Breakfast in Bali: A Mouth-Watering Expression of Local Culture
As if you needed one more reason to love the island of Bali, here's another one for your mind and tummy to contemplate - Balinese food, and the most important meal of the day, breakfast. But I have to warn you, you may love breakfast in Bali so much you'll hate that you can't get it like this anywhere else. Selamat pagi! (Good morning!)
Sarapan. Indonesian for breakfast.
I must admit, the food in Bali wasn't my favorite that I've had in my travels. There were just two iconic Balinese dishes I'd heard of prior to visiting - Balinese Duck (hated it) and their famous Suckling Pig called Babi guling (loved it). The poor crispy Balinese duck I had didn't stand a chance against the overdone bath of hot oil - it was so crunchy I could hardly taste the meat. But the Babi guling......oh my! Heaven (if you're a pork lover like me).
But my palate wasn't ready for some of the local flavors used in Balinese cooking, especially in several everyday dishes. In particular, one of the flavors found in several sauteed vegetable dishes I ate had a distinct flavor of soap (and I know the taste of soap for obvious reasons as a kid who learned the hard way not to cuss!) that I just couldn't get around.
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Breakfast in Bali
But breakfast in Bali was another story entirely, especially at Alam Shanti, our villa in Ubud. It was delicious and comforting - like waking up at Grandma's house with the smell of breakfast in the air. Some breakfast dishes I had were cool or room temperature like the yummy banana crepes, but most were served warm along with a nice cup of Balinese coffee - which is a great way to ease your system into the day. Americans can surely learn a lesson or two from countries who serve foods such as fried rice and rice porridges for breakfast - foods and flavors we typically associate with dinner - and throw away the box of dried, overly sweetened breakfast cereals. Warm comfort foods are perfect for breakfast!
So here are my favorites - although there are many more from which to choose, these are the ones I saw served most frequently. Try cooking them at home - there are many authentic recipes online, though finding all the ingredients is not always possible unless you have an Indonesian grocery near you. Let the drooling begin!
1. Nasi Goreng
The Balinese version of fried rice with fresh veggies, this dish is traditional and commonly served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - much to our delight but our guide's chagrin.
During one conversation about food, our guide Putu lamented the lack of diverse dishes in their diet:
"Nasi goreng for breakfast. Nasi goreng for lunch. Nasi goreng for dinner. Any time is Nasi goreng time", he said half-heartedly.
Served with a warm fried egg, and you have a yummy, filling, and healthy breakfast.
2. Bananas and Black Rice in Coconut Milk
Rice is one of the most common foods in all the world and only a small amount is the traditional white rice you may be used to. If you like rice but haven't had black rice, you're in for a treat. It's distinct dark color is the color of eggplant and has a nice nutty flavor. For breakfast, in Bali you'll find it served warm or room temperature and slightly al dente, with sliced bananas and coconut milk. Fresh island flavors all rolled up in a warm, soupy bowl of goodness!
3. Banana Pancakes (Crepe)
The first morning I tried the Banana Pancake, I was quite surprised when it arrived. Not only was the 'pancake' paper thin like a crepe, but it was topped with bananas sliced so thin you could probably see through them! On top of that, it was dotted with a gooey brown sugary jam and toasted coconut.
Slicing foods super thin allows you to experience the flavor more fully, apparently, like when slicing garlic. The more surface area you have, the more opportunity there is to taste the flavor - and that was certainly the case here. This dish exploded with banana flavor and the toasted coconut added the right touch of sweetness and texture. The mild crepe made for a perfect balance.
The second pancake version was made a tad thicker and folded over in quarters. Same yummy flavors, served with a sliced sour lime and sweet maple syrup on the side.
4. Kalimantan Banana
Fried bananas, or Kalimantan banana, is a popular breakfast dish in Bali among locals, but tourists seem to love them too. I saw them everywhere from roadside stands to nice restaurants.
Sometimes they're sliced, prepared, and presented in different ways from banana fritters to slender fried planks. But they're almost always served when still warm with a good hot cup of coffee. Mmm!
5. Bubar Ayam
And now, for my favorite breakfast dish of all -- Bubar Ayam. Like "Sam, I Am", the name reminds me of the fun Dr. Suess dish in Green Eggs and Ham, but any such comparisons end there.
Indonesian for "chicken congee", Bubar Ayam is a warm, mildly soupy rice porridge - not too thick, not too thin - just right! It is typically prepared with shredded chicken meat and condiments such as chopped scallion and crispy fried shallots on top of the rice, and sometimes served with celery, preserved salted vegetables, or chicken broth over the top. But the pièce de résistance is the large garnish of puffed chicken skin resting on top! Unlike many other Indonesian dishes, Bubar Ayam is mild and comforting - like chicken soup for the soul!
Surprisingly yummy, Bubar Ayam is one of my favorite dishes in Indonesia. Give it a try if you go - you and your tummy will thank me later!
Where to Stay in Bali
Heading to Indonesia soon and looking for where to stay in Ubud? We had a wonderful stay at Alam Shanti and Alam Indah, sister properties in Nyuhkuning village near the Monkey Sanctuary Forest, and just steps from downtown Ubud. The properties are so affordable, and so gorgeous! Plus, most of the food pics here are from meals we enjoyed at both hotels. Check availability and rates for them here.
These are just a few breakfast dishes in Bali. What have you eaten there or in other islands of Indonesia? Tell me and I'll add it to my list for the next time I go!