Balinese Food Recipes

Balinese Food Recipes


There are very few serious Indonesian cookery books in print. The leading writer is Sri Owen, who was born in West Sumatra and lives in London. She has taught at Murni’s Warung and has stayed at Murni’s Houses.

Measurements and equivalents

The following recipes use Imperial measurements. Most Imperial units of measurement have the same names in the United States, but they are not all identical in measure! Weights are mostly equivalent but volume is not.

1 English teaspoon = approximately 1¼ US teaspoons.
1 English dessertspoon = approximately 23/4 US teaspoons.
1 English tablespoon = approximately 1¼ US tablespoons.
1 English teacup = 5 fluid ounces.
1 Imperial pint = 2½ US cups or 20 ounces.

To convert

Ounces to grams, multiply ounces by 25.35.
Grams to ounces, multiply grams by 0.035.
Litres to US quarts, multiply litres by 0.95.
US quarts to litres, multiply US quarts by 1.097.

Basic Ingredients

Lemon Grass: Sereh

This intensely fragrant herb is used to impart a lemon flavour to soups, seafood and meat dishes and spice pastes. It can also be used as a skewer for satés.

Cut off the roots and peel off the hard outer leaves; use only the tender bottom portion (15-20 cm / 6-8 in). If the lemon grass is not required sliced, it is normally hit a couple of times with the edge of a cleaver or a pestle to release the fragrance, and tied in a knot to hold it together during cooking.

Prawn Crackers (krupuk kedele)

Dried crackers made from soybean mixed with various types of flour are used as a garnish or eaten as a snack in Bali. They must be thoroughly dry before deep-frying in very hot oil for a few seconds, so that they puff up and become crisp.

Tamarind pulp (lunak)

The dark brown pod of the tamarind tree contains a sour fleshy pulp which adds a fruity sourness to many dishes. Packets of pulp usually contain the seeds and fibres.

To make tamarind juice, measure the pulp and soak it in hot water for 5 minutes before squeezing it to extract the juice, discarding the seeds, fibre and any skin.

Pandan leaf (daun pandan)

The fragrant leaf of a type pandanus is sometimes known as fragrant screwpine. It is tied in a knot and used to flavour desserts and cakes.

Krupuk melinjo

Dried crackers made from Gnetum gnemon fruit mixed with various types of flour are used as a garnish or eaten as a snack in Bali. They must be thoroughly dry before deep-frying in very hot oil for a few seconds, so that they puff up and become crisp.

Nutmeg (jebug garum)

Grate the whole nutmeg just before using as the powdered spice quickly loses its fragrance.

Garlic (kesuna)

Adjust the amount to suit your taste. Balinese garlic cloves are considerably smaller and less pungent than the garlic found in many Western countries.

Kaffir lime (lemo)

The most popular and also the most fragrant, the double leaf of this lime (don lemo) is often very finely shredded and added to minced fish, or left whole, and added to food cooked in liquid. Use kitchen scissors to ensure that the leaf iscut into hair-like shreds. If fragrant lime leaf is not available, use the zest of a lime or lemon.

The milder juice of a small round thin-skinned lime (juwuk lengis) is also used in Bali, as elsewhere in Southeast Asia. A large lime similar to those found internationally grows in Bali, and makes an acceptable substitute for the Kaffir lime. If limes are not available, use lemon juice.

Cinnamon (kayu manis)

The thick, dark brown bark of a type of cassia is used in Bali, rather than true cinnamon. The latter is far more subtle in flavor and considerably more expensive. Look for the bark rather than ground cinnamon.

Cardamom (kapulaga)

A straw-colored, fibrous pod encloses pungent black seeds. Each pod contains about 8-12 seeds; try to buy the whole pod rather than a jar of seeds as the flavor is more intense.

Kencur (cekuh)

Sometimes known as lesser galangal, the botanical name of this ginger-like root is Kaemferia galanga. It has a unique, pungent flavor and should be used sparingly.

Wash it and, if you’re fussy (most Balinese cooks aren’t) scrape off the skin before using. Dried sliced kencur or kencur powder can be used as a substitute. Soak dried slices in boiling water for 30 minutes; use 1/2 -1 teaspoon of powder for 2.5 cm (1in) fresh root.

