Food for Thought: Breakfast in Bali

As if you needed one more reason to love the island of Bali, here's another four for your mind and tummy to contemplate.

 

Sarapan. Indonesian for breakfast

 

I must admit, the cuisine of Bali wasn't my favorite that I've had in my travels. I had only heard of two iconic Balinese dishes 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 meat eater/pork lover).

 

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 sauteed vegetable dishes 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 say cuss words!) that I just couldn't get around. 

Our breakfast at the beautiful Alam Shanti in Ubud - a welcoming sight first thing in the morning

But breakfast in Bali was another story entirely. 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 - 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!

 

Hungry yet? 

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.

They say slicing foods super thin allows you to experience the flavor more fully, like when slicing garlic. The more surface area you have, the more opportunity 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. Bubar Ayam

And now, for my favorite breakfast dish of them 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!

 

These are just a few breakfast dishes in Bali. What have you had there or in other parts of Indonesia?

Tell me - I'll add it to my list the next time I go!