The oven and open-fire spit roasting of whole pigs is a common practice in many parts of the world with the roasting of younger suckling pigs often being particularly popular at feasts due to its extremely tender meat. Roast suckling pig, or babi guling is one of Bali’s most important celebratory dishes. It has become internationally famous as a delicacy sought out by tourists who visit the island, as well as being served at important religious and social occasions, it’s also readily available at both specialist roadside eateries and many restaurants.
Recipes are handed down through families and closely guarded. Preparation starts by first stuffing the whole suckling pig with basa gede paste, a paste made from mashed shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, chilli and shrimp paste. The skin of the pig is rubbed with turmeric before being spit-roast over an open fire. Basting throughout the six-hour roasting process results in the gorgeous thin crispy skin, which when cut off reveals the succulent meat below. Most restaurants with babi guling on the menu have a range of set dishes offering variations of crispy skin, loin, satay, pulled pork, blood sausage, spiced soup, rice and vegetables.
There are, of course, alternatives to eating babi guling street side due to its iconic status and popularity. In fact, the island’s most famous dish features prominently on the menus of some of the island’s most popular restaurants. Take W Bali in Seminyak, for instance, where suckling pig features as part of the celebrated Sunday brunches in both its restaurants. With a selection of tables, indoor fish basket booths and al fresco banquet tables, all with open views over the curvaceous pool and Seminyak’s famous beach, Starfish Bloo offers guests an upbeat exotic dining experience. The free-flow packages and in-house DJ help create a party atmosphere that really complements the fantastic buffet. If you fancy something a little quieter, try FIRE, the resort’s outstanding grill,
which offers an equally impressive buffet with a large selection of à la minute dishes and drinks. Starfish Bloo and FIRE are two of the most popular Sunday brunches in Bali and both serve an excellent traditional-style suckling pig that comes complete with all the components, such as spicy sausage, lawar , pulled meat and the delicious authentic condiments. Reservations are highly recommended at both Starfish Bloo and FIRE.
Padma Resort Legian
Another excellent way to experience this most Balinese of dishes is to join one of the many cultural dinners hosted at hotels throughout the island. One of our favourites is the Balinese Buffet Dinner held every Wednesday night at DONBIU, the relaxed and airy all-day dining outlet at the Padma Resort, Legian.
Slowly cooked for about five hours, DONBIU’s succulent babi guling is accompanied by a selection Balinese sauces, lawar babi (traditional Balinese urap with pig’s blood), urutan (pork sausage) and kerupuk kulit babi (pork crackling). As well as an extensive buffet featuring all your Balinese favourites, such as star fruit leaf and crispy pork skin salad, the famous duck dish, bebek betutu, satays and desserts such as kue dadar guling, a thin Balinese crepe served with coconut and palm sugar, guests at DONBIU can also enjoy cultural performances and live music throughout the evening.
The buffet opens at 6.30PM every Wednesday evening, with cultural performances at 7PM and 8PM.
Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka
Discreetly hidden but close enough to the tourist trail so as not to be difficult to find, is one of Bali’s most celebrated eateries, Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka. Located pretty much in the centre of Ubud on Jalan Tegal Sari, just behind the illustrious Royal Palace, it has a reputation that spans the globe and is a favourite with both locals and tourists alike, all eager to sample Bali’s most famous dish prepared and served in the time-honoured Balinese way.
The pigs are cooked close by in Ibu Oka’s kitchens and arrive by motorbike before being sliced and served in a traditional rattan bowl with rice, crackling, sausage, traditional Balinese lawar (spicy vegetables) and, of course, Ibu Oka’s special secret sauce.
With a no-reservation policy, Warung Babi Guling opens around 10.30 AM and is generally full until the last of the 30 or so suckling pigs is gone.
(Jalan Tegal Sari, Ubud)