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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Discovering Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok through Indonesian cuisine

Typical dishes and products that you absolutely must try

Bali, but also the Gili Islands and Lombok, is an incredible destination in terms of food: the culinary experiences you will have in these lands are undoubtedly one of the most interesting aspects of this trip. I still remember how shocked Enrico and I were when, during our Indonesian cooking class on the Gili Islands, the girls who participated with us hadn't tried even one of the dishes we were going to prepare, despite having been in Bali for a long time. We were really blown away because we totally fell in love with Balinese cuisine and meal times had always been one of the most beautiful and awaited moments of the day. The typical cooking of these islands is simple but spicy, based on fresh and local products but above all rich in spices and exotic aromas. Rice is certainly the key ingredient of Balinese cuisine and is revered as if it were a gift from the gods: it's served with every meal and in any dish, from breakfast to dinner.

Vegetarians and vegans in Bali

Bali is a real paradise for vegetarians and vegans: many of the main dishes of the Balinese tradition are naturally free from animal derivatives. Tofu, tempeh and vegetables are the basis of Balinese culinary culture with very tasty dishes. Anyway, practically every proposal can be adapted for vegan or vegetarian effortlessly, just ask! As a vegetarian I really fell in love with Indonesian cuisine but above all I loved the vastness of the proposals and the diffusion of this culture! So veg friends, go to Bali and have fun!

But now let's see what the typical Balinese dishes are and what you absolutely must try!

What to eat in Bali

  • Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng: get ready to fall in love with this dish that you will eat so many times that you will almost feel nauseous at the end of the trip (I said almost… Enrico and I could have spent a lifetime eating it). In Indonesian "mie" means rice, while "nasi" is noodles and "goreng" instead means fried. It is therefore a dish of fried rice or noodles but do not imagine these battered and fried .. It is simply a stir-fried dish, usually with a mix of vegetables and sweet soy sauce to which is added scrambled egg or meat / fish. They are usually served with shrimp chips, Krupug Udang. I have always eaten them in a vegetarian version without meat/fish but you can easily ask for the egg to be removed if you are vegan. This is undoubtedly the most popular dish in these areas, you will find it literally everywhere and it's definitely my favorite one!

  • Nasi Campur: as you may have guessed it's always rice (nasi) but this time steamed and accompanied by various side dishes of vegetables or meat/fish.

  • Satay: these are chicken (Sate Ayam) or fish (Sate Ikan) skewers; the meat or fish are diced and cooked on the grill, sometimes they are also dipped in a sweet and sour soy sauce, while they are usually served with a delicious peanut sauce.

  • Tum Tahu or Ayam: this recipe has two versions, the first Tum Tahu is vegetarian made with tofu, the second Ayam with chicken. In both cases, tofu or chicken is seasoned with spices and wrapped in banana leaves and finally steamed. They are served with the classic vegetables and white rice.

I nostri Tum Tah e Tum Ayam durante la cooking class di cucina balinese

  • Sambal Metah: Sambal is a must in Indonesia and is found as an accompaniment to many dishes. It consists of a condiment made of thinly sliced ​​shallots, shrimp paste, chopped chillies, and lemongrass.

Curry di verdure con tofu
Curry di verdure con tofu
  • Krupuk Udang: they are prawn crackers/chips. They are often accompanied by sauces or served alongside main courses. Be careful: it happened several times to ask for vegetarian dishes, such as Mie or Nasi Goreng, but that they were still served with Krupuk Udang on the plate!

  • Vegetable Curry with tofu or tempeh: vegetable curry with tofu or tempeh is a hot vegetarian soup that you will find very often and that lends itself very well as an appetizer, even if it is very often accompanied by boiled rice. Veggie curry is one of my favorite, simply delicious and yummy!

Gado Gado, Bali
Gado Gado
  • Gado Gado: gado gado is a vegetarian dish, made up of boiled vegetables (generally spinach, bean sprouts, cabbage and green beans), hard-boiled eggs, tofu and tempeh, on which a peanut sauce (really delicious), sweet soy sauce is spread and pepper. I've lost count of how many we ordered this holiday.. it was one of our recurring appetizers, great for sharing!

  • Babi Guling: this dish is closely linked to the Hindu religious tradition of Bali, in fact it is served in various ceremonies. It is a suckling pig filled with a spice filling and then cooked over a fire on a skewer for several hours.

  • Klepon: klepon is a dessert that are somewhat reminiscent of Japanese mochi. These are sweet balls of flour with a sweet interior typically of bean jam or palm sugar and can be covered with grated coconut.

I nostri Klepon durante la cooking class di cucina balinese

  • Bubuh Injin: it's the typical Balinese sweet and consists of a black rice pudding with palm sugar syrup, grated coconut and coconut milk, usually served hot.

