Where to eat in Bali and my top 5 picks

where to eat in bali

Firstly I’d like to set this straight once and for all! While the film Eat Pray Love pushed Bali and especially Ubud into the limelight, I honestly believe it didn’t do much justice to Bali’s much treasured food-scape.

For those of you bewildered by the above comment – In the movie, Julia Roberts visits Bali to Love! I’m sure she tried some local fare, but what a missed opportunity for Bali! 

The Balinese cuisine has strong influences from Thai and Malaysian cooking styles mainly in the use of lemongrass, pandan leaves and coconut milk in the curries, but there are plenty of dishes that are unique – Babi Guling (spit roast suckling pig)Ayam Bakar (Char grilled chicken with Balinese spices) & Tempeh (savory soy cakes), are probably the most popular among those.

What you should know?

Bali draws its revenue almost solitarily from tourism. So aimed at luxury tourists and the others who carry around a huge wallet (or a weak gut) are them expensive restaurants and cafes, ones where you would easily pay AU$20 upwards for a main meal of gourmet portions. Most of these restaurants will also charge an extra 15-21% in service tax! OUCH!

So the question arises, where should you eat in Bali?

Look out for Warungs!

Warungs are small family owned traditional restaurants and you will find many scattered all over Bali. These are where you must go if you want

  1. authentic Balinese meals
  2. absolute bang-for-buck local fare
  3. to HOG a variety of local delicacies!!
  4. to feel good having supported a local business!

NO! These are by no means street hawkers, which by the way you might want to avoid if you don’t have an iron-gut! And especially if you’re using a local tour guide or driver, let them know your preferences because when they “naturally assume” your can’t handle local fare at a Warung, you most often end up at a pricey restaurant!

If you want to taste the traditional Indonesian fare in a very rustic setting, where you can absorb the local culture, head to the Warungs!

But there is something you should know first and that brings us to

The Art of Ordering at a Warung!

In Warungs, typically you can order food in 2 ways.

One is using the standard menu (if they have one); But at some Warungs, frequented only by locals and seasoned tourists, the ordering process can get more obscure! All they will have is an array of Indonesian foods on display behind a glass counter, sometimes even without individual prices.

Here you basically pick whatever fancies your eyes onto a plate and pay for the lot. Usually items other than seafood are around 3000-7000 IDR each. Fried chicken (Ayam) is usually 8000-10000 IDR per serve and seafood is 12000-15000 per serve. Use these prices as a guide.

So I would say, peruse the menu first, then add items from the counter optionally or just choose a mix of interesting foods from the counter – you should do this at least once!

Now that you are fully equipped with the knowledge of a local, here are my

TOP PICKS where you can enjoy a traditional Indonesian meal,

When visiting Bali, Seminyak may not necessarily be on your must visit places in Bali, unless if you happen to stay in this area, like we did. However if you do land in Seminyak, I recommend checking out these two Warungs!

Warung Taman Bambu {Seminyak}

eat in Bali warung taman bambu
IDR 45000 for the plate – calamari, fried anchovies, Ayam, Ayam Bakar, Veggies, Rice & Sambal

Located away from the touristy side of Seminyak and tucked in between few local businesses, stands this gem of a eatery. This is where we had our first meal in Bali and also encountered the menu-less ordering pick & pay method. The guy behind the counter hardly spoke any English, and all my efforts in trying to get him to recommend something were wasted; instead we just ordered what looked appealing to our eyes!

Warung Eny {Seminyak}

This local restaurant is very popular and has raving reviews on Tripadvisor too. Although not the cheapest Warung we went to in Bali, the satisfaction of having a home cooked Indonesian meal with organic produce is unparalleled. Meals are prepared on the spot in the open plan kitchen in the middle of the Warung by Eny herself! And this is why you must visit this Warung. For those of you interested in learning Indonesian cooking, they offer classes too!

eat in Bali warung eny
Try the items on the special! The Indonesian Ayam curry was excellent.

Located in the heart of the buzz in Seminyak, the restaurant fills up quickly with patrons once it’s past 7:30pm.

Warung Ocha {Seminyak}

This one’s a good pitstop for a decent Indonesian meal. The ambience is cosy although the interiors aren’t typically that of a Warung. While they serve a wide variety of cuisines, their Indonesian food options are also quite extensive. I learnt some of the food names browsing their food counter. One particularly interesting and tasty meal we tried there was Plecing Kangkung. The Kangkung is a slightly bitter water spinach, and makes its appearance as a popular veggie with most Indonesian meals. It was something very different to whatever I have seen or had before.

warung ocha
Plecing Kangkung – Kangkung mixed with chilli, served with Ayam Bakar, Tahu (Tofu), Tempeh, steamed rice and sambal

Warung Indonesia {Kuta}

While Kuta as a place is unpopular with most tourists to Bali (other than the dodgy ones!), it is worth checking out this local restaurant, buried deep inside Kuta, where you can get to easily only if you walk. The food was delicious and was by far the cheapest meal we had in Bali. We ordered 2 main courses (Tahu Tempe with rice & salad and Mee Goreng) and a fried chicken on the side – all for IDR 38000 – less than AU$4!!

eat in bali warung indonesia

Lia Cafe {Jimbaran}

While this last one is not exactly a cheap Warung, it is a must visit restaurant serving delicious seafood in Jimbaran area. Cafe is a misnomer. It is more of a beach shack. For the quality and portion size of seafood you can eat at this restaurant, the prices are well worth it.

To help you put things into perspective, a meal at a similar restaurant cum beach shack   setting in Goa or Kochi (India), would be equally or more expensive.

And I advice against walking around their kitchen or spending too much time gazing at their fresh catch area, for it may not appeal to your hygienic standards! Visually!

But the food is amazing and of good quality too. Around 8pm, a local band goes around each of the tables singing songs (be sure to carry change to tip them). All in all, a brilliant value for money experience!

eat in bali lia cafe
Char grilled Red Snapper, prawns & squid! Plus 2 large Bintangs and a tip to the music band. All for IDR 375.000. Darn cheap!

 

So whether or not the film had us expect much less from Bali, Dee and I stand corrected after our visit.

Bali is definitely a place to eat your heart’s content. Period.

So if there is one take away from this post, that is, eat at a Warung; you’ll love the food, experience and if you still didn’t like it at the end of it (please let me know why?), you’ve probably spent only $8 or under to try!

I would love to hear your Bali food experience, and if you found this guide useful please share it with others who might benefit!

Oh and by the way, can’t say this enough, definitely swap water for Bintang!

bintang

 

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