Foodie Landmarks in Ubud, Bali (Indonesia) - Reviews
Not to be outdone by Anthony Bourdain, our first meal in Bali was perhaps Bali's most famous dish - at its most famous restaurant, suckling pig aka Babi Guling Ibu Oka.
Tourists and locals alike flock to this place. Most of the seats are lesehan, which means you sit on the floor (on a pillow), barefooted. Even then we had to wait 20 minutes or so to get seated.
The "babi guling special" comes with rice, suckling pig's meat, crispy skin, deep fried skin, blood sausage, and urap made with green beans.
This Rp.25,000 (~$2.50) plate is satisfaction incarnate. What makes Balinese suckling pig so special is that it had been stuffed with herbs and spices and cassava prior to roasting over an open flame, making it so full of flavor. The meat is still rightfully tender, and the meat is only the start of it. There's the oily crispy skin, and the delightfully crunchy fried skin, not to forget the chunky and flavorful blood sausage and the spicy vegetables.
One last meal in Bali took us back to Ubud. This time we visit the famous Bebek Bengil restaurant, a.k.a Dirty Duck Diner.
Bebek Bengil offers the option to dine on the balai-balai, the wooden sitting platforms available around the restaurant. You can, and probably should, reserve these platforms beforehand. We didn't, but after waiting a few minutes managed to score the best seats in the house, a small balai right next to the rice paddies.
We all got the famous crispy duck, Bebek Bengil, which was rather heftily priced by Indonesian standards at Rp.67,000 (about $6.70) a plate. Then again it is Bali and one always pays for great ambiance.
The duck was fried to a crisp in palm oil, after being seasoned with bay leaves, lime, ginger, galangal, coriander, and other herbs and spices.
Under that deliciously crispy skin was lean, but tender and full of flavor duck meat.
This was served with some urap made with green beans and bean sprouts cooked in coconut milk, galangal, and chili.
The urap had a nice flavor that accompanied the duck perfectly. We were also served some amazing house-made chili sauce made with chili, shrimp paste, onions, and other good stuff. Even I could not avoid dipping everything in that sauce.
Did you see many locals at Ibu Oka? On my last visit 6 months ago, the only locals I saw were tour guides accompanying tourists. My impression is that Ibu Oka had raised their prices so much in the last few years (I believe at least 2-2.5x) that they priced themselves out of reach of locals. I blame this at least partly on Tony Bourdain for introducing this place to the tourist crowd...
It's been a few years since I was last at Bebek Bengil, but I was less than impressed with the duck... and at Rp 67,000 you will find only tourists willing to pay for that...
I saw *some* locals although not that many at Ibu Oka. They have also tuned down their spiciness level, probably due to the amount of tourists. I heard there's a popular place called Chandra now that my friends seem to like. But yeah, I was taking my friends from the US who have all watched the Bourdain episode, so Ibu Oka was a must try. Still tasty though I must say :) Of course the last time before that that I went to Bali was 6 yrs ago so I expected the prices to go up.
Bebek Bengil is yes, terribly expensive for Indonesia. the portion was pretty small too. But I did love the ambiance. Luckily I am now making US income :p