Everything you need to know to enjoy Bali street food
Whether you are looking for an affordable overseas escape, an island getaway or a spiritual retreat Bali has it all. It is Indonesia’s most popular island destination and no matter what style of holiday you enjoy, you can be sure that they will all have one thing in common - amazing food.
With fresh tropical ingredients and big flavours like chilli, coconut, peanut and lime, Bali is food heaven. If the amazing flavours weren’t enough, add to that the fact that you can enjoy all of this for just a few dollars as you wander the streets and take in Bali’s street food scene.
Here are the top tips to help you navigate Balinese street food.
How to find the best street food
There are a few levels of Bali cuisine that you can try. There are hotels and restaurants that will have western menus as well as offering some Bali dishes. Then there are smaller, local run restaurants that cater to tourists. Then there are warungs and food carts that deliver the authentic Bali street food.
You will find warungs and mobile food carts all over Bali. Warungs are small roadside stalls that are slightly more permanent looking than a food cart. You may even notice bigger restaurants that refer to themselves as warungs to indicate that they serve Balinese food.
To find the warungs you just need to wander down any busy street. Where there are big hotels, busy shops or big attractions then there will also be local workers, which means local food and that means Balinese street food! You will also often find food carts congregating in temple car parks and around busy beaches in the early evenings as workers head to the beach. Of course markets are also a good bet to get some quick eats.
Choose the best vendor
Bali belly is a thing. It is not a thing that you want though and although mild cases could just be caused by too much chilli or new foods you’re not used to, it can also be something a little more sinister. To help avoid it there a few things you can do.
Choose a busy store: a faster turnover means fresher food and less potential for storage to go wrong. Plus there are lots of people acting as living proof of the safety!
Warung or food carts: Warungs tend to be more likely to cook food on the spot where as food carts cook somewhere else and then distribute. Stick to vendors that are cooking in front of you for higher risk foods like meat and eggs. Food carts can also be safer earlier in the day when the food is fresher and hasn’t been in the sun all day.
Watch the chef: if you can keep an eye on your food being cooked you will have a better chance of knowing whether the meat is cooked through and the eggs are well done. You can also check cleanliness and general hygiene of the stall.
Know your water and ice: sometimes the most risky thing will be the water. If you are offered water with your meal make sure it is bottled. If you order a drink with ice, check to see if it is tube shaped. If it is, then it’s probably commercially made and less likely to have any bugs.
you might find yourself needing medical care and changes made to your trip. Make sure you have suitable international travel insurance* before you leave just in case.
In Bali, the main language spoken is Bahasa Indonesian and although you will be able to get around with English, thanks to the many tourists who have gone before you, there are some key words though that will help you navigate the local food scene more easily.
• Selamat sore: Good evening
• Terima Kasih: Thank you
• Enak sekali: Very delicious
• Nasi: Rice
• Tahu: Tofu
• Tempe: Tempeh (like tofu but whole soybeans)
• Goreng: Fried
• Ikan: Fish
• Sami: Beef
• Babi: Pork
• Ayam: Chicken
• Sambal: Chilli sauce (very hot!)
Dishes to try
Now for the best bit. What are you going to eat! Indonesia is such a mix of ethnicities and cultures that you will probably recognise some of the foods but there is always a Bali spin on the flavours. These foods are the ones you will come across most commonly and are worth stopping for:
Sate or satay: Satay is hugely popular across all of Indonesia in Bali one of the local spins on the meat skewers is to make a mix of pork mince with coconut, chilli and lime, wrapped around a lemon grass skewer and charcoal grilled. The majority of other areas in Indonesia are Muslim cultures so you will find less pork but in Bali pork is a local favourite.
Nasi campur: This dish translates literally to mixed rice and that is what you will get. Rice served with a mix of grilled meat, vegetables or tofu, as well as the ever present sambal. Most nasi campurs will also be served wrapped in banana leaves so there is a good chance you might not know what you are getting till you open it up.
Ayam pelalah: This meal, also known as Balinese chicken, is a simple dish of shredded chicken with sambal and lime. You might find it served with noodles. The chicken in Bali is quite different to chicken in western countries. Because it is from wilder, free range chickens the meat is richer and tougher than the farmed animals Australians are used to.
Terang Bulan: If you have traveled to Asia before, you may have noticed the love of crepes that the people seem to have. In Bali there is the Terang Bulan. It is similar to a crepe in its flavour but it is thicker and more cake like in its appearance. You can get it filled with chocolate, sugar and nuts.
Definitely the perfect desert to round out your Bali street food experience!
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