Indonesia is a sprawling archipelago in Southeast Asia, is known for its rich cultural diversity and stunning landscapes. This diversity extends to its cuisine – there are many delicious Indonesian and Balinese Foods you need to try. Dive into a tantalizing blend of flavors and ingredients from various regions and ethnic groups.
Among these, Balinese cuisine stands out for its unique flavors and culinary traditions. In this article, we will explore some of the most famous Indonesian and Balinese dishes that you absolutely must try.
Indonesian and Balinese cuisine: A Culinary Tapestry
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, boasts a culinary diversity as vast as its geography. The country’s rich history has given birth to a unique culinary identity, one that has been influenced by a confluence of cultures, trade routes, and colonization. From its early interactions with India and China to the Arab traders and European colonists, every wave has left an indelible mark on Indonesian and Balinese Foods.
Indian influences are particularly evident in the use of spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Chinese immigration and trade brought with it the staples of soy sauce and noodles, leading to dishes like ‘Bakmie’ (noodles) and ‘Bakso’ (meatballs). The Arab traders introduced the rich flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine, including kebabs and biryanis.
The culinary landscape of Indonesia is diverse, with each island and region offering its own distinct flavors and specialties. Sumatran food, for instance, is known for its rich and spicy rendang (a slow-cooked dry curry deeply spiced with turmeric and ginger), while Javanese cuisine tends to be sweeter with the use of palm sugar and coconut milk.
Bali – Sambal Matah, Seafood and Pork meat
Bali, with its predominantly Hindu culture, presents a unique variation of Indonesian cuisine. Balinese dishes often use a base of ‘Bumbu Bali’, a blend of spices that includes garlic, red chili, turmeric, ginger, and shrimp paste. One can’t discuss Balinese cuisine without mentioning ‘Babi Guling’ (suckling pig) or ‘Bebek Betutu’ (duck stuffed with traditional spices and wrapped in banana leaves). Furthermore, being a popular tourist destination, Bali has also absorbed international flavors, giving a twist to its traditional dishes.
1. Nasi Goreng
Nasi Goreng is Indonesia’s beloved fried rice dish, and amongst the world famous Indonesian and Balinese Foods. It’s a flavorful and aromatic combination of cooked rice stir-fried with a medley of ingredients like garlic, shallots, chilies, and your choice of protein, be it succulent chicken, tender shrimp, or vegetarian-friendly tofu. The dish is brought to life with sweet soy sauce and tamarind, imparting a delightful balance of sweet and tangy flavors. It’s often crowned with a fried egg and accompanied by crispy krupuk (shrimp crackers), making it a comforting and complete meal that embodies the essence of Indonesian cuisine.
A simple, but delicious food for every days enjoyment!
Nasi Goreng For vegetarians: Try the version with fried tofu or tempe!
Try here: Literally in every single restaurant in bali.
2. Rendang: Outstanding amongst Indonesian and Balinese Foods
Hailing from West Sumatra, Rendang is a culinary masterpiece. It was just recently voted #11 amongst Top 50 foods of the world. It features chunks of beef slow-cooked in a rich and aromatic coconut milk sauce. The flavors are layered with a complex blend of spices including lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and fiery chilies. The result is tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat enveloped in a symphony of sweet, savory, and spicy notes, making Rendang a dish often hailed as one of the most delicious in the world. Every bite is a sensory journey through Indonesian culinary tradition.
Rendang for vegetarians: some restaurants offer Jackfriut Rendang. Give it a try!
Try here: Most indonesian Restaurants.
3. Everyone loves Chicken Satay
Satay is a ubiquitous street food in Indonesia. These skewered and grilled dish, a typical Indonesian and Balinese Foods come in various forms, with chicken, beef or pork being the most common. Before grilling, the meat is marinated in a fragrant mixture of soy sauce, lemongrass, and an array of spices. It’s then charred to perfection, imparting a smoky, savory flavor. What truly elevates Satay is the accompanying peanut sauce—a creamy, slightly spicy concoction that complements the tender meat beautifully. Satay is a testament to Indonesia’s knack for balancing bold flavors in an irresistible, portable package.
For vegetarians: Try Tempeh Satay!
