The food on Bali is interesting for Indonesia because it's the only major island out of the 18,000 or so that isn't Muslim dominated. Over 90% of the population of Bali are practicing Hindus.
And that means pork.
Probably the most hyped dish on the island is babi guling. It started out as a real special occasion dish where a whole pig was slowly spit roasted for a wedding or bris or end of season blow out sale or whatever. But these days it a full time food.
It starts with a young pig, gutted and cleaned, then stuffed with cassava leaves and other random spices and aromatics. It's spitted and slowly rotisseried for most of the day until the skin is a deep caramel with a super thick crispy crust. Different warungs use different heat sources ranging from mixed hard woods, to coconut husks, to well dried coffee wood.
If you get the full b.g. experience they'll serve it with a light soup made from the stewed bones, a side of steamed rice, puffy fried pork crackers, and slices of moist meat with that ridiculous skin served over lawar. Lawar is a sweet/savory/spicy blend of various vegetables, grated coconut, chili, and fresh herbs.
On the side of all this comes a little scoop of fiery sambal to cut through the rich fatty pork and brighten things up a bit.
I highly recommend smiling a lot and being friendly to the owners. See if they'll show you the kitchens. Our tour of the back of Warung Pak Dobiel was one of the highlights of the whole Bali trip.
If you're not looking for a full meal commitment, the Bali street food scene is dominated by two options: satay and bakso.
We found some fairly good satay while cruising around, but the best part was meeting all the cool, friendly little vendors who set up shop wherever they could wedge in a narrow charcoal grill.
This friendly proprietor was set up next to a very atomsperic pool hall where I saw one guy run the table while wearing full traditional dress and a fanny pack. It was pretty bad ass.
Bakso is working man's food. It's a sweet and sour meatball and noodle soup usually served off of motorcycles tricked out as fully self contained kitchens. The ingredients vary but the meatballs always have an interesting spring to them because they're made with a lot of tapioca flour. It was a great soup for the hot weather.
Other foods that stood out were the tempeh, a lightly fermented soy cake almost always served fried with a side of sambal and raw cucumber and cabbage-
and this much less common nasi bakar.
Nasi Bakar is kind of hard to track down but worth it. It's partially steamed rice mixed with fried galangal, lemongrass, garlic, fresh red chili, salt fish, and daun salam leaf, a sweet herb. Then it's wrapped in banana leaf and baked until it has the texture of a perfect pilaf. It's a little oily, spicy, salty, and fragrant. It goes great with chicken but it totally stands up on its own.
Of course if you're sick of hunting all over the island in the tropical heat, there are plenty of guesthouses in Bali that'll hook you up even sans pants.
What? You didn't think we were hardcore all the time did you…
Warung Babi Guling Pak Dobiel
Jalan Srikandi 9
We found a good version of nasi bakar at:
RAYA KUTA 77 X (30 METERS from PLAZA BALI to the north)
+62 361 803 7575