Turmeric (kunyit)

A vivid yellow root of the ginger family, this has a very emphatic flavour. Scrape the skin before using. If fresh turmeric is not available, substitute 1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric for 2.5 cm / 1in of the fresh root.

To make turmeric water, peel about 20 cm (8in) of fresh turmeric root; slice finely and combine with 1 cup of water. Process in a blender until very fine, or pound the sliced turmeric in a mortar and then mix with water and let it stand for a couple of minutes. Strain through a sieve, pressing firmly with the back of a spoon to extract all the juice. Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

If fresh turmeric is not available, combine 4 tablespoons of powdered turmeric with 1 cup of water and mix well.

Steamed Rice

The Balinese eat rice at all meals and make it fresh every day. It is the basis of every meal. This is the traditional way of making rice, still followed, although the rice cooker is making inroads.

2 cups white rice


1. Put the rice in a large shallow basket.
2. Shake the basket to toss the rice into the air to get rid of the husks.
3. Wash the rice in cold water and drain.
4. Put the rice in a conical basket over a large pot filled with water and cover it with a terracotta lid.
5. Steam the rice for 30 minutes.
6. Place the rice in a bowl with 2 cups of hot water.
7. Allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb the water.
8. Return the rice to the steamer and cook for another 30 minutes to dry it out.
9. Do not add salt during the cooking. Put a separate bowl of salt, fried shallots, chopped chillies and coconut oil for guests to add to taste.

Basic recipes for condiments, sauces, stocks and spice pastes

Bawang Goreng – Fried Shallots

1. Peel and thinly slice 10-15 shallots.
2. Dry on a paper towel.
3. Heat about ¼ cup oil until moderately hot.
4. Add shallots and fry until golden brown.
5. Remove and drain thoroughly.
6. Store in airtight jar.

Kacang Goreng – Fried Peanuts

1. Heat 1 cup of oil until moderately hot.
2. Add 1 cup of shelled raw peanuts.
3. Fry for 2 minutes until crisp.
4. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt just before using.

Alternatively, packaged fried salted peanuts can be used.

Acar – Pickled Vegetables

1 small cucumber
1 medium-sized carrot
10-15 bird’s-eye chillies
6 shallots, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
pinch of salt


1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise.
2. Remove the seeds and cut in half crosswise. Cut into match-sticks.
3. Peel the carrot and cut the same size as the cucumber.
4. Combine water, sugar, vinegar and salt in a pan, bring to the boil, simmer 1 minute.
5. Cool.
6. Mix vegetables with the dressing and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
7. Serve at room temperature.

Sambal Sere Tabia – Fried Bird’s-Eye Chillies

1. Clean and discard the stems of about 25 bird’s-eye chillies.
2. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a wok or saucepan until smoking hot.
3. Crumble 1 1/2 teaspoons dried shrimp paste (terasi) and combine with ¼ teaspoon salt.
4. Add chillies, shrimp paste and salt to the oil.
5. Stir over heat for 1 minute.
6. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Tabia Lalah Manis – Chilli in Soya Sauce

1. Slice 15 bird’s-eye chillies and mix with ¼ cup each of sweet soya sauce (kecap manis) and thin soya sauce (kecap asin).
2. Do not store for long as this sauce can become sour.

Saur – Fried Shredded Coconut

1 cup finely grated fresh coconut or dessicated coconut, moistened with warm water
2 tablespoons chicken spice paste
11/2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon chopped palm sugar
a pinch of salt


1. Combine coconut with spice paste.
2. Heat oil in a wok, add coconut mixture and palm sugar and saute over low heat until the coconut turns golden brown.
3. Allow to cool before adding salt.
4. Store in an airtight container and it will keep fresh for several days.

Sambel Tomat – Tomato Sambal

This sambal can be deep-frozen. Served together with Sambel Matah, it makes and ideal accompaniment to grilled fish.

4 tablespoons oil
15 shallots, peeled and sliced
14 large red chillies, seeds removed, sliced
2 medium-sized tomatoes each cut in 6 wedges
2 teaspoons roasted dried shrimp paste
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice


1. Heat oil in a heavy saucepan or wok.
2. Add shallots and garlic and saute 5 minutes over low heat.
3. Add chillies and saute another 5 minutes.
4. Add tomato and shrimp paste and simmer another 10 minutes.
5. Add lime juice.
6. Put all ingredients in a food processor and purée coarsely.
7. Season to taste with salt.
8. Cool before use.

