this special meal for 20 years. It takes all day to prepare. They offer it whenever there is sufficient demand. Over the years demand had grown so that they were preparing the feast several times each week. Since the bombing there are fewer tourists and fewer feasts.
We had a great time at our first feast. We ate with two documentary film makers who free-lance for German television. We liked our dinner experience so much that we moved into Ketut's homestay, and signed up for the feast every time it was offered. The food is really great, the price is right, and it always feels like you are having dinner with old friends. Here are just some of the dishes we had at our first feast. Ketut and Wayan also offer a cooking class.
Bumbu Bali Cooking Class
Over a year before our trip to Bali, we learned about a cooking class at the Bumbu Bali Restaurant. We were the only students the day we took our class, so we had a very personalized experience. Our instructor, a chef at the restaurant, took us first to the Ubud central market to show us how to select the ingredients. Then we went back to the restaurant where all the ingredients were already prepared for each dish. We received a cookbook of Balinese recipes and detailed demonstrations of the preparation techniques required. There were a total of 7 dishes, and at the end we were both well and truly stuffed. Then they brought out a plate of fruit for each of us. You could look at the class as an expensive lunch, or over 4 hours of education, entertainment, and great food. We were well pleased. (We also returned several times to eat at the restaurant.)