Bali is Indonesia’s most popular island and just one of many budget-friendly destinations in Southeast Asia. Why does this corner of the world seem to have such a siren song to those traveling on a shoestring? We think it’s because, like most of the region, Bali has amazing street food. It’s easy to browse hawkers’ stalls and fill up on tasty traditional food for next to nothing. Here are just a few bites you must try on your visit to Bali.
Perkedel (Fried Patties)
These crispy fried patties are made with chilies, eggs, potatoes, and other vegetables. It’s the sort of comfort food local mothers whip up for their kids in Balinese villages all over the island. They’re absolutely scrumptious on their own, but if you’d like to kick it up a notch, try drowning a serving in the local sambal chilli sauce. The spicier, the better! Three patties will usually cost you between 3,000-8,000 rupiah.
Cap Cay (Chinese Veggies)
You might be surprised to find great street food that isn’t traditionally Indonesian, but things like colonialism, immigration, and globalization have affected other countries as much as they have the Western world. Indonesia is a bit of a melting pot itself. Case in point: this popular dish, which is actually of Chinese origin. You can find cap cay on the menu at many warungs, the small restaurants or cafés that dot the island.
There are many variations of this healthy dish, but it usually consists of cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, Chinese broccoli, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic, all cooked up in fish or chicken stock. When you get your first plate of steaming hot veggies served up alongside a small cup of rice, you’ll see this is Indonesian comfort food at its best. You might also see variations with seafood or chicken, which are just as tasty. For extra credit, combine your cap cay plate with a serving of perkedel. It doesn’t get more Balinese than that. Expect to pay between 10,000 and 15,000 rupiah for this stick-to-your-ribs Indonesian meal.
Jagung Manis (Sweet Corn)
Is there anything that screams tropical paradise more than a Balinese beach? A little sunrise yoga on the island’s palm-fringed white sands would rejuvenate anybody. You might not have pictured street food in your daily cubicle fantasies of the perfect Indonesian vacation, but as you stroll down the coast, you’ll see lots of vendors selling ears of freshly grilled sweet corn. Give them a chance. You can choose to have yours dressed with butter, cheese, chilli, or mayonnaise. As you savor your sweet corn snack, you’ll wonder why you didn’t fantasize about this part of the trip as much as you did about the surf and sun. Don’t forget your toothpick. Typical prices range from 4,000 to 10,000 rupiah.
Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng (Fried Noodles and Fried Rice)
There’s one critical difference between these two ubiquitous Balinese dishes. Mie goreng is a plate of fried noodles, while chefs preparing nasi goreng throw rice in the pan. Both plates are equally delicious and no Indonesian vacation would be complete without sampling both. You’d be hard pressed to find a street vendor that doesn’t serve up at least one of the two. If you see the word ayam make an appearance on the menu, that means it’s served with chicken. It’s also very easy to find vegetarian renditions of the dish, and both mie goreng and nasi goreng are often topped with a fried egg. Most vendors will charge you between 7,000 and 14,000 rupiah for these super traditional plates.
Babi Guling (Roast Suckling Pig)
Once upon a time, this dish of roasted suckling pig was only available for special occasions. Lucky for us, these days warungs all over the island of Bali sell it for a reasonable price. Channel your inner adventurous eater and order up. You’ll receive a plate with a mound of rice in the middle surrounded by various parts of the pig. Sometimes soup or a stick of satay are included. This Indonesian delicacy could cost anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 rupiah.
Sate Ayam (Chicken Skewers)
Is there anything more quintessential to Southeast Asia than the delectable sight of grilled meats threaded on a skewer and served up with a tangy peanut sauce? Bali is no stranger to the satay, and you should indulge yourself as often as you like with this dish. As we already learned with mie goreng and nasi goreng, ayam means chicken, and sate ayam is one of the island’s most popular dishes, with both locals and tourists alike.
You won’t be able to turn your head without seeing a sign for sate ayam, but if you’re on a budget, be sure to shop around. Some vendors might charge you as much as 10,000 rupiah for a single skewer. Others will fork over several skewers along with cucumbers, rice cakes, and that delicious, traditional peanut sauce for just 6,000 rupiah. Cucumber and peanuts sound like an odd combination? Keep an open mind. It just may become your favorite part of the meal.
Remember to blend in
Remember as you browse street vendor stalls that tourists will inevitably pay more for food than locals. But here’s one big advantage to purchasing from stands instead of sit-down restaurants. Because you’re dealing directly with the owner and chef, you have the ability to bargain. Have the amount you’d like to pay ready when you approach the stand and try negotiating while they cook. Do your best to blend in, dust off your haggling skills, and try to make a few local friends. Want even more help navigating the Bali street food scene? Join websites like Couchsurfing, Meetup, and Eatwith. You’ll connect with local Indonesians and other travelers, and can discover delicious bites around the island together.
You might have come to Bali for its beaches, its temples, or its yoga, but you’ll stay for its mouth-watering and wallet-friendly street food.