food tour background

Balinese Food
Culture and History

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with more than 17,000 lies within. More than 700 traditional languages, 300 ethnicities and home to the world second biggest biodiversity. All of that combined together, results to rich culinary heritage amounted for more than 5000 traditional recipes. Every island offers distinctive beauty and uniqueness of their own reflected from their geographical location, history, culture and life of its people. Around four million of people living in Bali, with 83% of them believe in Hinduism as religion. Even more special, the Balinese Hindu community is very different from the Hindu community in other parts of the world in which the communities still perform rituals of their ancestors' beliefs before Hinduism entered Indonesia from India. They have strong belief on the existence of Betari Ibu Pertiwi (Mother of Nature) as one of the worshiped Goddesses and believes in the existence of ancestors. When performing traditional ceremonies, they still sacrifice animals as such as pig, chicken, duck and buffalo as a symbol of balance and gratitude to the Earth. Numerous cultural rituals are still done from centuries ago to now by the Balinese, which the rituals are well integrated with their everyday life.


Mebat
Mebat

These rituals are done by every Balinese at every milestones of their life, starting from when they were still fetus at mother’s womb until they day. The most common rituals are Balinese baby shower, newborn, 3-month-old, 6-month-old, 18-month-old infant, teenage child-step rituals, teenage rituals of adult life, marriage, possession, the ritual of stepping on old age, die to after death. These rituals performed at each life stage cannot be done alone, at least the preparation of the ritual or ceremony from cooking to preparing Banten (offerings) will be assisted by the Banjar (community) where the family from. Therefore, social life in Bali is very important, consider all aspects of cultural activities in Bali are carried out cooperatively. The behavior of Balinese life greatly influences other aspects of culture, for example: Balinese food culture.


In every ritual performed by the Balinese people, food plays very important role, just right after preparing banten (offerings). All food is a form of gratitude that addressed to the Gods, nature, family, and society. The food initially prepared for offerings purpose during ceremony, but then after that also served for community’s consumption. A very beautiful team work are happening during the prep, where Banjar and Village communities, especially married men, will prepare the food at the banjar hall and married women will prepare banten (offerings). The task of cooking is charged to the men because in ancient times in Bali the women most easily learned sorcery or black magic, hence women were forbidden to cook for the community at large scale to prevent such an unfortunate events happen in village. And also, in Hinduism, the kitchen is regarded as a sacred place after the family temple in the yard of the house. When women are having period and after giving childbirth, they will be prohibited from entering these two holy places. If you see Balinese men gather together to preparing and cooking food before a ceremony or holiday, it is completely normal. Men in Bali are known for their prowess in cooking traditional dishes.


Megibung
Megibung

Three most important menu which is always prepared by the men for every traditional ceremony are babi guling (suckling pig), lawar, and sate. Babi guling is usually prepared for offerings for the ceremony. After the ceremony is over, usually the babi guling will be enjoyed together with the whole community, as social event. Pig is a symbol of Sad Ripu in Balinese Hinduism, that comes from the word Sad which means six and Ripu which means enemy. So literally Sad Ripu means six enemies lie within humans, those are: kama (lust), lobha (greed), krodha (anger), moha (ignorance), mada (drunk) and matsarya (envious). Pigs will be celebrated before being slaughtered as symbol of gratitude that humans have killed all these six enemies in humans before performing the ceremony. Babi guling will be very often seen in various traditional ceremonies in Bali, from the 3-month newborn ceremony, marriage, temple anniversary (odalan), to death. That is because humans are required to not have the 6 enemies in humans when carrying out sacred ceremonies. When the ceremony is over Babi Guling is required to be distributed to relatives and the community. In some areas megibung activities will be carried out when the ceremony ends with the menu Babi Guling. Megibung is a Balinese dining ritual, where community members will sit together on the floor and enjoy the food together in communal basis.


