Bali, a Paradise to Eat, Pray, Love

Bali was the last location (after Italy and India) for the shooting of “Eat, Pray, Love”, a major Hollywood motion picture starring Oscar winner Julia Roberts, based on a best-selling travel and personal growth memoir of  Elizabeth Gilbert. The story is about a year of change in Gilbert’s life, from divorce and depression in America, to pleasure in Italy, finding God in India and Love in Bali.

During the shooting, Eat Pray Love fever swept over Bali. So many hotels and travel agencies offered EPL (the abbreviation of Eat Pray Love) package. Even one restaurant ‘Naughty Nuri’ has come up with a quirky “Eat Pay Leave” T-shirt using the same font and print as appears on the cover of the best-selling book.

With a land area of only 2,174 square miles, Bali sits in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago. Despite its small size, the island has great diversity – the beaches on the circumference, the inland artistic/cultural center in Ubud, the northern volcanic chain, as well as the beach development around the airport and the one major city of Denpasar.

Bali is known as the “island of a thousand temples”. Temples in Bali (called pura), become parts of the life of Balinese who mostly are Hindu. Balinese temple is a place of worship for Hindu. Each Hindu family has family temple to worship Hyang Widhi and their ancestors, so that there are thousands of temples in the island of Bali.

No trip to Bali is complete without seeing one of the Balinese cultural dances put on by members of the Hindu temples. All involve the retelling of folklore deeply rooted in Balinese Hindu tradition. Performers gather in midday heat, applying makeup and wearing what must be sweltering multi-person costumes.

Bali’s appeal lies in its diverse attractions. It is at once a destination trip for the adventure-minded – with surfing, volcanic mountain hiking, and river rafting – and a sedentary getaway for spa pampering.

One of the tourist icons and visited by many tourists every day is Tegalalang Rice Terrace. The rice terrace is designed beautifully with exquisite hollowing rice field and precisely located on the hill bank. In this place, we can see the Balinese farmer do their rice field in oblique area complete with its system irrigation. We can enjoy the beautiful panorama of valley with rice terrace and coconut trees ornament it

A must-see is the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. It’s not a zoo: Monkeys and people mingle without barriers. Buy the “official monkey forest bananas” or the monkeys will pilfer your snacks and water bottles. Sit down to check the results on your camera, and a monkey will grab anything not tied down, or jump on your shoulders.

 

One other major attraction is the Elephant Safari Park, which rescues endangered Sumatran elephants.

The Food of Bali

The staple food of Bali is white, polished rice. Nowadays cooked rice (nasi) is of the fast growing “green-revolution” variety found everywhere in Asia. The traditional Balinese rice (beras Bali) tastes better, but is restricted to a few areas and is now mainly used as a ritual food.

Though they form a major part of the diet, vegetables are considered low-status; high status foods are rice and meat. Because it expensive, however, meat is reserved for ritual occasions. Surprisingly, fish plays a relatively minor role as a source of protein. Though the seas surrounding Bali are rich, the Balinese are not avid fishermen, as the sea is considered dangerous and impure.

The distinctive flavor of Balinese cuisine derives from a sambal condiment and spice mixtures. A standard mixture will include shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, galangal, cardamom and red peppers ground together in varying proportions depending on the recipe. A distinctive flavor is also imparted by strong-smelling shrimp paste (trasi) and chopped cekuh root.

Snacking as a Way of Life

Although they eat meals only twice a day, the Balinese are always snacking. Women rush from the family compound into the street the minute a passing food vendor twangs the metal chime on his push cart; men stop off at their local waning shop for a coffee on the way home from the paddy fields, while school children cannot resist crisp fried crackers (krupuk) or a plate of rujak, sliced sour fruit with a sweet and pungent sauce. There are innumerable options for a quick snack: salted peanuts, huge savoury rempeyek or rice-flour cracker with peanuts, cakes, sweetbread rolls, candies, krupuk and many more……

Balinese Traditional Foods

There are many things famous from Bali, the beaches, the temples and also the Balinese people. But one thing you will not forget is the traditional Balinese foods. Like many other places in Indonesia, Bali has wide range of traditional foods, made from traditional ingredients, bringing you a delight taste as one of culture of Indonesia.

The famous traditional Balinese foods are made from pork, duck and chicken. It is hard to find beef menu here since cow is a symbol of holiest animal in Bali. The traditional foods are all served with steam rice and some with vegetables. Most of Balinese food  are made for ceremonies, but since everyone wants to taste, the foods are easily to found either in small Warungs or restaurants.

Ayam Betutu

Ayam Betutu is a famous Balinese dish of  steamed or roasted chicken. Ayam Betutu is a popular dish because it is highly seasoned and spiced. An even spicier version is available using extra-spicy sauce made from uncooked (raw) onion slices mixed with red chili peppers and coconut oil.. It can be found in the menu of luxury hotels or restaurants in Bali.. It takes at least 24 hours to cook. Many travelers from other regions of Indonesia brought Betutu dishes as Balinese-gift for their family or friends.

Babi Guling

Babi Guling or roasted Suckling Pig is a whole pig rubbed down and stuffed with bumbu bali or a mixture of chopped Balinese spices including shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, galangal, pepper coriander, candlenuts, chilies, and lemongrass before being roasted over an open fire for up to 5 hours. The pig is continuously turned slowly to ensure even cooking so that the meat ends up tender and juicy.

And the must-visit babi guling place in Bali is Ibu Oka’s in Ubud which was recommended and featured by Anthony Bourdain in his show  ‘No Reservation’ running on cable on the Travel & Living Channel or Discovery Channel.

I have never failed to go there if I’m in the area as it’s rated best in Bali, based on word-of-mouth reviews. Even the locals flock there to get their hands on some porky goodness. in fact, when asked, most of the Balinese folks will mention Ibu Oka as being the best there is.

A portion of Nasi Babi Guling Special consists of steaming hot rice, with a huge chunk of tender, succulent, melt in your mouth pork, along with its crunchy skin with other accompanying side dishes on a wax paper lined wicker basket. The flesh is so tender that it can be pulled from the bone and made all the more tasty and flavorful by the secret blend of Balinese spices. Definitely one of the best meals in Bali.

Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck)

Wonder what “Dirty Duck”  is?  For tourists who are visiting the beautiful island of Bali, should not miss to eat “Dirty Duck”. Bebek Bengil which literally means Dirty Duck  is actually a restaurant name in Ubud, Bali. It is very well-known for its crispy fried duck served with vegetables and delicate sambal (chili). How does “Bebek Bengil” taste? Tasty, yummy, crispy, delicious and mouth-watering! Well at least that’s the comments from people who visited Bali and tried the food.

The mystery behind the crispiness of the ducks is that they are marinated for 36 long hours in Indonesian herbs and spices including bay leaves, lime, ginger, galangal, coriander. Why take such long 36 hours? Well, that’s part of the secrets. Once marinated, they are steamed and then deep-fried in palm oil to get the crispy touch, then voila! The famous Bebek Bengil crispy duck is born.

Nasi Campur

Literally, it means Mix Rice in English. Nasi Campur is one of Balinese famous food and it is easy to find everywhere. It consist of  steamed rice mix with steamed vegetables with shredded spicy coconut, fried nuts, shreds of fried/dry curry chicken, chopped seasoning,  meat or fish, a crispy and sambal (hot traditional chili sauce). Try Nasi Campur Warung Made for original taste of Balinese Nasi Campur.

References:

  • 99Bali.com
  • The Food of Bali by Heinz von Holzen and Lother Arsana
  • Baliguide.com
  • Jakarta Post

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