10 BALINESE DISHES YOU SHOULD TRY
Balinese cooking is a plethora of cultural influences. Balinese dishes, cooking styles, and tools for preparing food have been cultivated from other cultures. The Chinese introduced stir-frying, the wok, and the use of soy sauce, Tempe, tofu, cabbage, and bean sprouts to Balinese cooking. The European Dutch colonials introduced pineapple, guava, peanuts, avocado, tomato, papaya, pumpkin, squash, and cacao. The Arabs influenced the popular “state” with their own Kebab.
The authentic Balinese meals are spicy. In Ubud, the specialty is the duck, in Gianyar, the best suckling pig will be prepared, on the coast, near Kuta, the specialty is fish from the ocean. Real Balinese food is unavailable to tourists unless you get invited to a family dinner. In restaurants or hotels, you will never get real Balinese dishes, simply because authentic Balinese food requires too much preparation, has to be eaten while still fresh, and also because the Balinese use banana leaves as plates.
Balinese food is either very sweet or very spicy. Sometimes you will experience both flavors on the same dish, which will turn into a mouthwatering experience.
Balinese people have a “base gede”, or one-spice mixture prepared in large quantities to add to their daily cooking. This mixture consists of garlic, shallots, ginger, chilies, shrimp paste, galangal, salt, and pepper. Balinese people usually use this mixture of duck, pork, fish, chicken, soybean products, vegetables, and rice.
Balinese people love very sweet drinks. They will drink sweetened tea or coffee with their meals or when they have guests.
For snacks, the Balinese eat fruits, sweetened iced coconut milk concoctions, pancakes, and sweet cakes. Balinese people also like buying sweet snacks and mini meals from “warungs” (small stalls by the street) run by a family selling everything from fruits, fried bananas, meals, and brightly colored drinks, to cigarettes, soaps, or mosquito coils.
The Javanese men push the carts along the street either tooting a horn or blowing a whistle to let people know they’re coming. You may find ice cream, sate, meatball soup, or hot noodles on those carts.
I am not an avid cook, but I’ve always been fascinated by discovering local food and I wanted to learn the basics of Balinese cuisine. It was the best decision to trade a day in the city with this amazing experience, of learning to cook healthy Balinese food. It was the first activity that I’ve done in Bali and it was the best start for my Bali adventure. Seeing such an authentic Balinese farm, where you can harvest your ingredients and cook them afterward. I am so happy I saw a part of Bali rarely seen by tourists, I met some friendly locals, and I experienced the true culture of Bali.
Pemulan Farm Cooking School brings a new concept of cooking experience called the “farm to table concept”.
HERE ARE THE 10 MOST DELICIOUS BALINESE DISHES YOU SHOULD TRY ONCE IN A LIFETIME!
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1. PISANG GORENG (FRIED BANANAS)
Pisang Goreng is a Balinese dessert very much appreciated on the Island of Gods.
History has is that this dessert has been created during the Portuguese exploration of Southeast Asia in the early 16th century. Before the coming of the Portuguese, bananas were never cooked but eaten raw. The Portuguese introduced flour into the Malay diet which enabled fritters to be cooked.
Pisang Goreng is considered a snack food mostly found nowadays throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore.
2. AYAM BUMBU BALI (BALINESE CHICKEN)
If you are vegetarian like me, know you can make this dish with tofu and it will taste deliciously. Bumbu Bali, known in Bali as Base Gede, is in fact an Indonesian spice paste that is the basis for many traditional dishes. Indonesian people do not eat either the Base Gede raw but use it as a base ingredient for many recipes, just like the curry. I made a vegetarian Bumbu Bali on my trip To Bali, Indonesia, where I took a farm cooking class on the Pemulan farm. the best cooking experience I’ve had in my life. Bumbu Bali is in fact the pasta you can see in the middle of the dish from the photo on your right.
3. OPOR TEMPE TAHU (CURRY)
Balinese cuisine has many types of curry recipes: red curry, yellow curry, and white curry.
The white curry recipe, easy to find at your local supermarket, is called Opor. The most famous recipe with this curry spice is called Opor Ayam (Chicken Opor).
Opor is not an ingredient but a method of cooking in coconut milk. It is originating from central Java, though there are many other versions of Opor.
The cooking process of Opor for vegetarians and non-vegetarians varies in time duration. A vegetarian Opor will need less cooking time than a non-vegetarian Opor.
4. SWEET SOUR TEMPE (FERMENTED SOYBEANS)
Tempe is a fermented whole soybean food, usually formed in square, flat pieces. It has a nutty, mushroomy flavor and a texture similar to meat. Tempe can be cooked in a stew or grilled as a whole cake. Many Indonesian cuisines, especially rice dishes, include Tempe crackers. What I love the most about this dish was the sweet-sour taste.
In the past, rich people ate only tofu, which was more expensive and required imported white soybeans. Tempe was a staple food of the lower classes. It is still a cheap meat alternative and millions of Indonesians get their daily protein needs met by eating it.
5. BUBUR INJIN (BLACK RICE PUDDING)
This was by far the best dessert I’ve ever had involving rice. My grandma’ always prepared me a rice pudding when I was little, but not even close to this one. It was still good, and I loved the taste of cinnamon, but Bubur Injin is on another level.
Bubur Injin is boiled black rice and white sticky rice with palm sugar and pandanus leave. On top of it, you can decorate it with caramelized bananas that taste deliciously. The entire black rice pudding can be dived into coconut milk.
If you want a childhood memory attached to this dish, you can add cinnamon on top of the fried bananas. You will feel like Christmas is there and you are waiting for Santa.
6. PEPES (TOFU STEAMED IN BANANA LEAVES)
Pepes is a traditional Indonesian vegetarian dish from West Java. It consists of spiced and steamed tofu (tahu) cooked in banana leaves. The recipe includes tofu, banana leaves, young bamboo, white pepper, palm sugar, and lime leaves.
The mix of the ingredients is wrapped in banana leaves, steamed, then served while still warm with rice on the side. Alternatively, pepes tahu can be grilled instead of steamed, if desired. In the cooking class, we prepared it steamed and we learned how to fold the banana leaves into a nice presentation.
7. GADO GADO (PEANUT SAUCE SALAD)
Gado-Gado means at least two vegetables mixed together and served with peanut sauce. Gado-Gado is served in many warungs in Bali but rarely eaten at home. Gado-Gado is also served with tempe, tofu, a potato, an egg, and chips. Gado gado can be a complete meal of its own because it usually includes meatless protein like tofu and eggs.
8. BERKEDEL (FRIED CORN)
Berkedel are corn fritters made with flour, corn, and spices. Berkedel is often eaten as a snack or a side dish. In the Balinese traditions, this dish is made from up leftover corn and can be made in large batches.
This recipe is so easy to make and so tasty that you will start doing it for all your guests.
9. CAP CAY (VEGGIE SOUP)
Cap Cay is a vegetable dish. It is made out of mushrooms, baby corn, and carrots. This traditional food is a very delicious dish for vegetarians and can be found in many Indonesian restaurants.
You can eat it with more broth as a soup and trust me it will be like washing your stomach.
10. SOP BONTUT (LIGHT BROTH SOUP)
Sop Bontut is a clear broth soup with vegetables and meat but can be substituted with tofu or tempe. Traditionally, Balinese people make this soup with oxtail.
This simple dish is often served in fancy restaurants and after a long day of exploring Bali, this is the best dish you can have to soothe your fatigue.
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