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Bali belly

Bali is definitely a place for lovers, honeymooners, surfers and spa lovers. But on a recent trip I realised its potential as a gourmet heaven. The food was outstanding. Nikhil Chib tells more.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2009 17:05 IST
Nikhil Chib
Nikhil Chib
Hindustan Times

Bali, famous for its sun-kissed beaches, spas and art, is a gourmet heaven too

Bali is definitely a place for lovers, honeymooners, surfers and spa lovers. But on a recent trip I realised its potential as a gourmet heaven. The food was outstanding..

I started off in Nusa Dua and stuffed myself with Balinese food the first few days.

Set meals
At Bumbu Bali, a restaurant known for its Balinese fare, I had a tasting meal called rijsttafel, which basically means rice table.

I went for this exotic sounding set meal which started with a Sambal Be Tongkol (tuna salad) with chunks of fresh tuna, lime juice, onion, chilli, lemon grass and kaffir thrown. Next came the satays — babe, ayam, lilit (pork, chicken and seafood sate) — with the most delectable peanut sauce. Also on menu was a regular clear chicken soup the soup and some other vegetable salad which kind of soothed the palate in preparation for the onslaught of food I was about to receive.

Finally a magnificent thali with Ayam Betutu ( roast chicken in banana leaf) and pork in sweet sour sauce, conjured up. It reminded me of a Goan dish and the pork was so succulent.

The other highlights included a dish of braised beef in coconut, a lamb stew in coconut milk and the famous Ikan Bakar or grilled fish in lemon juice and another diced fish in banana leaf.

Veggie heaven
The choice of vegetables is astounding. For vegetarians there is also a Vegetarian Rijsttafel with dishes like green papaya braised in coconut milk, grilled mushrooms in banana leaf, crisp soy bean cake in a sweet sour dressing. It’s remarkable how some of the veggies almost tasted like South Indian dishes.

There also were yellow, red and white rice steaming from these big conical baskets kept hot over coal and water. There was so much food that I enjoyed it over three hours, washing it down with a lot of bintangs (Balinese beers). I thought I had had my fill of Balinese food but it was just the tip of the iceberg.

In Ubud, famous for artists, scenic rice fields, small villages, ancient temples, palaces, rivers, cheap accommodation and unique luxury hotels, I found this really interesting dish called Babi Guling (roast suckling pig) at the famous Ibu Oka. The banana leaf plate consisted of a pile of fragrant rice, piled high with tender slices of pork, blood sausage, some unidentifiable fried bits and pieces, crowned with a piece of kulit (crispy skin). It was sheer heaven when doused with the accompanying sambal –– a saucy blend of chillies, coconut, and spices.

I moved down to Kuta and Seminyak where all the cool surfers and party animals hang out. Having learnt how to surf at the Double Six Club, even though I did the small waves, I had some mind blowing meals.

French fervour
I had one of the best French meals ever at the 12-year-old Kafe. The French chef and owner served to-die-for Yellow Fin Tuna Steak Tartare, Potato Crisps and Kalamata Olive. The mains were even better with the Pan Roasted Black Angus Tenderloin, Grilled Artichokes, Red Wine Sauce and Potato Gratin. I just can’t describe how my knife cut into the steak like butter. We finished with a mind blowing raspberry soufflé, knocked back glasses of red wine and thanked the owner who was sitting at the next table. Besides the wonderful Balinese massages I got every day for almost free the food had me completely bowled over.

For all you gourmets out there, I’d say Bangkok is passe guys. Move up a couple of notches and head to Bali.