Balinese Food Culture: The 7 Best Foods to Eat in Bali

The best food in Bali includes Sate
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Asian food is known all around the world but many Westerners don’t understand the subtle differences between them. For instance, Balinese food culture is a long way from what you may find in Thailand or South Korea. If you love authentic, local dishes, then it’s a good idea to research the food scene in your destination.

Local food will likely be both cheaper and more delicious. Bali doesn’t do cheeseburgers as we do them in America, nor pizza like you’d find in Italy, but they do other dishes to perfection. Avoid the large chain restaurants and, instead, seek out the most local alternatives.

If you don’t know what to eat on your trip to Bali, then this guide is for you. Below, you’ll discover the seven best Balinese food items that all travelers just have to sample. Trust us, you won’t regret getting your teeth into these delicious snacks.

1) Bebek Betutu

Balinese food culture revolves around Bebek Betutu
Credit: Reluctant Entertainer

Any decent restaurant you visit in Bali will serve bebek betutu. It’s an absolute staple of the country and is usually cooked to a high quality. If you want flavorful food made consistently well, then consider ordering this a couple of times. It revolves around the meat, which in this case is duck but you can also eat a chicken variety, called ayam betutu.

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The key is tons and tons of seasoning. Using whatever local herbs and spices they can find, the chef will coat the bird in as much seasoning as possible. This gives it an incredibly strong and potent flavor and contributes to the crispiest of crusts. It will also be rubbed in coconut oil and as many red chili peppers as you can handle.

Whether you’re eating from a street stall or a fancy restaurant, bebek betutu will likely be on the menu. Order it if you’re hungry but remember to specify the level of spice you’re willing to consume. You’ll want to preserve your taste buds to take in all that amazing flavor.

2) Babi Guling

To sample the best Balinese food, try  Babi Guling
Credit: BBC

Looking for an absolute feast? Then the perfect traditional Balinese dish for you is called babi guling. Take a suckling pig while it’s still young and roast up the whole animal. It might seem a little cruel to Westerners but if you eat pork or bacon, then you can’t have any moral complaints. This is just a traditional way that Balinese food culture takes a small animal and makes it go a long way.

Of course, you won’t be having this every day. It’s a truly monumental meal that should be reserved for celebrations and national holidays. That being said, it’s not hard to find when you want it. Don’t be surprised to see whole suckling pigs on food stalls at the side of the road. If you want a chunk, simply ask and they’ll chop some off for you.

Balinese food culture is all about aromas and flavor. You may find your pig seasoned with lemongrass, ginger, and turmeric giving it a wonderful earthy flavor. It’s cooked in many ways but look for something where the skin is as crispy as possible while the meat inside is still juicy and tender.

3) Gado-Gado

Gado-Gado is a fantastic local food dish from Bali
Credit: Piknikdong, Wikipedia

For anyone looking for something packed with healthy nutrients, gado-gado is an excellent bet. This is a type of salad made with boiled vegetables, helping you load up on plenty of vitamins while eating something comforting and delicious. For extra sustenance, it will generally come with boiled eggs, tofu, and fried potatoes. That’ll keep you going for a while.

The whole thing is traditionally served on a lontong, which is rice all wrapped up in a banana leaf. It’s then topped with peanut sauce to give it that extra depth of flavor. Once you see just how much food you get in this one dish, you’ll be amazed at how inexpensive it is. That comes from the affordability of Bali itself along with ordering food made with cheap, locally sourced ingredients.

Gado-gado is considered one of the main national dishes of Bali. If you’re ever in the country, then you’d be crazy not to try it. It’s delicious and can easily be made vegetarian or even vegan if you require it.

4) Satay

Everyone loves Sate
Credit: Mufid Majnun, Unsplash

Satay meat is commonly found across Asia and is often associated with Thailand or Malaysia. However, it’s thought that the practice originally began in Bali. That’s why it’s also one of the best places to get this kind of food. Satay is simply a method of putting meat onto a skewer before grilling it to perfection.

