DININGExploring the best of Balinese cooking

Distinct flavours from thousands of surrounding islands

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One of the 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, on the eastern fringes of the Indian Ocean, Bali is a gourmand’s dream. Drawing inspiration from its neighbouring islands, China and India, Bali’s cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious, bursting with fragrant herbs and spices. Some of the island’s most authentic cooking can be found in the most unlikely places. Look out for beachfront warungs, local cafés to roadside stands. Here are the best Balinese dishes to hunt down.

 

Lawar

Tenderly shredded chicken, green beans and aromatic rice are cooked together with coconut oil, kaffir lime leaves and galangal to create lawar. Balinese for ‘thinly sliced’, lawar hits those all-important umami notes being at once hot, sweet, spicy and sour. Lawar is so interwoven into the culture that variations change from village to village, and can be made from duck, beef or even turtle.

 

Sate lilit

You’ll instantly recognise sate lilit sizzling over hot coals on street food stalls by their ingenious lemongrass skewers. Diced chicken, beef or duck combine with the warm richness of nutmeg, turmeric and coriander to create a spice-perfumed kebab, further infused by the lemongrass holding it together. Sate lilit is best served with a generous squeeze of fresh lime and a fiery chilli dipping sauce.

 

Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng is a legendary Indonesian dish, translating quite simply to fried rice, but it’s so much more than that. The rice base is fused with shallots, garlic, sweet tamarind and potent shrimp paste. Once plated, a perfectly cooked fried egg crowns the dish, complete with cucumber slices for dunking into that runny yolk.

 

Jimbaran seafood

A staple of Bali’s Jimbaran Bay, Jumierah Bali’s home, fresh seafood is cooked with a deeply spicy, sweet and sour style. Every waterfront shack and beach café have their own individual take on the Jimbaran style, and are best explored wandering past the gentle surf, checking the catch of the day displayed on chalkboards. Expect to get your fingers sticky with grilled snapper, lobster and calamari, slathered in ruby-red hot sauce.

 

Bubur sumsum

Similar to Chinese congee, bubur sumsum is an Indonesian rice pudding. In Bali, it’s eaten for breakfast or dessert. Finely ground rice flour is slowly and lovingly cooked in creamy coconut milk to create a rich mixture that is then crowned with all manner of delicious toppings, from honeyed palm sugar syrup, to sweet potato dumplings and pandan leaves.

 

Bebek betutu

Bebek betutu - Balinese roast duck – is a ceremonial dish, generously stuffed with spinach and cinnamon, wrapped in coconut tree bark then slowly steamed to perfection. Betutu is the name of the native Balinese spice mix that’s carefully massaged into the bird before steaming. Fresh ginger, turmeric, chilli, prawns, peanuts and galangal are vigorously crushed with a pestle and mortar before being rubbed into the duck. The result is wonderfully tender meat that just falls off the bone, in a deeply fragrant coating.

 

Mini rijsttafel

You’ll note from this dish’s distinctly un-Indonesian sounding name that it has foreign origins. Dutch to be precise. Meaning ‘rice table’, mini rijsttafel is a communal extravaganza that has its origins in colonial times. Taking centre stage is a towering cone of rice, rolled in a pandan leaf. Surrounding it is a colourful selection of up to 40 side dishes, such as sayur urap (mixed Balinese vegetables), krupuk (prawn crackers) and perkedel (a fried meat and potato patty).