Nasi Goreng, the unofficial national dish of Indonesia. This ubiquitous item appears on menus from Jakarta to Denpasar. While ‘fried rice’ is the literal translation, this simple dish combines many facets of the Indonesian way of life blended into a staple meal enjoyed by over 250 million people.
After spending our first month in Bali I had consumed my fair share of Nasi Goreng. I had committed to ordering it whenever it was on the menu. So I felt it was fitting to compile a retrospective of our journey in Bali thus far in between the spoonfuls of Nasi Goreng in this first month of getting assimilated.
So take a culinary and cultural look at Bali on the Sling Adventures Nasi Goreng Tour of Bali.
Warung Mina – Seminyak
Nasi Goreng is as simple as it is tasty. A Nasi Goreng is normally served as an up ended bowl of fried rice topped with a fried egg and served with two chicken sate skewers, some rice crackers, and a modest salad consisting of one slice of cucumber and tomato. The rice itself contains a mixture of available vegetables, chicken or pork and a blend of fish paste, soy sauce, and the sweet sweet goodness of kepis manis.
Warung Mina is a large sprawling Warung near the Sense Hotel in central Seminyak. Patronage is good yet it always looks empty given the many tables which fill up a little more when the live music kicks in of an evening. This was the first Nasi Goreng sampled so we commence with a solid effort to get the tastebuds accustomed to Bali.
Decor: 7 | Nasi Goreng: 6 | Price: 35K IDR
Warung Dedalu – Seminyak
The gentrified streets of Seminyak house all manner of bars and restaurants of such variety that could be found anywhere in the world. A traditional Indonesian warung is actually tough to find. A warung is a family run business in Indonesia, most often a cafe or restaurant serving traditional food. At the top of the list on most warung menus is the Nasi Goreng.
Nasi Goreng was originally a result of the leftovers from the day before. It is the ‘bubble n squeak’ of Bali. By combining a mixture of left over ingredients with some sauces and frying it up turned leftovers into a regular meal. Nasi Goreng like most Indonesian food is traditionally prepared in a large batch in the morning allowing the family to help themselves to the food throughout the day. As a result, the food is generally eaten cold. Most warungs though will cook up a fresh batch of hot Nasi Goreng for the expectant tourist.
Warung Dedalu is located near the popular Potato Head beach club and while it does not have a swim up bar and sunset beach views it has retained an authentic Warung feel, at authentic Warung prices, right in the heart of Seminyak. Plus the Curry Ayam (Chicken Curry) is still the best we’ve tried in Bali.
Decor: 6 | Nasi Goreng: 8 | Price: 30K
Bollero Resto Bar – Ubud
Bali has an ancient, unique and sustainable method of rice farming which combines spiritual, environmental and community aspects of life carried out in a system of irrigation channels and rice paddies known collectively as a subak. This tradition of farming has been in place since 900AD and is known as one of the most effective ways of cultivating rice anywhere in the world. Read more about the subak.
Bollero Resto Bar is a large open restaurant in the heart of Ubud. Along with serving a competitive Nasi Goreng, its walls contain large paintings of the traditional bare breasted female rice field workers. Dress standards began to change in the 1920s and 30s after these women became a target of ogling tourists and ceased more thoroughly during the Japanese invasion in World War II.
Decor: 8 | Nasi Goreng: 7 | Price: 35K
Tanek Coffee – Ubud
Flowing water is constantly blessed in Bali with temples built over key waterways to protect the water flow towards the rice it helps to produce. Rivers flow in mostly parallel streams down from the volcanic mountains in central Bali to the sea. Two of these rivers, Wos Kiwa and Wos Tengen converge just west of Ubud at the beginning of the popular Campuhan ridge walk, a picturesque pathway that leads from town and overlooks these two rivers on either side.
Tanek Coffee is located just before the bridge over these two converging rivers. It has an intentional rustic decor, similar to a tiki bar, and serves up some great fresh juices and coffee along with a decent Nasi Goreng. It is a small retreat from the hustle and bustle even through it overlooks the passing parade of traffic along the busy Jl. Raya Ubud.
Decor: 8 | Nasi Goreng: 7 | Price: 35K
Warung Bu Mangku – Kemenuh
The craftsmanship of the Balinese is extraordinary. As soon as you head north from Denpasar, wood carving and cabinet making workshops dominate the shopfronts. From intricately carved masks to heavy set dining tables and chairs to majestic doors, the ability of the Balinese to form of wood into functional and decorative objects is astounding.
Warung Bu Mangku was a short walk from our initial homestay at Chez Ida about 5km south-east of Ubud. Chez Ida is an example of a shift from the art of traditional wood working to the provision of hospitality service. The two brothers running Chez Ida have not continued their fathers wood working footsteps but instead, as many are doing, have used their knowledge of the hospitality industry to rent out the rooms of the traditional family compound as a lovely and very cheap homestay, complete with plunge pool!
