One great thing about Bali, and probably what makes the island so popular, is the Hindu influence and the associated culture and cuisine that come with it. Ubud, in particular, offers many different foods I’ve come to miss while traveling in the Muslim regions of Indonesia – the number one being pork. And not just any old pork.
Several restaurants around Ubud offer babi guling or roasted suckling pig (my mouth is watering as I write this). The pig is usually stuffed with chili, ginger, garlic, turmeric and other secret Balinese spices, and roasted over an open fire for hours while basted with coconut milk.
One restaurant Ibu Oka, located opposite the palace in central Ubud, currently stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to babi guling. Ever since Anthony Bourdain raved on his TV show No Reservations about the restaurant’s take on Bali’s signature pork dish, the eatery has become increasingly popular. Of course, we didn’t know this at the time and simply followed the crowds into the lunch-only warung. We ordered the “babi special plate” for 30,000 rupiah (US$3.30). The dish included several slices of tender pork, savory pork sausage, crispy pork skin, a mysteriously flavorful paste, collard greens and rice, all topped with a tasty sauce.
As you can see in the top picture, we weren’t the only ones digging the food at Ibu Oka. The scraggly street dog in the background hung out there every time we went. Oops, I guess I have to admit that we had lunch there three days in a row – it was just so delicious. Who’s the pig now?
If you want to read more about specialty foods in Bali, make sure to check out the New York Time’s article The Flavor of Bali, at Roadside Stands.