Try here: Almost any Indonesian restaurant or Street food stands.
4. Gado-Gado: Top rated amongst veggie Indonesian and Balinese Foods
Gado-Gado is a vibrant vegetarian Indonesian salad that celebrates freshness and flavor diversity. Blanched vegetables like bean sprouts, cabbage, and spinach create a colorful base, which is then adorned with boiled eggs, tofu, and lontong (rice cakes). What ties this medley together is the delectable peanut sauce. It’s a harmonious blend of sweetness and spiciness that infuses each bite with a delightful complexity. Gado-Gado is a wholesome and nutritious dish that showcases Indonesia’s ability to turn humble vegetables into a culinary masterpiece.
Try at any Indonesian restaurant!
5. Babi Guling
Babi Guling, hailing from Bali, is a ceremonial masterpiece. Suckling pig is marinated with a vibrant mix of turmeric and exotic spices, infusing it with a unique flavor profile. Slow-roasted to perfection, the pig emerges with crispy, golden skin and succulent, flavorful meat. It’s often served with fragrant rice and traditional condiments like sambal matah—a spicy shallot and chili relish. Babi Guling is not just a meal; it’s a cultural experience that exemplifies the grandeur of Balinese cuisine.
For vegetarians: Nope, there is no veggie alternative for Babi guling!
Try at Balinese Babi Guling restaurant:
- Warung Ibu Oka (Ubud)
- Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen (Seminyak)
- Babi Guling Men Lari (Canggu)
- Babi Guling Men Janji 2 Cabang Luwus – Baturiti (Munggu)
6. Mie Goreng
Mie Goreng, akin to Nasi Goreng but with noodles, offers a delightful twist on Indonesia’s beloved fried rice. Stir-fried noodles meet a flavorful combination of vegetables, proteins like chicken or prawns, and a savory soy-based sauce. The dish is customizable, allowing you to tailor the spiciness and ingredients to your liking. It’s a hearty and comforting option that combines the comfort of noodles with the bold flavors of Indonesian cuisine.
Mie Goreng For vegetarians: Try the version with fried tofu or tempe!
Try here: any Indonesian restaurant!
7. Ayam Betutu
Ayam Betutu is a Balinese gem, reserved for special occasions. This dish stars a chicken stuffed with a potent mixture of traditional spices and coconut. The chicken is then wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked, resulting in meat so tender it practically falls off the bone. The dish boasts a depth of flavors and a rich, smoky aroma that embodies the essence of Balinese culinary heritage.
Try here: Most balinese restaurants!
8. Sambal in all Variations
Seriously, if a dish in Indonesia is served without sambal, the famous chili sauce, it is not real Indonesian food. While Chili originally comes from the Americas, Indonesia is the expert country in turning this spicy plant into amazing sauces. There are literally dozens of variations of green, red and multi-color sambals with different grades of spice and other nuances in flavor. Definitely give this a try, but be careful with the extreme ones, sambal can be brutal!
Recommended Restaurant to try: Sambal Special SS
9. Soto Ayam
Soto Ayam is Indonesia’s answer to comfort food. This chicken noodle soup is infused with a fragrant blend of spices, including lemongrass and turmeric. The broth is a warm, aromatic embrace that cradles tender chunks of chicken, bean sprouts, and fried shallots. A squeeze of lime adds a refreshing zest. It’s a nourishing and soul-soothing dish that finds its place in the heart of Indonesian cuisine.
Try here: Most Indonesian restaurants!
10. Nasi Padang
Nasi Padang is a sumptuous feast from West Sumatra. It revolves around a serving of rice accompanied by an array of dishes, including rendang, curried vegetables, fried fish, and more. Each component is bursting with flavor, and diners can pick and choose their preferred combinations, making it a culinary adventure on a plate. Nasi Padang offers a rich tapestry of tastes and textures, providing an immersive experience into Indonesian regional cuisine.
Try at any Nasi Padang restaurant!
11. Pisang Goreng
Sweet dish: Pisang Goreng is a delightful Indonesian snack or dessert. Ripe bananas are coated in a light, crispy batter and deep-fried to golden perfection. The result is a delectable treat that juxtaposes the sweetness of the banana with the satisfying crunch of the batter. Often dusted with powdered sugar, Pisang Goreng is a simple yet irresistible indulgence that showcases Indonesia’s knack for transforming humble ingredients into memorable culinary delights.
Try here: Most Indonesian restaurants!
12. Fish Head Soup in Bali (Sup Kepala Ikan)
In Bali, fish head soup is a local favorite. This hearty dish features a flavorful broth made from simmering fish heads and bones with aromatic spices like lemongrass and turmeric. The result is a fragrant and savory soup that’s often filled with tender pieces of fish meat, vegetables, and sometimes coconut milk. It’s a comforting and nutritious choice, especially for seafood enthusiasts looking to savor the essence of Bali’s coastal cuisine.
Try here: Selected Balinese seafood restaurants like Warung Mak Beng
Sweet martabak is a decadent dessert that resembles a stuffed pancake or thick crepe. The preparation begins with a generous spread of margarine or butter on a large, flat griddle. A layer of thin pancake batter is poured over the greased surface, creating a soft and slightly crispy base.
The magic happens when a mixture of sweet fillings is added to the center. Common sweet fillings include chocolate sprinkles, crushed peanuts, grated cheese, and condensed milk. Sometimes, unique additions like Nutella or fruit preserves are also used. The pancake is then folded over, creating a pocket filled with deliciousness. It’s often garnished with more cheese, chocolate, or condensed milk before being cut into squares or triangles for serving.
14. Typical Indonesian and Balinese Foods: Bakso
Bakso is Indonesia’s beloved meatball soup. These hearty meatballs are typically made from a mixture of ground beef or chicken, tapioca flour, and various seasonings. They are served in a flavorful broth, often accompanied by noodles, tofu, and vegetables. Bakso stalls are a common sight on Indonesian streets, and this dish is cherished for its simplicity and deliciousness, offering a comforting and satisfying meal option.
Try Bakso at any trolley near you or at Bakso Rudi in Berawa.
15. Rujak Kuah Pindang
Amongst Typical Indonesian and Balinese Foods is also this one: Rujak Kuah Pindang is a unique Indonesian salad with a sweet and spicy twist. It combines fresh fruits and vegetables like cucumber, pineapple, and jicama with a sweet and tangy tamarind-based sauce. What sets it apart is the addition of pindang, a sweet and mildly spicy fish soup, to the sauce. The result is a harmonious blend of flavors, making it a refreshing and flavorful dish.
Indonesian curry, known as Kare, is a rich and aromatic dish influenced by Indian and Malay cuisines. The base is a coconut milk sauce infused with a medley of spices like turmeric, ginger, and lemongrass. It’s typically served with chicken, beef, or seafood, and the flavors can range from mild to spicy. Kare showcases the Indonesian love for bold and complex flavors, offering a taste of Southeast Asia’s diverse culinary heritage.
Try here: Most balinese restaurants!
16. Dawet Bali
Dawet Bali is a traditional Balinese dessert beverage. It’s a refreshing and sweet drink made from coconut milk, palm sugar, and pandan-flavored rice flour jelly. The combination of creamy coconut, fragrant pandan, and the sweetness of palm sugar creates a delightful sensory experience. It’s often served with crushed ice, making it a perfect thirst-quencher on a hot Balinese day and offering a sweet conclusion to your culinary journey through Bali.
Try here: Street food markets, Malls, Streed Stands.
17. Tipat Catok
Tipat refers to rice cakes that are often wrapped in coconut leaves and then steamed until they become compact and slightly chewy. These rice cakes are then sliced into bite-sized pieces and form the base of the dish. The tipat provides a neutral canvas for the array of flavors and textures that follow.
Cantok refers to the rich and flavorful peanut sauce that blankets the tipat and vegetables. This sauce is made from a blend of ground peanuts, palm sugar, garlic, lime leaves, and tamarind, giving it a harmonious balance of sweet, savory, and tangy notes. Sometimes, the sauce can also have a hint of spiciness from chilies, which adds a delightful kick.
The vegetables and tipat are generously smothered with the peanut sauce, creating a colorful and enticing dish. It’s often garnished with fried shallots or crispy fried shrimp krupuk for added texture and flavor.
Try here: Most balinese restaurants!