Bali is full of beach clubs experience and fine, luxury dining and it’s very easy to simply indulge and splurge on food alone. No one can blame you—with the rich, extensive options Bali has to offer when it comes to food and dining, not many could resist, even those who claimed to travel on a backpack. However, often times the splurge is due to lack of knowledge on what and where to spend when it comes to local food. Balinese, and Indonesians in general, don’t eat at places like Potato Head or La Laguna on every other weekend when dining out, of course, unless they’re rich and willing to spend. If you’re serious about experiencing Bali like a local, eating like one is one of them. Budget your food spending under 5 USD per day (under 50,000 – 60,000 IDR); this would be a pleasant challenge, especially if you spend over a week in the paradise island.
The most essential basics when it comes to enjoying your food like a local in Bali
Nasi Jinggo is a popular dish originated in Bali. Sold on the streets as well as in warungs, this dish used to be priced at 1,500 IDR per serving before the 1997 economic crisis. In Southern Min Chinese dialect, Hokkien, the namesake of the dish, “jinggo” or “jenggo” means “1,500”. These days, nasi jinggo is often priced at 3,500 to 5,000 IDR. Still one of the cheapest dishes you can find. Nasi Jinggo often uses yellow rice instead of the common white rice, served with fried noodles, spiced shredded coconut, spiced chicken shreds, wrapped in coconut leaves. You might want to double or triple your servings as nasi jinggo portions are customarily small. Best eaten when hot!
Over seventy percent of the residents of Bali is Hindu, but you can find warung muslim at almost every other corner of the road. A lot of warung muslims are open for 24 hours. The main dish offered at warung muslim is Nasi Campur, literally means “mixed rice”. They will give you rice, then ask you to chose from the variety of buffet dishes they have in a glass display. Chicken, satay, fried tofu, varieties of sauces, and so forth. They serve halal food, so no alcohol—though places in Bali are known to be more lenient compared to most parts of Indonesia, so if you’re lucky, you might find cans or bottles of Bintangs in their fridge. Warung Muslim is a staple to most locals because of the variety of food they offer as well as the affordability for the locals.
The popular Indonesian meatball soup dish, sold by vendors in pushing carts on the streets. You’ve got to try Bakso as they originally are—street food, and stationed carts, not in some fancy, overpriced restaurants. A bowl of bakso could easily fill you up. Prices averaged on 5,000 IDR. If you spend a 10K (less than 1 USD) on your bowl of bakso, you’re already getting a complete, super filling serving with a generous portion of vegetables and even some tofu.
A lot of “Rumah Makan” offers West Sumatran cuisines—everywhere in Indonesia, it’s easy to spot Rumah Makan Padang. They offer ready to eat meals that’s rich with flavors; coconut milk being one of the key ingredients for the seasonings and broth of a range of Padang cuisines. Padang style chicken curry plus daun ubi (cassava leaves) as the vegetable usually cost you less than 20,000 IDR. It’s one of the culinary must-try as Padang cuisines are one of the most well-known dishes popular throughout Indonesia, and you’ll find them in an abundance in Bali.
Shop at Traditional Markets
If you want to take your “do it like a local” journey a step further and decide to cook your very own Indonesian meals, then head to your closest traditional market! A lot of traditional markets open very early in the morning, as early as 3 to 4 am until 11 am to 12 pm. Some vegetable vendors might already be sold out at 9 am though, so make sure to set your alarm and hunt for excellent bargains early! Traditional markets are characterized by the open-air space and the lack of rooms/dividers between vendors. Vendors commonly sell and put their items on a table. Vegetables, fruits, and even some clothes and sandals are available at the traditional market, on a much cheaper price, and if you know some Bahasa, you can even try to bargain. Whole chicken of approximately 1 kilogram is priced at the range of 40,000 IDR, less or more.
Know Your Local Supermarkets
What we meant by local supermarkets are not “Papaya” or “Pepito” that you often find in Kuta and Legian area and in department store. What we meant by local supermarkets are those that are not located in a touristy area and not established targeting tourists or expats. One of the most popular establishments in Denpasar is Tiara Dewata. There’s also Lotte Mart, a large garage-like building located at the South of Denpasar Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai; possibly the cheapest in Bali when it comes to one-stop, bulk grocery shopping. Another option is Hypermart. It can be found at Mall Bali Galeria Kuta. It’s noticeably more expensive to places like Tiara, but it could be considerably more convenient for you if you live in the Kuta area.