The next food that is always prepared by men besides babi guling (roasted pig) is lawar and sate. Lawar is a traditional Balinese food made from minced meat and vegetables, where pork is the most commonly used meat. Meanwhile, young jackfruit, long beans, young papaya, and starfruit leaves are popular vegetable used for lawar. Sometimes lawar will be mixed with fresh pork blood, and later well known as lawar merah (red lawar). Lawar itself comes from the ancient Balinese language, which means mixing, because the process of making lawar is mixing all the ingredients that have been chopped. The process of mixing itself must be done by men. The process of cooking lawar is called a Ngelawar in Balinese, and as you may guess, men will lead this process. Lawar that has been made must be offered to the gods first, before human can enjoy this tasty and bold flavors food. After the making of the lawar is complete, the lawar will be divided into two, one is given to the women to make banten (offerings) and another is prepared to be consumed together with the whole community. Generally, there are five colors that must be prepared for the offerings as a symbol of the five cardinal directions. The red color lawar (red lawar) is a symbol of Lord Brahma and placed in the south. Black (Starfruit Leaf Lawar) as a symbol of Lord Vishnu is placed in the north direction. The White Color (Young Jackfruit Lawar) as a symbol of Lord Iswara is placed towards the East. Yellow color (Lawar Papaya) as a symbol of Mahadewa is placed in the west direction. For in the middle is the symbol of Lord Shiva where in the middle will be placed 4 colors lawar that have been mixed.


Fresh Ingredients of Basa Gede
Fresh Ingredients of Basa Gede

Unlike the counter part of commonly found sate on the other part of the archipelago, type of sate prepared by the Balinese is well known as Sate Lilit. Distinctive character of this type of sate is the use of minced seasoned pork/tuna/chicken with grated coconut on a bamboo skewer. Lilit is mean spiral movement that usually they do when putting the meat on the stick. So because of this, the sate is called Sate Lilit. Sate Lilit also offering food beside the lawar. Men will prepared this dishes together with lawar. With this very artistic process and beautiful taste, then sate lilit becomes one of the most important food icon in Bali.


Although these three foods are different in the way Balinese prep and cooking technique that as well different in terms of main ingredients, they all are using the same type of spice mixture, called Basa Gede. Basa means spice mixture in Balinese, while Gede means large or complete. Basa Gede can be interpreted as a complete basic spice in the Balinese language. In the basic ingredients of this Basa Gede there are at least twenty ingredients derived from spices, leaves, roots, and tubers. Each ingredient serves different function to enrich Balinese cuisine, where to give spicy taste, warm, sweet, sour, salty and aromatic sensation All of these ingredients do not have exact measurements, rather mixed together to create a balanced flavor according to the taste needed. This Base Gede can be chopped roughly or crushed according to needs and preference. Usually the men will prepare these spices the day before Mebat (the process of cooking together). To prepare a perfect Base Gede it takes time and techniques that have been passed down for generations to generations in the family. So the preparation of making Basa Gede is very special for the Balinese people. To prepare this Basa Gede ingredients must also match the colors of the Gods in Hindu Bali, because each ingredient of this spice is a symbol of the gods in Hinduism. When all spices mixed together, it will form as mountain which it is a symbol where the gods live. After that the ingredients that have been prepared are roughly chopped or mashed as needed.


Menu for Megibung
Menu for Megibung

Balinese culture is not far from spiritual activities, because every movement, breath, and mind of the Balinese people are not far from the spiritual symbols in Balinese Hinduism. Even in cooking culture this is a spiritual activity where cooking and eating are closely related to the symbol of human gratitude to nature and the gods. This is an inseparable bond in social and cultural life in Bali. This tradition has been passed down from the days of our ancestors to the current millennial era. The younger generation in Bali continues to preserve this shared cooking culture to create a balanced social life in the community. Food is not only a matter of fulfilling hunger, Balinese people consider food as something that can draw closer to God, gratitude to nature, and as a means of good community life.


Babi Guling
Babi Guling

The food walking tour will let you explore more Bali especially Denpasar which well known for the hectic main trading district in Bali. Also, you will be pleased to see the hidden faces at the town which haven’t been revealed by most people. On the three-hour guided by Good Indonesian Food, you will taste various legendary culinary in Denpasar, numerous Balinese snacks or other places, until you interact with the local residents in exotic traditional night market. Experience the new sensation of traditional Balinese foods at night. Click here for the link