When arriving in Ubud, it immediately seemed like a tourist and expat mecca, at least when it came to eating in Bali. We have found the best Mexican outside of the US (and, presumably Mexico) at Taco Casa and a pretty decent pizza and pasta place in Mamma Mia. There are some passable Indian joints. Ubud also has a thriving vegetarian and vegan presence. We generally are not regulars.
Dishes are reasonably priced by Western standards, but for Southeast Asia they are a little bit expensive. A dinner with two dishes and two fruit smoothies at any of these places can range from $12-$17. At the best Indian place in town, a meal for 2 is over $20. Again, these prices are not extreme by western standards, but when a bowl of pho in Vietnam costs about a $1, and similar prices exist in places like Myanmar and Thailand, these prices are not within our every day budget. That did not stop me from grabbing a burrito about once a week, and even getting pizza delivered to the villa.
Eating in Bali – Balinese Cuisine
Balinese cuisine overall is not that diverse, so it leaves eating in Bali with a lot to be desired. Some of the most popular dishes that are served at virtually every warung (a family owned cafe, restaurant, or shop) include nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodle), and nasi campur (rice with chicken, tofu, and other bits). It is obvious that many of the warungs in central Ubud cater to the tourist and expat community, with a heavy mix of these three traditional dishes, some sate, and plenty of Western fare. Balinese dishes range from $4-5 a plate, sometimes cheaper.
What was a little more difficult to find in Ubud were the classic, cheap street eats that are so ubiquitous in Southeast Asia. They were almost nonexistent in central Ubud. Take a little walk south or east of town, though, and it was possible to put together a meal for as little as $2 a person. The perfect fix for eating in Bali – cheap.
Our villa was in Peliatan, a neighboring village, and Jalan Raya Peliatan, is one of the two main roads. When driving down the road in the evenings, street carts are set up on both sides serving sate, grilled on the spot, fried chicken, and other treats. There were also two parking lots which have similar carts each evening, with specialities including soups, fried bananas, juices, and more sate.
Two of my favorite dishes, though, can be purchased from one guy who sets up at about 5pm each evening outside of the Delta Mart convenience store on Jalan Raya Peliatan. We became regulars to his street stalls for many nights of eating in Bali.
I was walking home from yoga class one night, simply starving. As I approached his cart, I saw him making a thick pancake like treat, filled with chocolate, sugar, and nuts. I immediately ordered one for take away, paid my $.70, and ate half of it while walking the rest of the way home. There was a point where I did not think Eric would even get a taste. This Terang Bulan dessert became a little bit of an addiction for me, and easily a once a week (or more) tasty treat. It was obvious that in my alcohol detox, I started to become addicted to sweets instead.
The other tasty street dish, discussed after the dessert of course, is martabak, which is popular throughout Indonesia and Malaysia. It is a roti style pancake cooked with eggs, scallions, and perhaps some meat bits inside. It is cooked on a large skillet, with lots of oil, and fried up real nice. A portion again sold for about $.70, and was served with a little hot sauce. It was a perfect sized meal for me, followed, of course, by my Terang Bulan.
Streets eats exist in the Ubud area, so long as you escape the sanitized tourist area surrounding Monkey Forest Road. For us, it became a perfect alternative to stretch the budget.
Watch how these tasty street eats are made: