Bali is one of those tropical island paradises that American so love to visit. Few tourists, however, get to sample authentic Balinese specialities. Most of the food available in the local hotels and restaurants is either European or Indonesian.
Balinese themselves seem to have an ambivalent attitude towards food. Every day fare is simple and eaten quickly, it consists of rice and vegetables, small amounts of fish or meat and condiments. It's cooked early in the morning and eaten when people are hungry, not necessarily at a family table. Festival fare, on the other hand, is impressive. Flavors and colors compete for attention, some dishes are specially made by set members of society and people eat together at communal tables. The results can be magical.
Balinese food is somewhat reminiscent of Indonesian and other Southeast Asian food, though different enough to provide a pleasant surprise to those not familiar with the cuisine. Most dishes call for one of several spice pastes that are quite easy to prepare once you gather all the ingredients. These can be a bit hard to find, though if you have Indonesian or Thai markets in your area you should be able to find most of them. If not, you can try ordering them by mail from Ori-Deli in San Jose.
Given that Balinese food lends itself to be served all at once, like an rijstafel, rather than through several courses, I decided to throw a small party (there were 8 of us total) and explore different types of dishes. I didn't cook a fish dish and I unforgivably forgot to make the rice! but I think other types of food were well represented. My final menu consisted of:
Green Bean Salad with Chicken
- Timun Mesanten
Cucumber with Coconut Sauce
- Be Sampi Mekuahs
Balinese Beef Curry
- Be Celeng Base Manis
Pork in Soy Sauce
- Bebek Betutu
Roast Duck in Banana Leaf
and for dessert:
- Pisang Goreng
Fried Banana, which I served with vanilla ice cream
The Roast Duck was supposed to be the piece d' resistance, but unfortunately it did not turn out well so I was not able to serve it at the party. The other four dishes, however, were delicious.
I accompanied the meal with assorted drinks as well as with a Beaujolais and a Spanish Rioja wine, I think both were pretty good with the food.
Balinese Food Links
There are several websites for Balinese food, most of them offering the exact same recipes. I found the 99bali.com site to be the most useful and complete.