The JT Insider Food Guide: Bali, Indonesia
Top chef and TV personality Will Meyrick is best known for hosting the culinary series Street Food Chef, as well as his restaurants – Sarong and Mama San – in Bali. From the island that he now calls home, Will gives us his tips on what to eat while you’re there.
‘The Balinese use a lot of roots and herbs. Around 70 years ago, Balinese people cooked in accordance with their holistic health awareness, to balance energies and strengthen the body against cold or sickness, so they picked ingredients from their own back yard and turned them into medicinal food. Even today, the taste of Balinese traditional dishes can be considered earthy. Nowadays people in Bali seem to prefer to eat bakso [meatballs] or fried food, which are not part of their culinary culture, but a visit to a remote rural market will illustrate that old habits are not lost. Balinese dishes don’t have the sweetness found in the food of the other islands in Indonesia, and Balinese kitchen tends to utilise more spices. In Bali there’s more steaming and roasting too, whereas in Indonesia frying is more popular.’
Three to try
‘Many people know Balinese dishes like Ayam Betutu [steamed or roasted chicken that’s stuffed with spices and chilli] or Babi Guling [roast suckling pig stuffed with herbs], but it’s fun to be a little more adventurous, so try less well known dishes like Urutan [Balinese sausages made of pork and spice paste], Sayur Ares [banana tree soup] or Lawar Bebek [chopped duck with vegetable, spices and coconut, served with rice].’
Where you’d take a friend
‘I prefer to take friends into the real Bali, the hustle and bustle of our capital city Denpasar, to show them where the locals go to eat. Or I go up to Ubud and Candidasa to get the most authentic Balinese food. I’d take a friend to Kecak Cafe in Ubud for its Bebek Betutu [steamed or roasted duck, stuffed with spices] or very early in the morning to Candidasa to find the most delicious Sate Lilit [seafood satay].’
Kecak Cafe, Jalan Hanoman, Ubud.
Blow-out dining experience
‘Go to Furama Seafood restaurant in Jimbaran. It’s not really a flashy place to dine, but the freshness of the seafood, and the simplicity of the ingredients, as well as the hospitality of the people, make it just my kind of place.’
Furama Seafood Cafe, Jalan Pantai Kedongwa, Jimbaran Bay.
‘Go to Denpasar. I love the street food here, and the middle of the city is the perfect place to find innumerous hidden gems.’
Authentically local dining experience
‘There’s a food stall in the middle of Denpasar’s CBD called Babi Guling Gerenceng, serving Bali’s most popular dish, suckling pig.’
A lazy Sunday hangout
‘The beachfront restaurant Sundara at the Four Seasons Jimbaran is a nice place to just hangout with family or a few friends. I also like Komune Beach Club up the coast from Sanur, where there’s a different kind of crowd. Most of the people in this place are long-stay surfers.’
Four Seasons Jimbaran. Komune Beach Club, Komune Beach Club, Jalan Pantai Keramas, Gianyar.
‘The best view is probably at the Rock Bar Jimbaran, which is built on a cliff, overlooking the ocean.’ [Right on the rocks at Jimabaran Bay, this glamourous bar has unsurpassable ocean views.]
Rock Bar, Ayana Resort & Spa, Jimbaran.
Latest food trend
‘The trend is to have locally sourced produce brought in to high-end kitchens in high-end restaurants. Regardless of the cooking techniques or the type of food, this new trend is now growing to support local communities.’
A chef worth checking out
‘Check out chef Eeike Plasmeijer of restaurant Locavore in Ubud, who promotes local ingredients and uses them in international dishes.’ [Named to mean ‘someone that enjoys eating locally grown food’, the restaurant Locavore reflects the chef’s passion for locally grown organic food, in a fine dining setting.]
Locavore, Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud.
‘Soon, Sarong’s farm in Jatiluwih will open its doors for visitors, to show them how we raise our poultry and other animals organically, as well as teaching them how to plant rice and local ingredients, how to roast coffee, and how to cook authentic Balinese dishes.’
Sarong Restaurant, Jalan Petitenget, Bali.
Known as the Street Food Chef for his TV series on Southeast Asia’s authentic cuisine, Will Meyrick was drawn to the region by the spices, flavours and textures of the local food, via some of the top kitchens of London and Sydney. Seduced by Bali, Will decided to make it his home, opening the fine dining restaurant Sarong, and relaxed dining spot Mama San Kitchen, Bar and Lounge.