Best Places For Food-lovers In Bali
Whether you are visiting Bali for the first time or you have visited the place but haven’t explored it well, either case, ask around for the most popular places to eat in Bali. You will notice that a lot of people would recommend you to visit ‘warung’ – a simple Balinese roadside cafe type places serving specialty cuisine. The small local and modern restaurants that have borrowed and fused the word ‘warung’ into their name, simply for the sake of branding, these warungs are authentic. No doubt this list will cause debate but note that it is a breakaway from our list of trendy upscale restaurants, and it is more focused on those serving outright cheap and local food. We’ve also left out those that have shifted their market from local to tourists and somehow bloated their prices along the way.
These are all budget options with no fuss about fancy interior design, silver cutlery or cushioned chairs. If you don’t mind getting in line and practicing a bit of Indonesian (and Balinese) body language in placing your order, then settling down in a non-air-conditioned space on plastic stools or wooden benches and tables, with toilet paper rolls for napkins, then you’re in for the ultimate local dining experience. The list will surely change in the future but here are our most popular 10 to date, each listed under Bali’s most favorite dishes to try while on holidays here.
Jimbaran Seafood Cafe
Whenever you are craving for some local style seafood, head to this fishing village south of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, which also serves as one of the island's main panoramic beaches to enjoy a dinner against beautiful sunsets. All of the restaurants lining the coast offer menus focusing on seafood, and some even have live showcases where you can take your pick and have them cooked to your preferences with a selection of barbecue sauces. There are a total seventeen seafood cafes to choose from with candlelit tables set out on the sand. Some even have French Fries, fried rice, chop suey and other western and Asian cuisine on their menus for variety, and even expand their seafood selections to barracuda, mahi-mahi, and kingfish.
Tipat Tahu Gerenceng
Another institution in Denpasar that has its own unique offering is Tipat Tahu Gerenceng – a name that simply gives it away. The local favorite dish comprises ketupat rice dumplings that are boiled in square-woven coconut leaf packets, ‘tipat’ in the simplified Balinese tongue, and tofu – served with a delicious peanut and sweet soy sauce, bean sprouts and rice crackers. The locals consider it a filling treat apt for lunch, or an afternoon snack. The small warung on the intersection of Jalan Soetomo and Gadjah Mada in Denpasar has been serving the dish for years, and Denpasar locals know it well. Cheap and simple but tasty, to wash them down there’s bottled soft drinks, hot or iced tea, and ‘soda gembira’ or condensed milk with sugar syrup and soda water on ice.
Bali Guling Pak Malen
Bali’s favorite dish – Babi Guling – whole roast pig. You might have heard about ‘the best Babi Guling’ in Ubud, but if you ask the locals, they’d just frown at how touristy and overpriced they have become. But there’s one that strikes a balance, and which locals often mention: Babi Guling Pak Malen is one of the best choices due to its strategic location in Seminyak, which is a touristy area, but nevertheless where it keeps its identity as a true warung, catering to locals and interested Westerners. Right on the traffic light corner of Seminyak Sunset Road, Pak Malen has become a landmark for hungry diners. Very busy at lunchtime, you’ll see the main display of the usual roast pig together with all the succulent trimmings. You can wait for your portion before heading to your seat, or sit down and let the wait staff take your order, along with a beer, soft drink, glass of tea, or crushed orange. Your plate comes with a serving of centerpiece rice, surrounded by pork meat and crispy crunchy skin (the best part!), pork satay, succulent sayur urap – snake bean and shredded coconut salad mix. Usually, you also get a bowl of pork soup with jackfruit slices, but they run out of stock even before lunchtime, with everything sold out by early afternoon.
Ayam Betutu Gilimanuk
Betutu is Bali’s pride, on par with the Babi Guling – whole roast pig. In olden times, with its arduous preparation and cooking process, these two dishes were meant only for religious purposes and temple anniversaries. Betutu comprises chicken or duck, stuffed, marinated and wrapped in banana leaves with rich Balinese spices, then slowly cooked covered in coal for hours. The meat is succulent and easily slips off the bone. The main ingredients include almost all the spices known in the Balinese kitchen: chili, pecans, onions, lemongrass, galangal, nutmeg, turmeric, lime leaves, ginger and coriander, a bit of sugar and salt, and other few variations – extremely spicy, so beware! A few local businesses have harnessed the technique to serve betutu on a daily basis. One of them is Ayam Betutu Gilimanuk, which has branches in Denpasar, Kuta and Nusa Dua. There are many other Balinese delights on its menu that you can try too, such as crispily fried paddy eels, ‘lawar’ and traditional ‘ares’ soup. After this fiery experience, you’ll find relief in their soothing coconut ice creams.
Nasi Ayam Kedewatan
On the outskirts of Ubud, there’s a local institution that serves nasi ayam or ‘chicken rice’, a similar dish to nasi campur. Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Bu Mangku is a favorite lunch stopover among drivers, guides and staff of the neighboring hotels in Kedewatan. Foreigners have acquired the taste and the place has caught on. There are many similar nasi ayam warungs along the Kedewatan road, but many locals refer to Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Bu Mangku as the original and the best. The place is clean and the Balinese owners have upgraded their venue to feature cozy and homey setups on their own traditional Balinese household compound. You won’t find this kind of authentic atmosphere elsewhere. Your standard rice dish consists of sauced chicken strips, deep-fried crackling entrails, half ‘pindang’ or sweet-boiled eggs, chicken saté, stir-fried snake beans in shredded coconut and the optional sambal.
Food for Thought!
If you are keen to explore more places and cuisines, there are several places that could add some delightful and tasteful memories to your trip. Apart from these places, you can also ask the locals for the cheaper places that will offer you good delicacies at decent prices.