Sambel Matah – Shallots and Lemon Grass Sambal

15 shallots
4 cloves garlic, sliced finely
10-15 bird’s-eye chillies, sliced
5 fragrant lime leaves, cut in hair-like shreds
1 teaspoon roasted dried shrimp paste
4 stalks lemon grass, tender part only, very finely sliced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns, finely crushed
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup oil


1. Peel shallots and slice in half lengthwise, then cut in fine crosswise slices. Cutting them in this fashion ensures the slices do not separate into fine rings.
2. Combine with all other ingredients and mix thoroughly for a couple of minutes before serving with fish or chicken.

Base Satay – Satay Sauce

500g (1lb)raw peanuts, deep fried for 2 minutes
5 cloves garlic, peeled
6-10 bird’s-eye chillies
10cm (4 in) kencur root, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped palm sugar
2 liters (8 cups) fresh coconut milk
4 tablespoons sweet soya sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fried shallots


1. Comibine peanuts, garlic, chillies and kencur in a food processor and purée or grind coarsely in a stone mortar.
2. Put in heavy pan with coconut milk and sweet soya sauce.
3. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently to prevent the sauce from sticking, for 1 hour.
4. Add lime juice and sprinkle with shallots just before serving as a saté sauce.

Base Rujak – Rujak Sauce

6 tablespoons tamarind pulp
1 cup palm sugar syrup
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste, roasted
6 bird’s-eye chillies, left whole
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water


1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy pan and bring slowly to the boil.
2. Stir well and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. When cool, squeeze to extract all the juice from the tamrind and strain through a sieve.

Base Kacang – Peanut Sauce

This sauce is used as a dressing for vegetable salads or cooked vegetables.

500g (1lb) raw peanuts, deep-fried for 2 minutes
4 cloves garlic, peeled
8 cm (3 in) kencur root, peeled and coarsely chopped
10-15 bird’s-eye chillies, sliced
1/2 cup chopped palm sugar
1 1/2 litres (6 cups) water
1/2 cup sweet soya sauce
3 fragrant lime leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons fried shallots


1. Combine peanuts, garlic, kencur, and chillies and process or grind using a mortar and pestle until coarsely ground.
2. Put in a heavy pan with all other ingredients except lime juice.
3. Sprinkle with shallots just before serving.

Kuah siap – Chicken stock

To make beef, duck and pork stock, use same quantities but reduce simmering time for pork to 2 hours.

Makes 3 liters.

5 kg (11lb) chicken bones, chopped in 2 1/2 cm (1 in) pieces
1 1/2 cups of soup marinade
1 stalk lemon grass, lightly bruised
3 fragrant lime leaves
2 salam leaves
1 teaspoon black pepercorns, coarsely crushed
1 teaspoon salt


1. Rinse bones until water is clear.
2. Put in large saucepan with cold water to cover and bring to boil.
3. Drain water and wash bones again under running water.
4. Return bones to the pan, cover with fresh water and return to the boil.
5. Reduce heat and remove scum with a ladle.
6. Add all seasoning ingredients and simmer stock gently for 3-3 1/2 hours, removing scum as it accumulates.
7. Do not to cover the pan during cooking as it will make the stock cloudy.
8. Strain stock, cool and store in small containers in the deep freezer.

Santan – Coconut Milk

This is used in many Balinese recipes. The thickness is determined by how much coconut and water is used.

Coconut and warm water


1. Grate the coconut.
2. Put the grated coconut in a large bowl.
3. For each cup of grated coconut, add one cup of warm water.
4. Squeeze the coconut for a few minutes to release the milk.
5. Strain the coconut mixture and discard the grated coconut.

Base – Spice Paste

The basic seasonings used in Balinese cooking are known as base – pronounced bahseh. They can be prepared in advance and stored in a refrigerator for up to a week. They can also be divided into smaller quantities and deep-frozen.

If you are using a mortar and pestle, grind the dry spices such as pepper and coriander first, then add the hardest ingredients, the roots such as laos and kencur. When these are finely ground, add the shallots and chillies, then finally soft ingredients such as shrimp paste. If using a food processor, blend the dry spices first, then add all other ingredients, except the oil.

