You might be wondering where you should travel to next especially if you don’t have very much time. Having just gotten back from this trip myself, I highly recommend visiting Bali. It’s beautiful and luscious. Best of all the food is amazing and very distinct especially the Balinese food. While I was there we heard again and again about the distinction between Indonesian food and Balinese food. Which inspired me to write this post to answer the questions “What is the difference between Indonesian and Balinese food?” Let’s get started!! I can’t wait to show you some fantastic Balinese dishes! Also, at the end, there will be a note about transportation and safety in Bali. Bali is very safe but there are somethings you should know.
Of the two, food is definitely cheaper in Thailand. However; Indonesian food is very delicious and yummy. Indonesian chefs know how to make a scrumptious peanut sauce. (You don’t find that in Thailand. My theory is that somebody visited both countries and got the foods mixed up and marketed the peanut sauce as Thai food to the American public.) Indonesia also knows how to make scrumptious chicken and good vegetables. If you have the chance try their asparagus soup it’s very similar to egg drop soup but with white asparagus. Food prices as always depend on where you go and it is a bit more difficult to find cheap food in Indonesia at least the touristy places where we were but venture off the main streets and you’ll be able to find some. Indonesian food plates usually cost between 30,000-45,000.
Indonesian vs Balinese Food
As you travel through Indonesia you’ll probably come across the phenomena of Indonesian vs Balinese food. Although all Indonesians are proud to be from Indonesia, from what I could gather each island’s population prefers to eat their own local and island distinct type food. They will be sure to correct you too if you refer to their local cuisine as Indonesian. That said overall Indonesian food is a mixture of the many different cultures who have at one time or another had to influence over the island chain. It’s amazing how good their food tastes, but it just goes to show the benefits of mixing cultures and food together. Indonesian food is strongly influenced by Hinduism and Muslim religions so there is hardly any pork options and rarely any beef. Interestingly there is also Chinese influence in their cuisine too.
Balinese Food… Yum!
Since this post is mostly about Bali, we’ll delve a bit deeper into Balinese food. This volcanic island has strong Hindu influence so beef is rarely served in their dishes. The staple ingredient in Balinese dishes is rice accompanied with meat, vegetables, and seafood. Many of their foods include coconut mixed into the dish too. I really enjoyed this aspect of their food because even though many cultures live with coconuts all around them it’s unusual for it to be put into their food. When we asked out taxi driver what his favorite Balinese dish was he said it was the roast suckling pig called Babi Guling. We never got a chance to experience this dish but if you have the opportunity jump on it. Other classic Balinese dishes are:
Kopi Luwak is Balinese coffee made from the poop of an animal called a Luwak. It’s super expensive anywhere else in the world because it is only made in Indonesia as the Luwak is endemic to these islands. I don’t drink coffee but many people love it, so check it out!
Sates Bali style sates are pretty similar to Thai sates. They both have lots of chicken and pork options. Overall I really prefer the Balinese style sates because the meat generally has more flavour than Thai sates. I think the reason for this is I suspect that the Balinese marinate their meet or add spices and sauce to their meat while cooking it. The Thai’s usually just add a sauce. Plus Balinese sates come with a delicious peanut sauce.
Lawar is a super yummy dish which consists of chopped vegetables generally mixed with coconut. The coconut gives the veggies a sweet flavour. Not all Lawars are mixed with coconut though. Some can be mixed with minced meat or even blood.
To be honest drinking in Indonesia was a bit frustrating. First, it was hard to find a place that served drinks that weren’t crazy expensive, below 150,000 a drink. Secondly, once we did find a place that sold cheaper drinks we had trouble with the alcohol not being watered down. My girlfriend and I found a cheap drink restaurant and she ordered 6 drinks and wasn’t drunk or even buzzed by the end of it. She watched the bartender make all of her drinks too. It was later when we were speaking to other travelers who also agreed that often they thought their drinks had been diluted too. So if you are drinking a lot of “alcohol” but aren’t getting a buzz, maybe try another bar. Your current bar might be a bit crooked.
Bingtang Beer is the standard of choice in Indonesia. It is actually much better than other cheap beers. It’s light, tastes a bit like Heineken, and doesn’t have a bad after taste. It’s also pretty cheap like 15,000 IDR.
Arak is an extremely cheap traditional alcohol made in Indonesia and Bali. Its standard cost is 15,000-20,000 IDR. Much much cheaper than imported alcohol! It’s usually made from grapes, sugar, sometimes molasses, dates, and plums. It tastes slightly better and very yeasty. The reason that it has such a fearsome reputation as being dangerous is because it is often made from home brewers who aren’t regulated. Sometimes these home brewers make a mistake and don’t get all of the methanol out of the alcohol at a certain point in the brewing process. Methanol is extremely toxic and can kill you or cause other harmful side effects like blindness. Methanol removal is a standard part of any alcohol brewing process. If you drink arak enjoy yourself and try your best to make sure it’s from a reputable brewer.
Taxis are cheap. We got a taxi for two people for two hours with a few stops along the way for 300,000 Indonesian Rupiah which is 22.00 USD. When you compare the price of taxis and soungtows on Koh Samui, Thailand which is 500-700baht (700 baht =20$ USD) to go 30 minutes away that’s a really good deal.
It’s relatively safe as in low crime rates. Always keep some chump change when driving a motorbike in case the police want a bribe. 200,000 IDR is enough. I won’t say it’s cheap because, in reality, I think it was about the same as Thailand or possibly a bit more expensive. The beaches are beautiful and you can find some amazing snorkeling and diving too.
Indonesian food and Balinese food is delightful to eat. My favourite foods were the sates and the ayam nassi along with the asparagus soup we stumbled across. I also thoroughly enjoyed their food because it was flavourful and spicy not just spicy. This was especially noticeable since I have been living in Thailand and the food here is very very spicy if you get the local food. It was nice to be able to hang with the local spice tolerance once again. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences in Bali and throughout Indonesia!! What is your favorite food? Is there a food you are interested in trying while visiting?
“Semoga perjalananmu menyenangkan!” As the Indonesians say! =)