If there’s one region in Indonesia that offers treats that satisfy both the hungry stomach and picky taste buds, then it’s Bali. Bali food is known in the country for having its own unique way of preparing and cooking Indonesian dishes, as they not only blend in the flavours right-they also make it a point to infuse the region’s calm and peaceful approach towards all activities in life.
So how do the Balinese cook their food? If in case you are wondering, then here are the foundations of Balinese dishes, which are likewise the same foundations used in Balinese restaurants all over the globe.
- The 8-spice combination.
Balinese cooking makes use of 8 different spices in most of their dishes. Yes, eight. This explains why most of their meals, in particular their entrees, are bursting with flavour. Surprisingly, local cooks make use of rather common spices, contrary to what we expect.
These spices come mostly in the form of seeds, and they are black pepper, white pepper, cumin, clove, nutmeg, sesame seed, candlenut, and coriander.
These spices may be used separately or in fewer combinations by other cuisines, but in Bali, they can be infused altogether to form deliciously unique flavours on their dishes.
Aside from giving delicious flavours, these spices are also very fragrant; they serve as the foundations of the aromatic scent of most Balinese meals, making you go hungrier by the moment.
- The roots.
Aside from spices, Balinese cooking also makes good use of roots that also boost the flavour and aroma of their dishes. These include shallots (small onions), garlic, turmeric, ginger, and greater and lesser galangal.
Yes, there is such thing as greater galangal-and lesser galangal. Greater galangal is the common galangal that we see in various Southeast Asian cuisines, while the lesser galangal is tastes more like pepper and is shaped like a radish.
While Indonesian cooking is known for its sweeter blend of flavours, it also makes use of chilli peppers, which can be very hot as well. In Bali cooking, smaller variants of green and red chilli peppers are blended with various dishes, sauces, and dips. These peppers can be very hot and spicy, making them a great complement to other savoury meals.
While larger chillies are also used in Bali cooking, these variants are considered to be rather sweet and provide no heat whatsoever to the senses.
- Palm sugar.
It has been stressed many times over that Indonesian cooking delves more on the sweeter side of the taste palette, but that doesn’t totally equate to sugary sweet. In Bali, cooks use palm sugar, a type of raw sugar that tastes rather smoky and similar to molasses. Palm sugar is deep and full in terms of flavour, and they blend in perfectly with the spices being used on the dishes under the cuisine’s menu.
This is one open secret of Balinese cooks, that’s why it can be very difficult to imitate their dishes at home.
- Fish paste.
Like its Southeast Asian neighbours, Bali food also includes fish paste (or fish sauce) in some of its dishes. Fish paste gives off a rather salty taste that complements various spices, so the dish achieves a balance of flavours. It also provides an aftertaste that cannot be provided by salt, pepper, or soy sauce.
Fish paste can be strong in terms of flavour, so some cooks use fish sauce instead, since the latter is diluted and can be easily managed by adding water. The result is a milder version of the same dish made.
There are also instances when fish sauce or fish paste is mixed with other spices to make a sambal, a condiment similar to ketchup, and is matched with various dishes such as grilled meat or seafood.