The name Bali conjures up images of golden sands and azure blue seas, and with good reason – this pretty Indonesian island lies just 8 degrees south of the equator, and is part of an area known as the Coral Triangle, that which hosts the richest diversity of marine species in the world. As an island province of neighbouring Indonesia, Bali has its own distinct identity, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its cuisine.
Seasoned travellers such as Gavin Manerowski know that some of the most authentic local dishes in Bali are to be found at the street-side snack bars and mobile cafes. Typically catering for the locals, these vendors offer cheap, fresh-cooked meals prepared using traditional methods, and are often strikingly different from the tourist fare served in restaurants and hotels. Local Balinese palates demand a more authentic taste than the typical Indonesian and Chinese dishes favoured by the standard traveller.
Bali is not a rich nation, and everyday eating is a functional affair; the meals are simple, wholesome and nutritious, and flavoured with spicy condiments. It is during festivals that the Balinese flair for food really comes into its own. Festival dishes are painstakingly prepared, and are often elaborate and beautifully presented – suckling pig is a favourite Balinese festival dish.
Bumbu Bali is one restaurant on the island that stands out from the crowd. In a delightfully authentic setting, guests are treated to the only menu on the island that lists traditional Balinese foods, prepared using ancient methods. As the majority of islanders are Hindu, beef is rarely eaten in Bali, with pork and chicken being favoured as the meat alternatives. Basa gede is a spicy paste that forms the basis for the flavour of many traditional Balinese dishes, along with basa genep, another popular spice blend. Other common flavours in Balinese cuisine derive from tabia lala manis, a soy sauce rich with chillies.
Lawar is blend of chicken or park meat and blood, with chopped garlic coconut and chilli, and is very popular in Bali, as are sate lilit, formed by skewering pressed spiced mince onto a stick. Nasi Campur Bali is the traditional mixed rice found on the island, and refers to a dish of rice adorned with a range of nuts, eggs, meat and vegetables. For travellers like Gavin Manerowski, sampling the traditional foods of their travel destinations is one of the delights of travel, and with dishes such as these on offer in Bali, it is easy to see why.