One of my golden rules in street eats is to only eat food that is freshly prepared in front of me. Otherwise, you never know how long the food has been sitting there. This is not the case for the padang, an institution in Bali, and one of the best ways to find cheap eats.
In addition to the warungs specializing in serving the tourists and expats, it is still possible to find a padang in central Ubud. Padangs are imported from the rest of Indonesia, and tend to be more Muslim influenced. There is no pork on the menu, and they serve beef.
You can tell it is a traditional padang by walking by. There are shelves in the windows with stacks of bowls and dishes piled high. The padang is stocked in the morning and will serve food all day long. The bowls are filled with various fish and chicken dishes, eggs, vegetables, and tofu. Some my favorites are a spicy tofu, a fried mashed potato, and the famous Indonesian beef rendang, essentially, beef cooked in a coconut and spice sauce until tender (although it is often pretty chewy).
The family will cook all the food for the day in the morning, and place the dishes in the window. They sit there all day until they are eaten. Although the padangs do not fit within my golden rule of eating while traveling, we have been frequenting them for lunch. We generally try to avoid them for dinner, when the food has been sitting too long.
The server piles a plate high with rice, you point to the dishes you want (usually 2-4 is the norm). They will add some chilies, sambal spicy sauce, and perhaps cover the rice with a curry sauce. Generally these meals cost about $2-$3 a person. They can also easily be wrapped in brown paper for take away.
We had three padangs that we frequented in the Ubud area during our two+ months in Ubud. One is on the top end of Jalan Hannoman, one of the main roads in central Ubud. It is loaded with tourist shops and restaurants, and this one padang seems to be a hold out of a long lost era of historic Ubud. We went to this padang during our first visit to Ubud back in 2009, so we refer to it as the “Padang we Went to Last Time” or something along those lines. Eric got a little sick after eating there, so we have not returned. Although, I don’t blame the padang for that one.
The second of the padangs is just outside our neighborhood. We refer to this one as the “Padang Close to Home.” The third padang we went to only once, probably because I refer to it as the “Padang With the Rat.” The unfortunate thing is that I think that padang had the best food of the three – the best beef rendang and tasty, spicy tofu. The obvious problem being the decent sized rat I saw on the top of the fridge, in the dining area, when I was about 80% finished with my meal. Perhaps this is why I prefer facing the street when eating.
Just before leaving Ubud, we tried one last padang, Puteri Minang, on Jalan Rayan Ubud, which cuts through the north side of Ubud. First off, the selection was amazing, with at least a dozen different vegetarian, tofu, and tempe dishes, with a separate selection of meat and fish dishes. They had double the selection of other padangs, seem to do a brisk location. The padang was even better than the Padang With the Rat, and became my favorite. My dish with tofus, veggies, and rice was only $1! Can’t beat that. Puteri Minang will become a regular hangout when we return to Bali later this year.
And, yes, this video was taken at the Padang With the Rat. (sigh)