Dadar Ulung - crepes Balinesi
Dadar Ulung - crepes Balinesi
  • Pisang Goreng: it is simple fried banana. It is widespread and is one of the main desserts of Balinese cuisine; it is often served hot and accompanied by ice cream. You will find it on the menus for breakfast, as a snack or for dessert and it is always delicious but above all caloric!

  • Dadar Ulung: this is another very popular dessert and it is green or pink rolled crepes. The green coloring is natural (Pandan) and inside the filling is coconut paste mixed with a palm sugar caramel. Simply delicious!

What to drink during meals in Bali

Meals are usually accompanied by the local beer, which is called Bintang. The Bintang is very good, it's a light and blond beer that almost always costs less than water. Alternatively, I suggest you to always go with a fresh coconut to drink its delicious water: it's super cheap, very fresh, rich in minerals and very thirst-quenching!

Now that you know what to eat in Bali, let's see together some interesting aspects of Balinese cuisine and some useful tips for your meals in these lands:

→ Do not drink tap water: NEVER EVER and I mean NEVER drink water from the sink or from carafes. Always make sure they give you sealed bottles of water or better fill a water bottle from the water dispensers;

→ Eating fresh fruit and vegetables: usually it is not recommended for the same reasons why you shouldn't drink tap water.. actually this time we were not very careful and ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, drank juices and milkshakes and we didn't have problems. If you want to take a risk, maybe make sure you take a good prophylaxis with lactic ferments before leaving and while you're traveling and always have antidiarrheals with you. If you want more info about this topic.. READ ALSO: Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok: how to plan your trip to Indonesia on your own

→ How much does it cost to eat in Bali: eating in Bali is very cheap, especially if you like warungs or street vendors. The area of ​​Kuta, Canggu and Seminyak is more expensive than the rest of the island but still cheap if compared to Europe and Italy. Consider that for a full meal with drinks it can cost you from €6 per couple (if you have only one course each) up to €20 if you eat in international or slightly more chic restaurants.

→ Join a cooking class: if you really want to get to know Balinese cuisine and have a complete culinary experience on this trip, then you can only sign up for a Balinese cooking class!

Indonesian cooking classes in Bali, Gili and Lombok

Taking a cooking lesson is certainly an excellent way to fully understand the indonesian culinary tradition, discovering flavors and secrets to bring home a little piece of these lands. In Bali you will find many Balinese cooking schools and I assure you that it is one of the most significant experiences to have on this trip.

Sweet and Spicy Cooking Class, Gili Trawangan

Sweet and Spicy Cooking Class, Gili Trawangan

During my research, I repeatedly came across the Sweet & Spicy Cooking Class in Gili Trawangan, with excellent reviews, so I decided to keep this experience for Gili T, also in order not to steal precious time from exploring Bali: I already knew that times in the Gili Islands would have been much slower and more relaxed.

In the end, this choice proved to be very successful: the lesson was spectacular, we learned many interesting and delicious things, we had a lot of fun and we even had dinner. In fact, the Cooking Class costs IDR 295,000 each (less then €20) and will guide you in making 7 typical dishes of Balinese cuisine, which you will then enjoy while sitting on a table by the sea. Practically for €20 you will have both the cooking lesson and dinner with drinks included: for this reason I recommend that you book the cooking class in the evening, at 19:00, so as not to waste precious time during the day, and being able to take advantage of it by eating the delights you will prepare with your own hands!

Sweet and Spicy Cooking Class, Gili Trawangan

We cooked: fried tempeh, peanut sauce, Gado Gado, Chicken/Tempeh Taliwang, Pepes Ikan, Mie Goreng and finally the Klepon. The lesson lasts about 3 hours or so, and the chef is very good, as well as very nice and enthusiastic: he really knows how to make the cooking class fun and engaging. It was one of the coolest things we did in Indonesia, and if you love local food and cuisine like we do, it's definitely an unmissable experience! Ps: it is not possible to book online, but you will have to go there and leave a deposit!

Now that we have seen what traditional Indonesian dishes you will find in Bali, Gili and Lombok, we just have to talk about where to find them.

Here we will cover our complete itinerary place by place, seeing where and what to eat, stage by stage!

In case you missed the itinerary of our trip between Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok..

Here you will find the in-depth information for each stage we have traveled.

Don't miss the in-depth analysis on how to plan a trip on your own to these lands and all the very useful information and advices: READ ALSO: Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok: how to plan your trip to Indonesia on your own

If you need any further information just comment below and I will answer as soon as I can!

Have a nice trip and let me know what do you think of Indonesian food once you tried it!


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