Base Gede – Basic Spice Paste

This basic marinade is used mainly to neutralise the strong flavour of duck, lamb or pork.

Makes about 2 cups.

25 shallots, peeled and chopped
12 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
7 large red chillies, seeded and chopped
5 cm (2 in) laos, peeled and chopped
5 cm (2 in) kencur root, peeled and chopped
10 cm (4 in) fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
6 candlenuts
2 teaspoons dried shrimp paste
1/2 teaspoons balck peppercorns
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 cloves
4 tablespoons oil


1. Pound or process all ingredients except oil as above.
2. Heat oil in wok or heavy pan, add all ingredients, and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes until the marinade turns golden.
3. Cool before use.

Base Be Sampi – Spice Paste for Beef

To maximise the flavor of meat, make sure it is thoroughly coated with this marinade and refrigerate for 24 hours before using.

10 shallots, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
5 cm (2 in) ginger root, peeled and chopped
10 cm (4in) laos, peeled and chopped
6 large red chillies, seeded and chopped
7 bird’s-eye chillies
10 candlenuts
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 salam leaves
4 tablespoons chopped palm sugar
4 tablespoon oil


1. Combine all ingredients except salam leaves and oil, place in food processor and grind coarsely
2. Heat vegetable oil in heavy saucepan or wok until very hot.
3. Add ground ingredients together with salam leaves and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until marinade changes to golden colour.
4. Set aside and cool before use.

Base Be Siap – Spice Paste for Chicken

14 shallots, peeled
26 cloves garlic, peeled
2 1/2 cm (1in) kencur root, peeled and chopped
4 cm (1 1/2 in) laos, peeled and chopped
10 candlenuts
12cm (5in) fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons chopped palm sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 stalks lemon grass, bruised
2 salam leaves
10 bird’s-eye chillies, finely sliced


1. Put shallots, garlic, kencur, laos, candlenuts, turmeric and palm sugar into a food processor and grind coarsely.
2. Heat oil in a wok until very hot, stirring frequently, until the marinade changes to a golden colour.
3. Set aside to cook before use.

Base Be Pasih – Spice Paste for Seafood

10 large red chillies, seeded and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
15 shallots, peeled and chopped
10cm (4in) fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped
1 medium-sized tomato, skinned and seeded
10 cm (4in) ginger, peeled and chopped
10 candlenuts
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste, roasted
4 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons tamarind pulp
2 salam leaves
2 stalks lemon grass


1. Process all ingredients except oil, tamarind and pulp, salam leaves and lemon grass until coarsely ground.
2. Heat oil, add ground ingredients and cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden.
3. Cool before use.

Soto Ayam – Indonesian chicken soup

This is a Balinese recipe of a very popular soup-stew eaten all over Indonesia. It originated in the Madura region of Java. Balinese chickens are free range – literally – they run all over most Balinese compounds. They are smaller, tougher and tastier than battery-produced birds. If you wish the soup can be cooked with glass noodles, chilli and/or kidney beans.

For 4 people

2 chicken breasts


1 medium potato
6 shallots or 1 medium onion, sliced
Oil, preferably coconut oil
6-8 prawn crackers (krupuk)
2 hard-boiled eggs cut in four
60g / 2oz beansprouts
4-5 sliced spring onions
2 small sprigs seledri or curly-leaved parsley


2 cloves garlic, minced
Walnut-sized piece of fresh root ginger
1 cm / ½ in fresh turmeric root or ½ tsp ground dried turmeric
2 candle nuts or macademia nuts (optional)
1-2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil
8 cm / 3 in piece of fresh lemon grass or 4-5 leaves dried
2 daun salam leaves or 8 bay leaves
1 tbsp kecap manis or molasses