Warung Bu Manku has a simple, super cheap but very good Nasi Goreng together with great service. It was worth noting the high-quality finish on the tables and chairs of this otherwise basic restaurant. No doubt a few craftsmen are left in this family!
Decor: 8 | Nasi Goreng: 9 | Price: 17K
Warung Scooting Ubud
Traffic in Bali is gnarly, chaotic and hectic at best. Lack of infrastructure and planning has left small single lane roads coping with high volumes of traffic a modern freeway would struggle to carry. To navigate choked streets, locals and tourists travel on scooters jumping gutters and weaving between cars on a completely lawless system. In a modern city this would be dangerous but with traffic at a constant standstill, the chance of serious injury is low with speeds barely topping 20kph. Still, quite a few bandaged-legged tourists do limp around town.
Warung Scooting Ubud pays homage to the humble scooter with some pimped out versions of the more stylish Scoopy models, and the rarer Vespa not often seen on the streets of Bali. With a BBQ grilling in the entryway, the smells of the warung pull you in from the street. The Nasi Goreng here was small but the price likely justifies the portion size to accompany another meal on the menu.
Decor: 9 | Nasi Goreng: 7 | Price: 15K
Warung Bebek Resto – Lodtunduh
Two annoyances quoted in guidebooks coming out of Bali are the diseases carried by both mosquitos and larger mammals such as dogs and monkeys. While mosquitos and monkeys are more easily avoided, dogs roam the streets and often have an unkempt and mangy appearance. The Balinese dog descends from an ancient dingo-like breed which has kept them from being completely domesticated. People are naturally cautious when dogs bark loudly from the doorways with a sense of bravado. Having befriended one or two of these local dogs they are actually quite timid yet friendly once you get to know them but not yet accustomed to human affection applied to more domesticated dogs. Still, going for a jog in the streets feels like you a running the gauntlet!
Warung Babeck Resto is south of Ubud in the village of Lodtunduh. Large solid, single log tabletops make up this rather oversized warung when it rarely has more than one table occupied at a time. Mosquitos were present here as were a few local (harmless) dogs.
Decor: 7 | Nasi Goreng: 6 | Price: 25K
D’Waroeng – Ubud
Indonesia obtained its Independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1945. Independence day is celebrated on August 17 each year with flag-waving parades in the streets and children playing games in the parks. Bali is a unique part of the Indonesian archipelago as it is 80% Hindu in an otherwise Muslim nation. Bali was an enclave for Hindus, artists and free thinkers which have persisted in the artworks, wood carvings and innovative thinking so prevalent in areas like Ubud.
D’Waroeng is a popular restaurant located in an out of the way location and serves up a pretty decent selection of tasty food both traditional Indonesian and a few adaptations. The service is a bit slack but it was also busy for a warung when we visited. It also left time to compare the labelling between the Bintang and Heineken beers which is yet another legacy left from the Dutch occupation.
Decor: 8 | Nasi Goreng: 8 | Price: 25K
Warung Coconut – Ubud Monkey Forest
The Indians arrived in Bali about 1AD and brought with them both the Hindu religion and Yoga, both of which are still very prevalent today. Across Bali and particularly in Ubud more and more people find themselves in the downward dog position on their holiday. For some, particularly since the popular novel and movie Eat, Pray, Love, yoga is actually the main reason for their visit and a popular pursuit for the many expats who call Bali home.
Warung Coconut is located on the less frequented back road to the Monkey forest in Ubud. A multi-level warung it has low tables with patrons sitting on cushions on the floor, requiring you to possess the suppleness of a yoga instructor to enjoy your food in comfort. However, their Nasi Goreng was quite competitive and the wide selection of fresh fruit juices a great accompaniment with which to wash it down.
Decor: 7 | Nasi Goreng: 7 | Price: 30K
Warung Biah Biah – Ubud
The people of Bali are some of the nicest people you will meet anywhere in the world. They will go out of their way to help you whether you have run out of fuel on the side of the road or need an extra shot of caffeine in your mug in the morning. No task seems too arduous and always met with a smile.
Warung Biah Biah is the only restaurant in Ubud that has a line out the front which gives an indication to the reputation it has. Serving tapas style portions you can eat your way through a traditional Indonesian menu in one sitting and at very reasonable prices. Still, it serves 3 styles of a full Nasi Goreng meal in amongst a buzz of efficient waiters dishing up food on banana leaf-lined baskets. The staff and experience is as delightful as the food and well worth a visit in an easily accessed location in central Ubud. Read a more detailed review of Warung Biah Biah
Decor: 8 | Nasi Goreng: 9 | Price: 26K
Alight the Nasi Goreng Tour!
We hope you got a bit of history, some culture and better understand your way around a Nasi Goreng next time you are in the Island of the God’s. There are of course many other staple meals on the traditional Indonesian menu so you have some variety to choose from when you next visit a warung in Bali, although my favourite will remain the Nasi Goreng. Selamat Makan!