Local Cuisine Spotlight: BaliSeptember 16, 2019
Preparing food in Bali is a labor of love. Balinese dishes are comprised of several layers, made with freshly ground spices, handmade oils for frying, and farm-to-table produce, and prepared fresh every day. Typical dishes are known for being sweet, sour, spicy, salty, bitter, and astringent (the “six flavors”) all at once. Designed to stimulate the senses, every bite is different from the next — creating endless varieties and ways to experience the local cuisine. If you’re traveling to Bali, here’s what you need to know about the food.
The basics of Bali food:
- Ginger, chili, and coconut feature prominently in Balinese dishes.
- Rice is the staple dish. If a dish doesn’t feature rice, it’s considered a snack, not a meal.
- The signature dish is nasi campur, which is rice topped with different mixtures of meat, fish, and vegetables. It’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Meals rarely feature beef, as cows are sacred to the locals.
- In fact, with so many non-meat options, Bali is a vegetarian’s paradise.
Where to eat:
- Cafes offer locally grown beans that become some of the most delicious cups of coffee in the world.
- Markets feature the freshest Balinese produce, but you have to arrive early (before 7 a.m.) to sample the best. Locals arrive as early as possible, before quality of produce declines in the hot, tropical heat.
- Restaurants in Bali are helmed by some of the world’s most talented chefs. You’ll find culinary creations that would be at home in the most cosmopolitan of cities.
- Street food is typically the most authentic Balinese food. When ordering from a cart or stall on the street or in a market, just make sure the food was cooked fresh and hasn’t been sitting out.
- Warungs are small, independently owned vendors where you can sample great-tasting local food on a budget
When to eat:
- Breakfast is typically a coffee with a small snack. The locals save their appetite for lunch.
- Lunch is the main meal of the day. For the freshest food, especially from the warungs, eat around 11 a.m. Locals and warungs prepare food mid-morning, which is meant to last throughout the day.
- Dinner is typically leftovers from the meal prepared in the morning, but well-known restaurants, such as Bali Asli, offer freshly made meals (and cooking classes).
Know your spices:
- The locals like spicy food.
- While Balinese dishes themselves are mild, sambal (a chili paste) is added to make each plate fiery.
- Depending on your preferred temperature, simply request less, more, or no sambal.
Ready to try the best Bali food?
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