[Your blogger – me – has gone outer island and is without Internet access, oh blessed pixel-free, byte-less bliss. This is a scheduled post]
Our friend from America wanted to try some authentic Balinese cuisine. My wife and I were somewhat dubious, for she was a woman who ate granola for breakfast and who traveled with alcohol wipes that she used with abandon. But she insisted. We took her to Warung Adi, a local hole in the wall that serves traditional Balinese ayam betutu, or spiced roasted chicken, figuring we could ask the Ibu to hold back on the real spicy stuff. Our friend took one look at the serving girls, who were plucking portions from whole cooked chicken and other dishes, and said with horror, “They’re using their bare fingers! And the food isn’t even refrigerated!”
This is a typical tourist response to local eateries. A tourist sit-down restaurant, with plated food prepared back in the kitchen, is considered more hygienic. The truth is, who knows how long that food’s been sitting in a fridge? How it’s being handled? At the popular local eateries,,\ the food is bought fresh every morning from the market and from the fisherman’s dawn catch. No salmonella or listeria has had a chance to settle in. As for bare hands, why is metal considered cleaner?
Anyway, for traveling surfers who want to adventure off the KFC and McD track, here are some pre and post surf local eateries in the Sanur area (my neck of the woods).
1. Early mornings, on your way to the surf, keep an eye out for makeshift roadside stalls that serve jajan, local cakes and tarts that in no way resemble Dunkin Donuts but are just as sweetly delicious, or nasi bungkus, a popular local breakfast of yellow or white rice with accompaniments that you select, dished out onto a paper wrapper (used to be banana leaf) and then wrapped and stapled for takeaway. My favorite is the lady who runs a stall on Jalan Danau Buyan right in front of the Circle K. She’s usually sold out by 8 a.m. Rp 5000 or so, depending on dishes selected.
2. Another popular breakfast spot is Ibu Weti’s warung at the beach end of Jalan Segara (south of Grand Bali Beach). Every morning at 7 or so you will see locals patiently waiting at sidewalk tables for Ibu Weti’s staff to arrive with her tubs of food, specializing in traditional Balinese ayam betutu and all the fixings. There’s no menu ordering, wait your turn, the serving staff will get around to you. Sold out by ten or so. Caution: the food is for local taste buds so is spicy hot!
3. Warung Adi, on Jalan Danau Buyan across from the Pande Putri supermarket, specializes in ayam betutu and satay lilit. More of a lunch place. You can eat there or order take-away. I ask for the Rp 15,000 bungkus, which nicely fills my empty after-surf stomach. Again: hot!
4. Mak Beng’s, at the beach end of Jalan Hangtuah, right there by the Sanur righthander, is famous for fried fish & hot sambal sauce, served with rice, along with fish head soup that is prepared with traditional spices. Used to be a quiet local eating spot–Mak Beng, a wizened & friendly Balinese matron took early expat surfers of the 70s and 80s under her wing, let them store their boards and use her toilet and shower. Now Mak Beng’s place is packed to the gills come lunch time, and is on the trendy “must eat” place for Javanese tourists during their holidays. Sit down if there’s a space and wait to be served. You can eat the fried fish without touching the sambal sauce, a traditional recipe, but what’s the point? Like eating ribs without the barbecue sauce. Around Rp 30000 for a soup & fish meal.
5. Up the road from Ibu Weti, toward McD’s, Ibu Haji offers simple classic Javanese cuisine of chicken or goat satay (look for the guy flapping at the charcoal), served with delicious peanut sauce. She also serves gulé, a curry-style soup. Very tasty and inexpensive, and as added blessing to some tongues, the satay is not spicy.
6. Warung Babi Guling Sanur, across the Bypass from McDonald’s, is the place to go in Sanur for Bali’s signature dish of roast pig. Lunch and later.
7. Immediately south of McDonald’s (and it’s somewhat ironic I’m using the Golden Arches as a landmark point) is a seafood hole-in-a-hole-in-the wall joint that serves some of the tastiest mud crab you’ll ever eat. The critters are live. You get to choose before its wokked up, either in traditional sauce or chili sauce. An evening joint. Crab’s fairly expensive, but nowhere near what you’d pay at a tourist trap for the same dish.
8. On Jalan Danau Poso in South Sanur, close to several famous expat bars, are a couple equally famous (to locals) 24-hour nasi padang restaurants, such as Sari Bundo. A nasi padang restaurant is not a place for the faint-hearted vegetarian. Portions of various meats & fish in their various sauces are dished up and plopped down on your table, and you pay for what you choose to eat. Very tasty and filling.
9. Lastly, although this list is by no means comprehensive, I should mention Warung Ramen, across the street from Hardy’s. Another hole-in-the-wall, but this one authentic Japanese, serving delicious ramen soup with real egg noodles. Pricy at 50000 or so, but after an all-morning surf in the blazing sun, the iced towel they give you is a touch of heaven.