Friday, March 20, 2015

Eating in Bali

If you want to eat good, go to Bali!

We ate well, for very affordable prices. We didn't go super cheap and eat at roadside food stalls, but if we had we would've spent a fraction of what we did...and would've spent a lot more time on the toilet (which thankfully was barely none)!

Let us begin our culinary journey in Ubud.  First things first, I'll start off with the breakfasts at our hotel, Joglo Taman Sari.  I believe there are 3 options for breakfast, but we only tried 2 of them.  Once I tried the mi goreng (fried noodles) it was game over for me.  I was hooked!

Nasi goreng to the left, mi goreng to the right
There's something about Asian breakfast that speaks to my fat, fat soul.  I don't much care for breakfast, I never eat it, but I could eat Asian breakfasts everyday of my life.  Nasi goreng is fried rice and, while tasty, didn't hold a candle to the mi goreng when prepared by our hotel.

The other breakfast we tried was banana pancakes, which are more accurately crepes than pancakes.  The sauce to pour over them, I believe, is pure honey.  The lime wedge added a surprising amount of flavor.  This would be easy to make at home and I should totes do that.

I gather that "warung" is the word for restaurant in Indonesian, as most restaurants have it somewhere in their name.  It can be a bit confusing trying to keep all these similarly-named places straight!

Fair Warung Bale is run by a charitable organization that provides free healthcare to locals.  It's a great place, as TripAdvisor told me it would be, and was the perfect choice for our first meal in Bali.  Because it's a charitable organization I found myself leaving all my change with them as a donation.

Melting Wok Warung is a bit more upscale, with smaller portions at about the same price point as Fair Warung Bale, but undoubtedly delicious.  It's run by a super friendly French woman and they don't have a menu, only chalk boards, so you know they keep their menu aligned with ingredients that are fresh that day.

Because it's well outside of the city center we took a cab to Terracotta, and got this Indonesian mezze-style platter.  It had a variety of things try, the most surprisingly delicious being marinated tofu.  This restaurant overlooks a rice field, which looks really cool as the sun goes down, and there's a little fenced in area containing ducks (some with fancy hairstyles that I love so much) which are fun to watch.

The Balinese aren't big on dessert, which perplexes me about their culture.  Who doesn't love sweet stuff?!  But there is one dessert that they do have (strictly for the tourists, of course):

DQ!  Dairy Queen!  The small town, Midwest staple that I grew up with.  One thing I did not grow up with, however, was Nutella at DQ!

It's like the moon and the stars align; peace and serenity have enveloped the world at last.  Nutella and DQ are a match made in heaven!  I haven't been to an American DQ in years but I hope they've adopted Nutella onto their menu.  A Nutella Banana Blizzard, though not cheap by Bali standards, was seriously tasty.

Bali, unlike the rest of Indonesia, is primarily Hindu, not Muslim.  This means one thing: porky deliciousness!

Ibu Oka serves Bali's arguable most famous dish, babi guling, which is roast pork.  Really tender, tasty, flavorsome roast pork.  This place pretty much got taken over by tourists when Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations (available on YouTube) rolled through town and told the world that it's Bali's best babi guling.  As a result, locals deserted the place, prices went up and they added 2 ancillary restaurants to handle the overflow.  Still, for $5.50 AUD it's a hell of a meal.

We ate here 2 days in a row and if we had more lunchtimes in Ubud we probably would've went back.  We got the "special", which includes rice, a blood sausage (eat it, ya pussy!) and lawar which is an indistinguishable yet tasty green vegetable side dish you'll find everywhere.

Important to note: We went at 1 p.m. and we had to hike it to Ibu Oka 3 (not far down the road) and they were all out of crackling (crispy pork skin).  On our second visit we showed up right at opening time at 11 a.m. and we were the first ones in the door at Ibu Oka 1.  I never did see where Ibu Oka 2 was.  If you're a lover of crackling like Martin I advise you get there as early as you can or you risk missing out!

I don't know if it's because I have the hots for Anthony Bourdain or my love of pork products, but Ibu Oka was my favorite culinary experience in Bali.  I would've loved to try the place when it was authentic and not "ruined" by the white man such as myself, but I can't imagine the food has gone downhill too much from the original.

Let's move farther south now to Seminyak.  After 3 days in Ubud and a constant feeding frenzy of Asian food I was getting pretty sick of Asian flavors.  Martin picked a highly rated restaurant on "Eat Street", Ginger Moon, which thankfully offered a mix of Asian and western food.  I felt guilty for doing it, but I ordered a pizza - with a side of corn on the cob.

And it was delicious!  Really impressive by anyone's standards, but the real hero of the evening was Martins' ayam betut, or smoked chicken.

This was beyond incredible and definitely a contender for the best dish of the whole trip!  I don't even like smoked food but this had a subtle smokey flavor and was really awesome.  While I would hardly consider Seminyak a must see destination in Bali, Ginger Moon is totally worth a stop.

Before going to Bali I had heard that they do a lot of Mexican food, and that they do it well.  How bizarre, I thought.  Until I tried a babi guling TACO!

What a genius concept!  Taco Beach Grill had all the usual Mexican suspects, and another exceptional dish was the array of salsas you could order with tortilla chips. 

Many of the salsas were sweet, which worked surprisingly well, and there was lots of tasty variety.  Again we went 2 days in a row for lunch, because it was just that awesome.  Pro tip: the babi guling taco was much better than the babi guling burrito.  While I prefer a burrito over a taco 99% of the time the taco allowed the meat to shine in all its porky deliciousness more so than the overstuffed burrito.

Not everything we ate was amazing.  The blah food we had was at places we chose randomly off the street without researching it first.  Be smart, research first!  Every meal, every snack if you want top notch results.  If the restaurant has a menu on the wall like this, you know it's a good sign to move along.

Mmm...chicken taco style
Otherwise you will be served room temperature beer and when you question this, they will offer you a glass of ice.  They won't even think to give you the glass of ice with your piss warm beer unless you ask!  Yes, that happened to us.

Our final meal was a variety of seafood in Jimbaran.  It was hard to see what we were eating; it's pitch black out there because the closer you are to the ocean the farther away you are from the lights of the restaurant.

Expensive, even for seafood, even by Bali standards, but it is really close to the airport so makes sense to eat here just before your late night flight.  You can watch planes land while you eat, which Martin of course enjoyed.

We didn't get sick once in Bali, but we're usually pretty good about not eating dodgy things and paying dearly for it later.  That's not to say there haven't the past but it was smooth sailing all 5 days in Bali.

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