Find out what you need to eat when visiting the island of Bali as told by chef, author, and food journalist Angelo Comsti

Your Bali itinerary shouldn’t just be about yoga, the sand, or the surf since there’s simply too much to enjoy in this bustling Indonesian province food-wise.

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For the most popular Balinese specialty

While most of Indonesia are not fans of pork due to religious reasons, Bali celebrates it. Popularly known as babi guling, their spit-roasted suckling pig is famous not just among travellers who include it in their itineraries, but also with locals since it’s an integral part of their rite-of-passage ceremonies, like weddings.

Stuffed with basa gede, a potent spice paste made of galangal, chillies, and terasi then rubbed with turmeric water before being bronzed over an open fire for about six hours, babi guling isn’t actually hard to find in Bali as even the warungs (traditional roadside eateries) would often have it. But among those that offer this babi, one brand stands out—Ibu Oka, especially after the late Anthony Bourdain proclaimed it “absolutely the best” in an episode of No Reservations back in 2006. Their special plate comes with tender meat and crispy skin, soup, nasi putih (rice), sambal, sayur (beans and papaya with fresh coconut), gorengan (breaded fried pork), and sosis (blood sausage).

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For a sampling of regional Indonesian cuisine

Nusantara will officially become the new capital of Indonesia starting from its inauguration in August 2024, replacing Jakarta which has enjoyed the recognition since 1945. But even then, Nusantara is already known worldwide as something else, thanks to the chefs behind Ubud’s Locavore—as a casual restaurant that champions the distinct regional flavours of the country.

Nusantara is decked in local design from plush pillows with traditional prints to wooden furniture and rattan wall decors, giving you a traditional Indonesian home vibe. On the other hand, the menu is a respectful representation of their rich culinary heritage, deriving dishes from various provinces. There’s cumi hitam (baby squid cooked in its own ink and coconut milk) from Pekalongan, Central Java; perkedel nike (corn fritters) from Manado, North Sulawesi; and gulai udang (coco-milk braised prawns with candlenut) from Samarinda, East Kalimantan. There is even a range of varieties of rice and sambal based on where they hail from.

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For cooking classes and breakfast buffets

The lobby of the Plataran Ubud Hotel and Spa is no giveaway to how sprawling the property is. The 52-room modern oasis offers calming rice field views from the room, the pool, and even the gym. But there’s more to see and gawk at apart from that, from the ornate stone carvings splashed across the space to the Balinese accents found by the bar and front desk.

Breakfasts are special at Plataran because, aside from an unobstructed view of the lush land (no glass walls even), you get treated to unlimited servings of traditional Indonesian fare, such as mie goreng (fried noodles), ayam taliwang (slow-cooked chicken with Lombok spices), kentang sambal (potato with red spice), and terong balado (spiced fried eggplant). It even extends to desserts where they have jajanan pasar (Javanese cake) and bubur sagu mutiara (sago porridge).

If you want a more immersive food experience, they can host hands-on cooking classes under their giant banyan tree. Roll up your sleeves and be ready to grate coconut for the lawar kacang, chop the ingredients for samba matah, and poach bananas for the pisang rai. What you prep and cook is what you get to enjoy for lunch.

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For sunset libations and cocktail mixing

3D butterfly-shaped pieces by revered artist Punkmetender greet you upon entry to the Mamaka by Ovolo in Kuta. And the symbolism couldn’t be any more apt as the urban resort, with its refreshing and hip energy, feels like it’s making its presence known in this rather stale and weary stretch of Bali.

Its ideal location, just a stone’s throw away from the famous Kuta Beach, guarantees daily theatrics from the sun as viewed from the Kuta Social Club, an exclusive pool club on the hotel’s rooftop. And what better way to bask in its drama than by having Mamaka’s signature drinks, such as the chilli Margarita and a watermelon cooler spiked with vodka–a good number of them are crafted with local brands as well, like the East Indies Archipelago Dry Gin made with blue pea flowers. The F&B team can even organise a cocktail-making class, if you wish, giving you the chance to aerate a drink by shaking vigorously or torch a sprig of fresh rosemary. Complete the experience by pairing your choice of spirit with wood-fired pizza, lobster roll, and charcoal-grilled octopus.

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For tribal fare in a memorable setting

Proudly perched on the cliff of Nusa Dua and lending breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean, the Apurva Kempinski Bali has a lot of things going for it—from multiple swimming pools, 475 elegant rooms, and a grand staircase inspired by Bali's mother temple, Besakih—that you wouldn't feel the need to even explore outside the five-star hotel. And that includes dining.

Apurva Kempinski celebrates the culinary treasures of Indonesia's Kalimantan, which is the third largest island in the world, by putting the spotlight on their dishes and fresh produce across their brands. The Selasar Deli, for instance, brews coffee beans from that region and serves it along with sweet delicacies called wadai apam banjar. At the ethereal Koral, a restaurant submerged in an aquarium, speciality items like smoked patin baubar and mutiara soup are highlighted on the menu, while at the Reef Beach Club, the traditional fare of the Kalimantan tribes like the ayam cincane and garang asam banjar from South Kalimantan as well as the sate payau from East Kalimantan are offered. You can even indulge in the soto banjar, the spiced chicken soup of the Banjar tribe from South Kalimantan, right on the beach, with the stars making the mood extra special.


Special thanks to Jaison Yang and the Travel Warehouse Inc., Cebu Pacific and Aneka Kartika. For customised Bali tours, contact TWI at (028) 687-2490 to 92 or visit www.twi.com.ph.

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