Food is very important part of travelling. If you are at least a little bit like me, probably one of the first things you do after deciding on your next travel destination is checking “what can I eat there?”. Some countries, especially Asian countries, may be somewhat challenging for vegetarians. Believe me, Bali is not one of those places.
Of course most of the vegetarian blogs and articles will direct you to Ubud, which is kind of a mecca for yogins, vegans and vegetarians, but what if it is not your destination and you will stay in Candidasa, Amed or just travel around the island? Does it mean you have to eat the plain rice and snack on bananas? Absolutely no!
Below you can find some great vegetarian (actually even vegan) dishes that will be easy to get in most of the warung – restaurant in Bali. Being a vegetarian in Bali is easier than you think!
Balinese version of this popular Asian dish is based on coconut milk, thus can be a little sweet sometimes, however if you ask for a little bit spicy you will get perfect combination of sweet & hot. You can also ask for some “sambal” on the side to spice it up even more. One of my favourite types is Tofu-Tempeh Curry. Fried tofu is crunchy outside and soft inside and tempeh is soaked through with the coconut flavour. In most places the curry is made with very “basic” vegetables like carrot, potato, cauliflower, haricot or cabbage, but in some restaurants you can find the versions with pumpkin, or even a jackfruit.
So funny thing about the jackfruit.. Me, Greg and our friend from Japan went to one of our favourite restaurants in Amed for a dinner. She is also a vegetarian, so we often discuss our choices and ask each other for advice before ordering. She was eager to try a jackfruit curry they were serving. – “Yeah, that’s a great choice” – I decided, after I remembered how I’d fallen in love with jackfruit during the backpacking in Sri Lanka few years earlier. So we got our amazing portions of coconut smelling curry, served in a coconut shells with a coconut rice alongside (rice mixed with coconut shreds) – yes they can add coconut literally to everything here 🙂 ; and we dug into it with excitement. I was happily chewing on my jackfruit, when I heard the shout of my startled friend “there’s a meat in my curry!!!”. “No way, where?” – I was not so happy anymore and stopped the spoon in the midway to my mouth. “That’s not a meat, silly…. it is a jackfruit!” – I laughed.
If you don’t believe it, look at the pictures below. This little cheater can really deceive you.
The price for the curry may vary depending on the place, but usually it is between 25 – 50 IDR (about 2-4 $)
NASI CAMPUR (mixed rice)
It is basically a portion of white rice accompanied by tempeh fried with onion and garlic in a sweet soy sauce and salad. Sometimes some tofu is fried along with the tempeh, when you ask for a vegetarian version. You may be surprised by size of your dish too. It happened to me already few times that I received much bigger portion of tempeh and salad than my omnivore companions. Probably the cook tried to “compensate” me for lack of meat or fish 🙂 Make sure however that you inform the waiter if you want the egg with your nasi campur, as the standard version of this dish goes with a fried or boiled egg, and you are sure to get it if you don’t order otherwise.
So now, people who have never been to Indonesia before may ask what it is this tempeh thing? I have never heard of it before I arrived to Bali, though I am a vegetarian for more than fifteen years already. Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian product made of fermented soy beans. It’s structure is quite soft, but if marinated and fried, it becomes deliciously crunchy on the outside while tender and moist inside. In western vegetarian and vegan cuisine it is treated as a substitute of meat, because of it’s high content of protein and vitamins. For Indonesian it is a traditional product widely used in their everyday cooking, not necessarily connected with vegetarianism.
Price between 25 – 50 IDR (about 2-4 $).
MIE GORENG (fried noodles)
It is not difficult to eat the rice at least twice a day in Bali. I like rice. It is wholesome and tasty. Sometimes however, after being in Bali for more than two months, I feel that if I see a single grain of rice again on my plate I will go crazy. Fortunately there are always noodles to save my day. Mie goreng is one of the most popular, cheap and quick to prepare dishes. Noodles are fried with garlic, shallots and chilies with addition of kecap manis – sweet and thick sauce made of fermented soybeans. This is a basis that gives this dish typical sweet and slightly spicy taste. Normally some chopped carrot, haricot and cabbage are added too. My favourite variation is with addition of crispy fried tofu on top.
Price between 25 – 50 IDR (about 2-4 $).
NASI GORENG (fried rice)
Similar dish to above mentioned mie goreng but instead of noodles there is rice again. You can order nasi goreng to go (packed in a greaseproof paper) in many small “shops”, where the kitchen is hidden in the backroom. Again the basis consists of fried garlic and onions with chilly, but the taste is usually less sweet and more spicy than mie goreng.
If it is your first time in Bali, ask for a mild version of mie goreng or nasi goreng. If you like the spicy food, ask for a little spicy. You can always order some additional sambal if you think that it is not hot enough, but if you ask for a very spicy dish you may be surprised..
Oh, and one more thing.. If you don’t see any option suitable for you in the menu of the local warung, as only nasi campur or mie goring listed is with ayam – chicken, or babi – pork, don’t be shy and ask for a vegetarian portion. Balinese people are very understanding when it comes to other peoples’ beliefs and food choices, and most of the time they are really willing to help you.
All of above dishes are actually even vegan.