Generally, you’ll find the meat is prepared with a peanut sauce. That’s what gives it this uniquely Balinese flavor that tourists go crazy for. Traditionally, this will be done using beef, pork, or chicken. However, you could branch out to other meats like alligator, opt for seafood instead, or even ditch all animal products and just grill up some vegetables.

This is a method that makes it easy to achieve great results. Look out for a well-rated restaurant, though, because they’ll have the perfect blend of herbs and spices to take your satay experience to the next level. This is an affordable treat for when you want a lot of quick food that packs a punch when it comes to flavor.

5) Nasi Goreng

A plate of delicious Nasi Goreng from Bali
Credit: Eat Well Abi

When searching for a delicious and nutritious meal to fill you up, check the menu for nasi goreng. Often considered a contender for the national dish of Bali, this will be very easy to find. It’s a kind of stir fry and may be similar to other dishes you’ve had if you like Asian food. There are many ways to cook it but at its base, you’ve got rice, meat, and a selection of vegetables.

When all fried together in the right way and with the right combination of herbs and spices, you’ve got a dish that’s more than the sum of its parts. Throw a fried egg on there and you’ve got a rich and buttery meal that keeps you going for hours. Making this meal is like second nature for locals. Embrace the Balinese food culture and look for local chef who’s happy to whip up this amazing meal for your enjoyment.

6) Mie Goreng

Balinese food culture includes a lot of noodles - as you'll find in Mie Goreng
Credit: Ikhsan Baihaqi, Unsplash

Noodles dominate Asian cuisine and the same has to be said for Balinese food culture. For mie goreng, The chef will fry thin yellow noodles in oil, being sure to mix in plenty of garlic and onion for flavor. This then acts as a blank canvas onto which almost anything could be added. You’ll commonly find mie goreng served with beef, cabbage, tomatoes, and eggs.

This is just such a simple dish at its base but with so much potential. Whether you’re in a high-end luxury restaurant or a small street vendor, you’ll be surprised at how well it turns out. While in Bali, you can expect to live off plenty of noodles. It’s cheap but packed with energy to fuel your adventures. No matter what foods you despise and which ones you love, you can create a personalized mie goreng to match your preferences.

7) Pisang Goreng

For a delicious treat, try Pisang Goreng
Credit: Midori, Wikipedia

For many tourists, this is a dish that can seem a little weird. However, it’s perfectly reasonable to take a plantain and deep fry it until it’s a delicious golden color. Then, you’ve got yourself a snack that is the perfect combination of sweet and savory called pisang goreng. Plantain isn’t often eaten in many Western countries but it’s a staple of African, Latin American, and Asian cultures.

If you don’t often eat plantains, then you’re bound to start when you visit Bali. They can be boiled, roasted, or made into chips. Perhaps the most satisfying way to eat them, though, is to deep fry them. This is a common snack to keep you going between meals. Just make sure you don’t have too much of it.

The easiest way to get hold of some pisang goreng for yourself is to look out for street vendors. They’ll be cooking and serving it right from their stall so you can eat a fresh one while it’s hot and fresh out of the oil. Maybe just give it a few seconds to cool down so you don’t burn your mouth, though.

What is a traditional Balinese breakfast?

Breakfast in Bali revolves around staple local ingredients, including eggs and fresh fruit. A smoothie bowl with some scrambled eggs or tofu is classic but you may want a more hearty meal of beef or chicken satay with fried rice.

What is the most famous food in Bali?

Bali is best known for Nasi Goreng, which is considered the national dish. This is a cheap, easy to make, but satisfying and delicious stir fry that contains fried rice with meat, vegetables, and egg.

What is the national dish of Bali?

Nasi Goreng is generally regarded as the national dish of Bali although some experts consider there to be up to six. These include satay, gado-gado, and tumpeng.

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