Savoring Suckling Pig ~ Balinese Style: Tips on how to Dine

Babi Guling

 “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
~ Anthony Bourdain

Babi Guling

I’m game for trying the national dish wherever I travel, and making a point to taste babi guling, or suckling pig, while in Bali was on our list. This local dish was featured on Anthony Bourdains, No Reservations show on the Travel Channel. After seeing the episode we took his recommendation to have lunch at Ibu Oka, located on a side street in Ubud across from the Palace.  Once, just a place for the locals to get a quick, hot lunch, it has now become quite popular with tourists. Babi guling is served in roadside warungs (local food stalls) all over the island.

We arrived at Ibu Oka around noon. Adjacent to the sidewalk, in clear view of passers by, we watched two women without gloves or hairnets cut up the pig with huge cleavers and toss the meat into large pans and buckets while other workers assembled the orders for customers.  Hot, greasy work, I’m thinking. No grade “A” sanitation rating here.

Babi Guling

The place was crowded and there didn’t seem to be an organized way for seating people, so we independently positioned ourselves close to tables, on street level, inside the waist high wall and wait it out. We needed three seats together and we were ready to start grabbing.

Nothing like hovering over people while they are finishing up and asking them if the oinker was good and the usual “where are you from?” questions.  About five Japanese tourists are doing the same. I am hoping we all remain polite. It is extremely hot and humid which doesn’t help.

Ron is the first to grab a table and we share it with two others who are already seated, eating.

We immediately begin asking each other questions. “Where are you from? What did you order? Is it good? How long have you been in Bali? Where are you staying? Where have you toured? What restaurants would you recommend?”  Whew!

The woman tells us she is from the Philippines. Her partner is from Denmark but lives in Australia. We chattily exchange information on the above questions while waiting.

We order three babi guling combo platters and large Bintang Beers.

While waiting for the food, Ron goes over to the sink outside and washes up while Kim and I get out our hand sanitizer.

Babi Guling

People are crammed everywhere and those on the upper level have to leave their shoes off on the lower level and sit on the floor around low tables.

At least we’re at a normal size table… under a red Coca Cola umbrella… now watching the people who are perched along the wall adjacent to the sidewalk as they stare at us.

Babi Guling

Several homely dogs are wondering around the tables, sniffing our legs and waiting for someone to slip them some tasty morsel. Roosters crow near by and the ever constant sound of men yelling “taxi, taxi” to customers leaving this warung or restaurant adds to the character and confusion of this place.

Thankfully the beer comes first and then our combo platters. Spit roasted over wood and coconut husks in another location and brought to the warung on large planks, the inside of the suckling pig has been rubbed with a spice mixture of chilis, lemongrass, ginger, tumeric, coriander seeds, pepper and garlic. Sometimes candlenuts and shrimp paste are used. Our platter consisted of babi guling, rice, diced and cooked vegetables, highly seasoned with pieces of blood sausage added and cracklings, or crispy skin on the side. What a meal, all for less than $3.00. But I find myself sticking to the rice and pork. Although, greasy, the suckling pig is very tasty and definitely well seasoned. However, the blood sausage just doesn’t add anything and the cracklings still have hair attached and impossible for me to chew.

Truly a local custom.

Our table partners leave, and two young guys who have been hovering over us unhesitatingly take their seats. They are backpackers from Great Britain and just now arrived in Ubud and wanted to check out this favorite lunch spot. Only in town for a day, they ask us if we have been to the Sacred Monkey Forest. We tell them about our experience and recommend they go.

As we say goodbye, three young Asians claim our seats who have been patiently waiting for us to leave.

While paying our bill, two young men clad in sarongs and t-shirts part the crowds as they ceremoniously walk in, carrying yet another suckling pig. Probably the 8th one for the day.

Babi Guling

Move over Anthony Bourdain.

I’ve traveled. I’ve written. And I’ve eaten babi guling.

For more on Bali see http://ronmayhewphotography.com/portfolio/galleries/travel/Bali/

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About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
This entry was posted in Bali, Musings, Recipes ~ Food, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Savoring Suckling Pig ~ Balinese Style: Tips on how to Dine

  1. Kim Demien says:

    Wonderfully written description of our lunch experience! I had forgotten about the blood sausage – perhaps because I too didn’t think much of it compared to the chopped pork. But what a great time we had!

  2. My only experience was a friends’s effort to recreate this wonderful dish. What a treat!

  3. I love roast pig…in Hawaii, we call it Kalua Pig and we cook it underground (imu) or huli-huli (rotating above the heat, above ground). My husband tried babi guling while we were in Bali, and I had a taste of his…soooo good! We didn’t get to see them roast it though…that would’ve been neat. Thanks for sharing, and once again bringing memories of Bali back! :)

    • I have had roast pig in Hawaii and loved it.Thanks, Desiree for reminding me. The Anthony Bourdain link on my blog shows how they do it Balinese style. Quite different. But it’s all good and glad this brought back memories.

  4. eof737 says:

    This is a wonderful share… and I love Bourdain’s show so I was right there with you sampling the fare. ;-) Thank you for checking in during the Hurricane… your kind wishes were appreciated!

  5. Wow, what an experience. The pig sounds great, but like you, I couldn’t eat the blood sausage, especially with the hair still on it!!! Yes, move over Anthony Bourdain!!

  6. Madhu says:

    Does give Anthony Bordain a run for his money! Sounds like a great meal all in all Lynne :-)

  7. One of those cultural, feast on all senses kind of experience. The first comment on this post is from our daughter who accompanied us. What a treat to get her input. I understand Bourdain has left the Travel Channel and going elsewhere. Probably more $$. :)

  8. vb holmes says:

    As always, beautiful photos with well-written copy (however, I’m with you when it comes to food with hair on it).

  9. adinparadise says:

    Great account of your lunch experience Lynne I think the “hairs attached” would have put me off the crackling too. :)

  10. Thanks Adin. It was a memorable experience. Actually, Ron ate his cracklings and didn’t object. Go figure.

  11. Amazing details and pictures, Lynne. I love the way you describe your experiences.

  12. I’ve always been the story teller in the family which has become my travel writing style. Thanks for your visit and your comment, Marilyn. Indeed, this was an adventure in eating.

  13. Great blog and pictures Lynne! :)

  14. Thanks for your visit and your comment. This was an adventure in eating.

  15. Your travels sound exciting and savory. I am adventurous, but I am limited with many cultural foods, as I don’t eat meat. I wonder how thin I’d become going through many of these meat eating countries.

    • Actually, you wouldn’t have any problems with a vegetarian diet in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The food is rice based and yes, while exotic, they use meat sparingly. However, we enjoyed our eating experience with the suckling pig. Thanks for your visit and your comment.

  16. Your post and photos brings back many memories of my travels in Indonesia. I loved Ubud but didn’t venture to any local restaurants — so I didn’t see any suckling pig ceremonies! Hearing about the roosters near by made me think of how the roosters and chickens ran around me while I took a batik course from a local one day. Great post! Anthony would approve!

  17. I would have loved to have taken a batik course. That’s great that you did…roosters and all. They are everywhere. Thanks for your visit and I’m pleased this post brought back fond memories.

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