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The Distinctive Flavors of Bali - An interview with Alila Manggis Bali

by Handayani

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Unless you have been living under a rock, chances are, you’ve heard of Bali, one of the world’s most renowned and popular tropical destinations. To quote the Lonely Planet, the preferred go-to-guide for travelers around the globe: “The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a paradise. It's more than a place; it's a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind”.

Most people are probably aware that aside from its gorgeous beaches and serene paddy fields, Bali has a unique culture and traditions that can often only be found on the island. What you may not already know is that one of the most important aspects of the Balinese culture is its distinctive and delicious food! In an effort to further our knowledge on Balinese cuisine, the BookCulinaryVacations.com team recently chatted with Handayani of Alila Manggis Bali, a picturesque boutique hotel located in East Bali which offers and specializes in authentic Balinese culinary holidays to find out a whole lot more! Intrigued? Read on!


1.It is often said that in order to truly immerse oneself in a foreign culture, one must experience the local dishes. Do you believe this to be true of Balinese culture? 

Yes, I believe that this is definitely true as there are many Balinese foods that people should to taste and try. The local flavors represent the unique personality and culture of Balinese people especially when it comes to their cooking techniques as well as the ingredient which they use to prepare local dishes are often different than other cuisines.


Balinese dishes are unique in its flavors and presentation


2.As a part of Indonesia, a country with a vast diversity of culture, how do the Balinese dishes differ from the rest? Are there special spices that one must use when cooking Balinese dishes? 

The Balinese cuisine is very much different compared to other cuisines found in Indonesia. This is mostly because we use “Basa Gede” as our main and basic ingredient that can only be found in Balinese cuisines. 

Also known as “Basa Rajang”, this spice paste forms the foundation of many Balinese dishes. We simply cannot make Balinese food without it! The core ingredients used to make “Basa Gede” is made up of garlic, red chili peppers, Asian shallots, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, palm sugar, cumin, shrimp paste and “salam” leaves (a type of bay leaves commonly found in Indonesia).

Another popular ingredient that punctuates Balinese dishes is the “Basa Genep”, which is the typical Balinese spice mix that is used as the base for many curry and vegetable dishes.

Aside from that, there are also other popular condiments like the “Bumbu” (seasoning) often used as a marinade, “Tabia lala manis”, which is a thin soy sauce with chili peppers, and “Sambal Matah”, which makes up the Balinese cuisines. These are the unique ingredients that can solely be found in the Balinese dishes.


Balinese cuisine uses different spices mixed together as the base for its dishes 


3.Like many other tropical destinations, it often gets humid and hot in Bali, what Balinese dessert(s) would you recommend one should consume to keep cool?

To keep cool, we recommend you to dig into the Balinese black rice pudding, also known as the “Bubur Injin Bali”. This is one of Bali’s most famous authentic desserts. In the past, it was always included within the breakfast menu of most of the simple guesthouses around the island.

Traditionally served as an in-between snack, its glossy black color and its rich chocolate flavors make it both intriguing and alluring, especially when enjoyed on a hot day. This dish also contains white rice that is cooked together with black rice in order to create a more interesting texture. It gives a little softness to contrast with the chewiness of the black rice grains. The smoky roasted coconut is the final touch and is a divine element to this special dessert.

You can usually find this pudding for sale at simple food stalls at the local market, along with other syrup-porridge-like treats during the day. This dessert is often perceived as comforting dish especially to mothers and grandmothers, who are the experts of all that is “sugar and spice, and everything nice.” 


The famous Bubur Injin Bali, great to cool off on a hot day! Image credit: Trip Advisor.


4.Dubbed the "Island of the Gods", Bali is renowned for its rich culture. Aside from experiencing its delicious cuisine, what are the top sites and activities that one simply must make time for when in Bali?

When you are here, you need to make time to try out various popular water sports such as snorkeling, surfing, rafting, water boom, sea walking, diving, kite surfing, parasailing or canyon tubing. You can also try trekking, cycling, ATV rides, paint ball games along with many more fun activities that suit your interests!

In terms of culture, we suggest you to visit Bali’s many “must experience” sites which are: Uluwatu Temple-Pura Luhur, Pura Tanah Lot, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Ubud, Party at Kuta Beach, dolphin sightseeing at Lovina, private beach at Nusa Dua beach, and hike/climb at Mount Batur Kintamani. 

Last but not least, in order to get the true Balinese experience, we recommend you to combine all aspects of Bali that we’ve discussed earlier: food, sun, and fun! At Alila Manggis, we offer plenty of holiday packages such as our 15 Days Ulimate Culinary Vacation, that will enable you to make the most of your time on our beautiful island. 


Have yourself an unforgettable culinary vacation with Alila Manggis Bali


Thank you for taking the time to check out this article! To read more great content on food, wine and travel, please visit our blog section. If you'd like to take a peek at the variety of culinary holidays, vacations and getaways we have on offer, feel free to peruse through the scrumptious choices here!

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