Traditional Balinese food and where to eat it
Staying in a villa in Bali almost always holds promise of incredible and innovative food within walking distance or a short motorbike ride. These days you will find high quality cuisine that caters to, and beyond, the Western palate of the thousands of travelers flocking to the gastronomical hubs of Seminyak, Canggu, Ubud, and the rest of Bali.
The food on offer is undeniably impressive, and often has a price tag to match. What so many visitors may miss out on is the colourful, vibrant, delicious traditional cuisine that is made and eaten daily by the Balinese people. We’ve put together a list of places to find the best local Indonesian food around the island so you can get a taste of the real Bali.
If you’re not much of a planner and you just like to step out of your luxury Bali villa and see where the roads take you, you’re not out of luck when it comes to experiencing the local food. A warung in Bali is the name for the small shops that sometimes act as convenience stores but more often than not are centred around food. If you’re not too picky about what you eat then you’ll be safe pointing to the beautiful food platters on display and watching your plate get piled high with rice, vegetables and meat cooked with special spices and punchy flavours. If you’re interested to know what kind of dishes are out there and where to find them, read on!
Jalan Petitenget 97, Seminyak
Staying in a Seminyak villa means you are surrounded by exciting shops and restaurants and all of the food that Bali is so praised for. Finding some local dishes can actually be quite challenging here! If you really want to try fresh, local, filling Indonesian food, then Warung Eny is your place. Step into the unassuming wooden interior and watch the sate being prepared over the coconut barbeque. One of their famous dishes is the Nasi Campur which refers to a number of various combinations and in this case often features chicken in betutu sauce, pork steamed in banana leaves, chili fried water spinach and many others all around a bed of rice. The nasi goreng and corn fritters are crowd favourites at lunch time and the fish curry is a consistent hit for dinner. There is no website or instagram to scope out, but it’s a consistent top pick from locals and visitors alike.
Warung Makan Teges
Jalan Cok Rai Pudak, Ubud.
This little gem is a little ways out of the main hubbub of Ubud, but the trip doesn’t seem to deter anyone. If you happen to be holidaying in an Ubud Villa then the trip will be relatively easy. The beautifully crafted dishes served on the quintessential banana leaf plates are enjoyed daily by the nearby locals and any visitors lucky enough to get word of the place. There is an option to sit inside within the stunning architecture or head out into the sweet little garden in the back. Their own Nasi Campur is definitely a favourite and many customers recommend choosing the pork variation. If you ask for the nasi spesial (a special mixed rice) you will be floored by the beautiful smoky chicken, fried pork, and coconut stir-fried vegetables served with a green papaya broth. The food is fit for the traveller’s budget without any compromise on quality and flavour. You can check out their website here.
Sate Plecing Arjuna
Jalan Arjuna 47, Denpasar.
From the outside, you may wonder why visitors and residents line up and pack themselves into the tiny, smoke-filled room next to the hot open kitchen, with no air con, waving down servers in hopes to get their order in off the oddly short menu. On offer is meat skewers with either sweet or spicy satay sauce, and a bowl a beef broth that comes with meatballs or offal, and of course, rice. People travel here from all over to get a taste of perfectly caramelized pork, crackling beef, or even bone marrow on the skewers. Don’t expect the tranquil surrounds of a tropical ubud garden or the quiet and friendly service like you may have in Warung Makan Teges, but do expect to leave well fed.
Warung Mak Beng
Jalan Hang Tuah 45, Sanur.
This humble seaside building tucked away in the small village of Sanur has earned consistent high reviews from thousands of visitors, and is filled daily with locals and tourists alike. The menu is small, the communal tables are crowded, and the food is good. It’s all part of the Balinese charm. The most popular dish by far is the nasi Ikan, the fried fish served alongside fish and cucumber soup, and rice. It’s topped off with a signature chilli sambal sauce. The fish is a fresh snapper and comes from the local fishermen. You can order eggs instead but that’s about it for variation! Accompanied with a cold Bintang and a view of the sea, it doesn’t get much more traditional or tasty than this. There does tend to be a rush by midday so it’s worth it to get in early. This would have to be one of the most popular warungs on the entire island of Bali. It can get crazy busy especially on Sundays afternoon when hordes of locals come down with their entire family for lunch. Get ready to spend time waiting and perhaps sharing a table with strangers. It’s all part of the fun and you’ll probably end up making a few new friends.
After your lovely meal at Mak Beng walk down Sanur Beach which is literally 50 metres from the restaurant (just turn left as you exit). As you can see from the video below there’s so much happening & going on here that it’s great to sit on the sand after a lovely meal and enjoy the passing parade of people.
It would be an impossible feat to list all of the amazing Balinese restaurants or colourful dishes made available by the beautiful Indonesian people on this island, but perhaps you will be a little more willing to forego the trendy western cuisine for a meal or two. Next time you’re hungrily passing by the Warung local to your Bali villa, walk on in and give it a go!