THE FOOD OF BALI
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.