Category Archives: Food of the Gods

Seafood in Bali: Bounty of the Ocean (Part Three)

Miguel Covarrubias burrowed through traditional Balinese religious mythology to extrapolate and paint a cultural portrait of an isolated, island land mass haunted and tortured by impure fish and profane seas. Subsequent historians, cultural anthropologists, travel writers, and chefs echoed Covarrubias’s thesis that the omen-vigilant Balinese eschew fish in their diet. Although the sea is universally regarded with deep suspicion, the Balinese take full advantage of the rich protein bounty of their surrounding oceanic resources. Thousands of tons of edible fish are netted each year in Bali: ninety percent of the catch consists of ocean fish. Seventy percent of this ocean ... [ Read More ]

Seafood in Bali: Bounty of the Ocean (Part Four)

Embedded deep in the heart of maritime Indonesia, (a tropical, equatorial archipelago of over 17,000 islands), the Balinese depend on fish (ikan) and seafood as a major source of food–especially those living on or near the coasts. Seasonal fresh fish (bonitos, small tunas, sardines, and mackerel) are readily available and relatively cheap compared to meat–providing simple, delicious meals for Balinese families. The Balinese grill and eat freshly killed fish immediately: available in the coastal markets and in the capital of Denpasar at the huge Pasar Badung, it is iced, salted, sold, and cooked within hours of being caught. On the ... [ Read More ]

Seafood in Bali: Bounty of the Ocean. Part Two

Benevolent bright sunlight, crystal clear waters, and coral reefs surround Bali’s three, nearby sister islands Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Penida: these conditions create a spectacular, natural marine and sea life aquarium bursting with tropical life forms. Sea cucumbers (trepang), giant clams, reef sharks, thresher sharks, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, eagle rays, mola mola (ocean sunfish), starfish, anemone fish, sponges, and blue marlin are all spotted or netted in these warm, tropical, Badung Straits waters bracketing Bali. Fishing is a new occupation in Nusa Lembongan, financially feasible only since the mid-1990s when the introduction of the seaweed ... [ Read More ]

The Bulbous Balinese Pig and Babi Guling. Part 1

Rural village Balinese share their bountiful island paradise with barnyard and farm animals raised and husbanded for food (meat, eggs, milk), other by-products, labor, and sacrificial culinary splendor. Pigs, in particular, provide meat for dietary variation and for special, ritual offering dishes for traditional ceremonies. The Balinese pig is a breed unto itself: “it belongs to a monstrous variety that surely exists nowhere else. An untamed descendant of the wild hog, it has an absurd sagging back and an enormous, fat, protruding stomach that drags on the ground like a drooping sack suspended loosely from its bony hips and shoulders.” ... [ Read More ]

Satay in Diversity: The Balinese Twist. Part One

Succulent, smoking satay sticks keep every corner of the wicked world turning: each country and continent invents its own unique interpretation of the seductive saté (the French brochette, Japanese yakitori, Korean bulgoki, Indian tandoori, Russian shashlik, South African sosaties, and Middle Eastern, Turkish shish kebab). Satay, derived from the Tamil word for flesh, sathai, is grilled, marinated chicken, beef, fish, goat, mutton, or other types of meat: Indonesia boasts a large catalogue of saté formats, meat combinations, and regional saté specialties, differentiated by indigenous local cooking styles and native ingredients. Living in the ever-present shadow of brooding, active volcanoes, the ... [ Read More ]

The Bulbous Balinese Pig: From Secular Sausages to Sacred Offerings. Part 4

Bali’s best-loved food–babi guling–owes its romantic (and religious) reputation to the long cooking process required and to the convoluted, doting family care of the livestock. It routinely appears on the menu as a festive food for such important childhood ritual occasions as the ground-touching ceremony at three months of age (and the otonan at1 year of age). The ground-touching ceremony celebrates and marks the first time that a baby is allowed to come in contact with the ground. This well-attended—and mandatory–ceremony is carried out to protect the baby from disease and danger. A small suckling pig is always ordered for ... [ Read More ]

The Bulbous Balinese Pig and Babi Guling. Part 3

Pork features prominently in the devout, devotional Balinese diet: a large proportion of ceremonial dishes are based on pork meat. A spectacular, popular Balinese delicacy, babi guling (literally “turned meat”) is whole, spit-roasted suckling pig–although the pigs used are technically too old to be considered suckling (from three to six months in age). More than mere, holy haute cuisine, babi guling (be guling celeng in Balinese) is an important window into Balinese history, religion, tradition, and culture. Prepared more to honor the gods than for personal eating relishment, classic babi guling is the island’s favorite, unofficial “national dish.” An ever-observant ... [ Read More ]

The Bulbous Balinese Pig and Ceremonial Food Slaughter. Part 2

Food sustains all life—it takes on the ragged garb of raw survival in the Third World, upgrades itself into a source of sustenance in the Second World, and is a personal path to health, well-being, and pleasure in the developed First World. In sharp social and economic contrast, scarce food resources in Bali are primarily diverted towards spirituality: food is the traditional, chosen way to contact, please, and honor the deities. Divinely cognizant of God, duty, and religion, the ritual-driven Balinese celebrate the cyclical thanksgiving feast of Galungan every 210 days. One of the most important holidays on the Balinese ... [ Read More ]

Satay in Diversity: The Balinese Twist. Part Two

Regal saté lilit (rambat in Balinese) is a time-consuming, indigenous Balinese specialty utilizing the choicest cuts of pounded pork, chicken, seafood, or duck. Prepared as an offering, it is usually only made for religious celebrations (Galungan-Kuningan, mass cremations, toothfilings, or weddings)–when lots of time, labor, and large amounts of meat, spices, and shredded coconut are available. Seafood saté lilit (lilit means to twist or wind around) starts out as a pasty, multiple-fish mixture of fresh chopped snapper, tuna, mackerel, swordfish, or mujair (a kind of white water fish), raw prawns, coconut milk, seafood spice paste, sea salt, chillies, kaffir lime ... [ Read More ]

Seafood in Bali: Bounty of the Ocean (Part Five)

Very simple, rustic, seafood warungs are set up along the east coast beaches selling fish sate lilit and other jukung-fresh seafood dishes (served with beans, spicy homemade sambal, and rice) to local Balinese customers. Warungs at Goa Lawah in Karangasem Regency serve a coastal feast of fragrant dishes such as steamed fish parcels, fish satay, and spicy, piquant fish soup (ikan mekuah). The fishing village of Kusamba is known for such local specialties as fish satay, ikan pepes (a spicy fish concoction wrapped and steamed in banana leaves), and ikan mekuah (native and particular to the Kusamba region, it is ... [ Read More ]