1. Put the 2 chicken breasts in a pot, add a litre of water and add salt to taste. Cover tightly and simmer until well done.
2. Prepare the garnishes: slice the potato thinly. Then cut into quarters. Fry the sliced shallots in 3-4 tbsp oil in a wok, initially on a high heat, then turn down. When brown and crisp, remove and drain. Add the sliced potato to the wok (with the remaining oil), fry, stir occasionally. When golden brown remove and set aside.
3. Put more oil in wok. Add prawn crackers one at a time. When they expand put them on absorbent paper.
4. Put the shallots, potato and prawn crackers into separate bowls. Put them and other garnishes aside.
5. Remove chicken breasts when cooked and shred with a fork.
6. Prepare the condiments: heat 1-2 tbsp oil and fry the garlic, ginger, turmeric and nuts quickly. Add 375 ml / 2/3 pint of the chicken soup, lemon grass, daun salam or bay leaves and salt to taste. Stir and cover. Cook on a very high heat for 5-8 minutes. Add kecap manis or molasses, the shredded chicken and the remaining chicken soup.
7. If necessary dilute with water. Heat thoroughly.
8. Put beansprouts, seledri or parsley and hard-boiled eggs equally into 4 separate bowls and add the soup. Serve the shallots, potato and prawn crackers separately in bowls.


It is pronounced “toom”. Originally a banana leaf would be used instead of aluminium foil, and blood would be used instead of black pudding or pig’s liver.

For 4 – 6 people

450g / 1lb boneless pork chops
168g / 6oz / 1½ cups papaya or cassava leaves, or young vine leaves or curly kale
10 cm / 4 in stem of rhubarb or 1 green apple, peeled and chopped
285 ml / ½ pint / 1¼ cups coconut milk or cold water
85-110 g / 3-4 oz / ½ cup black pudding or pig’s liver
Salt and pepper

For the paste

5 shallots or 1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp coriander seed
2 tsp chopped ginger
3-6 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
2.5 cm / 1 in piece of galingale, chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp kencur powder (optional)
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp salt
5 tbsp coconut milk or peanut oil


1. With a cleaver, chop the pork chops, or mince them in a mincer. Keep aside.
2. Shred the leaves finely, and chop the black pudding, discarding the skin. If liver is used, chop this also.
3. Put all the ingredients for the paste in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Then transfer to a small saucepan and simmer for 6 minutes, stirring often. Add the shredded leaves and the chopped rhubarb or apple, stir well, and then add the coconut milk.
5. Continue to simmer for about ten minutes. Adjust the seasoning and leave this to get cold.
6. Meanwhile put the chopped or minced pork together with the chopped black pudding or liver in a large glass bowl. When the paste with the leaves is cold, mix this well into the meat.
7. Divide the mixture into equal proportions, wrap each in a banana leaf square, and steam for 35-40 minutes.
8. Alternatively, place the meat mixture on a large piece of aluminium foil, roll it to make a sausage shape, and wrap it loosely in the foil, preferably with a second layer of foil around it. Put this parcel on a baking tray, and cook in a pre-heated oven at 160C / 320F / Gas Mark 3 for 50-60 minutes.
9. Serve hot and warm with rice.

Lawar Babi – Shredded Spicy Pork

Family ceremonies are always accompanied by food and lawar is always served. Lawar means “sliced thinly”. Men sit in a large circle and rhtmically chop the food. The expert at mixng lawar sits at the head. It is a style of cooking meat, fruit or vegetables. In the traditional recipe animal blood and entrails are used, but this is not necessary. In Bali pork is plentiful and a popular ingredient.

For 4 people

3 shallots or 1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
500g / 1lb lean, boneless pork, cut into thin strips
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp ground galangal (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 daun salam leaf or 4 curry leaves
250ml / 9oz coconut cream
1 tbsp dried tamarind


1. Pulverize the shallots or onion and the garlic in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Rub this mixture into the meat, with the cumin, coriander, galangal and salt.
2. Heat the peanut oil in a pan and sauté the pork mixture for several minutes.
3. Add the chopped chilli, daun salam or curry leaves and coconut cream.
4. Simmer uncovered until the meat is tender and the liquid has reduced.
5. Break the tamarind into small pieces. Place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes.
6. Squeeze to extract all the juice. Rub through a sieve to remove any pith and stones.
7. Stir the steamed juice into the pork.

Babi Kecap

This is a popular pork dish with a spicy sauce.

1 lb pork
2 long red chilllies
5 hot chillies
5 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1 piece of turmeric
1 piece of ginger
1 piece of lesser galangal
1 piece of greater galangal
1 teaspoon terasi
1 teaspoon pepper
1½ teaspoon salt
4 lbs sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil


1. Cut pork into strips.
2. Blend the chillies, shallots, garli