In Bali, a tropical island in the Indonesian archipelago, street food is a tantalizing part of the island’s cuisine. Snack on babi guling, suckling roast pig; nasi jingo, parcels of saffron rice wrapped in banana leaf; or sweet, crunchy banana fritters.
Bali is an island of frangipani blossoms, lush humidity, and the scent of clove cigarettes. It’s one of the many thousands of islands comprising the Indonesian archipelago, and home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority.
I adore the street foods of Bali. The food of the island is complex with combinations of ginger, galangal, coriander, fresh turmeric, white pepper, palm sugar and chili, flavoring meats and fish. Street foods are just as complex as banquet dishes.
Denpasar’s Pasar Kereneng Night Market is the perfect place for Balinese street foods. Enter through the old stone walls, past the tropical fruit sellers with their kaleidoscope of dragon fruit, mangoes, rambutan, and snake fruit, into the market’s warren of small lanes.
The dish you must not miss is babi guling, or suckling roast pig. Shards of crisp crackling hide the tender, juicy meat. Every part of the pig is used to make several side dishes that accompany the pork in a harmony of tastes and textures, like urutan – a dark air-dried sausage, and kuah nangka – a small bowl turmeric-heavy broth with pieces of cooked young jackfruit and pork.
Also made to accompany babi guling, lawar is a fresh-tasting mixture of shredded coconut, minced pork, spices and chilli, with the addition of fresh pig blood to make the authentic red version.
Although satay originated in Java, every Indonesian island including Bali has their own way of cooking it. In Hindu-majority/Muslim minority Bali, the satay is usually marinated chicken or lamb, char-grilled and served with a peanut sauce mixed with kecap manis and chili.
A Balinese classic is ayam betutu, chicken marinated in a blend of galangal, ginger, fresh turmeric, garlic, lemongrass and spices, then slow-cooked wrapped in banana leaves.
It’s the most tender way of cooking the meat – and packed with Balinese flavours of turmeric, galangal and pepper. An alternate variation is bebek betutu – duck betutu, richer and darker.
Sold in a folded banana leaf pinned close with a toothpick, nasi jinggo is a pyramid of saffron rice served with a tiny palette of mixed tastes and textures – some soft wheat noodles, a spicy sambal, sweet toasted coconut, crisp-fried tempeh, and fried shallots.
For those with a sweet tooth, the extensive lexicon of Balinese sweets could sustain a happy eater indefinitely. Most are made from sticky rice or casava flour and flavoured with pandan leaf, palm sugar, coconut or banana. I adored klepon, green pandan-leaf flavoured parcels stuffed with palm sugar that turns to syrup on cooking, and sprinkled with soft, freshly-grated coconut.
And at the end of the night, there is always room for at least one golden crispy-fried banana fritter, pisang goreng, made with dainty lady finger bananas.