Bali is notorious for many things; beautiful beaches, being an affordable wedding destination, cheap shopping, unofficially having the largest population of drunk Australians outside of Australia…
But seriously, one of the more understated features of Bali would have to be the stunning, fragrant traditional dishes and the ingredients used to create them.
The humid climate produces an abundance of produce including fresh herbs and spices that are at the heart of each and every dish, making the smells coming from the street vendors just one of the most amazing highlights.
So if the most adventurous thing you try in Bali is a Nasi Goreng, you are doing it all wrong!
What is Babi Guling and where to find it
If you really want to get in and around Balinese food then you have to give the famous Babi Guling a try. While this certainly isn’t the most out-there dish found in Bali, it is suited to the more adventurous foodies.
Babi Guling, better known as suckling pig was once a feast saved only for large celebrations like weddings. In its basic form it’s a whole pig that is jam-packed with basa gede, an intense spice mix that will blow your mind, then slowly roasted on a spit resulting in the juiciest meat and the crispiest skin.
People often make the mistake of playing it safe in regards to what and where they eat, in hopes of avoiding the dreaded Bali Belly, in turn missing out on the best Bali has on offer.
My favourite place to go for Babi Guling has to be Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen, conveniently located on Sunset Rd. The chances that you will travel on Sunset Rd are very high because it’s the main road coming from the airport and leading to Seminyak and Ubud.
While I was sceptical when I first came across this hole in the wall Warung (Indonesian for restaurant), it was recommended to me by a trusted source so I was definitely going to give it ago. Safe to say I now make a stop here every time I’m in Bali.
This restaurant gets insanely busy so expect to wait. Tour buses line the street, locals dine here and Uber Eats drivers are in and out the entire time. I usually get take-out but if you want to dine-in expect a longer wait.
A production line of servers are working overtime putting your meal together, it’s quite hypnotic to watch. It cost around $5 for a serve of assorted pork meats and crackling, perfectly steamed rice and a heaped spoonful of an incredibly spicy and incredibly fresh basa gede, all wrapped in a vine leaf.
The spice mix for me is the highlight of the dish. Once you get past the heat, it has the most complex mix of fresh herbs and spices that compliment the meat and more than flavours the plain rice.
The mix of meat is very tasty of course but it does include some parts of the pig that I couldn’t recognise, so best not to think too much about it and instead mix everything together and enjoy all the wonderful textures and flavours!
If this particular warung happens to be too busy, or you can’t find it, be sure to give one of the many others a go. If you follow my golden rule of travel eating “eat where the locals eat”, you can’t possibly go wrong.