The staple food of Bali is white,
polished rice. Nowadays cooked rice (nasi) is of the fast growing "green-revolution"
variety found everywhere in Asia. The traditional Balinese rice (beras
Bali) tastes better, but is restricted to a few areas and is now mainly
used as a ritual food. Other, less frequently grown varieties, are red
rice (beras barak), black rice (ketan injin), sticky rice (ketan) and
a type of dry rice (padi gaga) grown in the mountains. Rice consumption
averages 0.5 kilo per day.
Many local vegetables grow in a semi-wild
state. These include the leaves of several trees and shrubs, varieties
of beans (including soybeans), water spinach (kangkung), the bulbs and
leaves of the cassava plant, sweet potatoes, maize, etc. ne flower and
trunk of the banana tree, young jackfruits (nangka), breadfruits (sukun,
timbul) and papayas may also be cooked as vegetables. Foreign vegetables
such as cabbage and tomatoes are now commonly found also.
Though they form a major part of the
diet, vegetables are considered low-status; high status foods are rice
and meat. Because it expensive, however, meat is reserved for ritual
occasions. Surprisingly, fish plays a relatively minor role as a source
of protein. Though the seas surrounding Bali are rich, the Balinese
are not avid fishermen, as the sea is considered dangerous and impure.
Some tourist restaurants present special
Bali nights, featuring dishes such as suckling pig, a Balinese banquet
favorite. Unless you are invited to dine with a local family, these
special events may be your only way to sample the true Balinese cuisine.
Almost every restaurant will serve nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice
with a fried egg on top) and mie goreng (fried noodles with egg). These
basic dishes are generally the favorites amongst tourists and travellers.
Vegetarian versions may be requested. Another
Indonesian favorite is satay (spicy marinaded thin slices of meat, threaded
onto a skewer, barbecued, and served with a spicy peanut sauce). Satay
ayam is chicken served in the same way.
The distinctive flavor of Balinese
cuisine derives from a sambal condiment and spice mixtures. A standard
mixture will include shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, galangal, cardamom
and red peppers ground together in varying proportions depending on
the recipe. A distinctive flavor is also imparted by strong-smelling
shrimp paste (trasi) and chopped cekuh root.
The usual drink served with Balinese
food is water or tea. Apart from this, there are three traditional alcoholic
drinks - drops of which are sprinkled onto the earth during rituals
to appease the bhuta or negative forces. Tuak (or sajeng) is a mild
beer made from the juice of palm flowers. 'Me flower is tapped in the
afternoon, the juice collected overnight in a suspended container, and
the next morning it is fermented and ready to drink.
Arak or sajeng rateng ('straight sajeng')
is 60 to 100 proof liquor distilled from palm or rice wine. It is basically
colorless, but may have a slight tint from the addition of ginger, ginseng,
turmeric or cloves. Brem is a sweet, mildly fermented wine made from
red or white sticky rice. Yeast is added to the cooked rice, which is
wrapped and after about a week liquid squeezed from it is ready to drink.