Bali is hands-down one of my favorite places we have been on this trip. Of course, I think a lot of that has to do with the location we picked- a small fishing village called Amed. About 3 hours by van from the airport, Amed has gorgeous, sweeping views of the volcano and tiered rice paddies, black sandy beaches, and the best snorkeling I have ever seen (including two ship wrecks just off the shore and within easy snorkeling distance). The people are also beyond friendly, and although there is a serious language barrier it stops no one from doing their absolute best to help you out. The food is also amazing with tons of fresh fish (as one would expect from a fishing village on an island), lots of tropical fruit and plenty of veggie salads. Everything is prepared from scratch when you order it, so don’t expect anything to come quickly. Instead, order a lassie or fresh juice and enjoy the ocean breezes and amazing views while you wait.
It’s worth noting that “Jaffles” are a type of grilled, toasted sandwich, almost a cross between a grilled cheese, a panini and a s’more. They appear on almost every menu and after a week of wondering what the hell a jaffle was, I ordered one. So now you know.
Looking for Something a Little Healthier?
No problem! You have your pick of fresh seafood dishes, tons of tropical fruits and side dishes that almost always include veggies. Although traditional Balinese food leans towards the healthier side, ordering western foods in restaurants is risky. Sandwiches, burgers and salads all come piled high with mayonnaise. I order shrimp cocktail and pineapple in a restaurant and ended up with half a pineapple carved out and filled with tiny shrimp drenched in mayo. Not exactly the light lunch I was looking for. Fried noodle dishes and fried rice also tend to be higher in calories, sodium and added fats. Stick to ordering grilled fish dishes and be sure and check out gado-gado cap cay and the grilled fish options for healthier fare.
Gado-Gado– made with perfectly cooked, tender-crisp boiled vegetables (everything from carrots and potatoes to bok choy, cabbage and green beans), rice, an egg and tofu/tempeh and served with a lemongrass, ginger creamy peanut sauce. This is a serious meal- very filling and packed with vegetable goodness and protein from the egg, tofu and peanuts. Learn more about it and get some recipes HERE.
Pepes Ikan– This tasty treat is seasoned, boneless fish wrapped up in a banana leaf and grilled. Perfectly spicy and tender and so flavorful. It comes very highly recommended!
Cap Cay– Seasonal veggies from cauliflower to green beans and tomatoes swim in a savory broth and make up the base of this filling stew. It comes in vegetarian, chicken or seafood varieties and is served with white rice, although I think it’s just fine and still super filling even without the rice. Learn more about it and try your hand at a few recipes HERE.
Grilled Fish– Mackerel with Balinese sauce is my favorite, but be aware that you may end up with dinner that is staring back at you. If this is not your thing, opt for mahi-mahi, barracuda or tuna filets which are just as tasty but without the eyeballs and the bones. Of course, there are also squid and prawns to try as well- be sure to book at least a week to eat your way through the variety of fish and sauces that you will find throughout the village.
Chicken Sate (or Satay)– Skewered, grilled chicken, this chicken is tender and juicy on its own, but add in a creamy peanut sauce and its a match made in heaven! These dishes also come with rice and, one of my new favorite things, a salad of bean sprouts, coconut and green beans.
Balinese Sauce– get it on fish, get it on chicken, get it on an old pair of shoes, but be sure to get it! Spicy and pungent, this sauce is a taste sensation. (Warning- there is a ton of shallot in this sauce, not a good idea for a first date, or any date for that matter. But, it tastes amazing).
What to Drink:
Bintang– this Indonesian beer is light and refreshing, everything a beach beer should be. It is also everywhere- if you say you want a beer, this is what you will end up with.
Hatten Wines– another local Indonesian product, these wines, which range from white to rose to red, can be found at many restaurants and occasional store (check out Adi Shop for a great selection of wines). All-in-all, not a bad wine.
Arak– not for the faint of heart, this local spirit (palm wine) tastes a lot like vodka and has the same punch. Beware!
Lassi– fresh fruit and yogurt blended together. A great way to get some yogurt and fiber to help your digestive system going strong!
Fruit Juices– Fruit and water (and sometimes some sugar), all pureed together. You keep the fiber of the fruit while staying hydrated. A refreshing and delicious win.
Restaurants to Try:
The Grill– Owned by an Aussie, this restaurant caters more to westerners. It is western food with a tropical twist and you can get a wide variety of favorites from pizza to chicken shwarma and flatbread with home made hummus and a mouthwatering sun dried tomato and feta tapenade. The prices are a little higher here (still not bad with most dishes coming in at around $6-7), but the food is good and they have some great perks other restaurants lack- peanuts served when you sit down and refreshing cold towels are brought to your table which provide an immeasurable relief from the heat.
Bliss Cafe– On the East end of Amed, this family run cafe has a great view of the salt pans and ocean. The menu is small, but everything on it is very good. If they have squid, the grilled squid dish alone is worth going for- it comes whole and stuffed with cabbage and tomatoes. The cap cay and fruit plate are also very good. I highly recommend it!
Waenis Sunset Restaurant– Be sure and hit them up for a beer or juice one evening at sunset for the spectacular panoramic view. I wouldn’t recommend it for the food, which is a little lackluster, but the view will take your breath away!
Wawa Wewe– They have live music on Thursdays which is tons of fun. This beachside bar also has good food and a large menu- the chicken sate, chicken curry and vegetable tempura with ginger and soy are all very good.
Hoky’s Homestay and Cafe– We ate here several times, mostly it was wonderful. However, the only dish we really had was we had the grilled mahi-mahi- mine with hot ginger sauce and Nick got his with Balinese sauce.
Where to Stay:
Villa Adi– the staff are so accommodating, it is impossible not to feel spoiled (You just caught a whole bunch of fish and want us to clean and cook them for your dinner tonight? We will also bring rice and green beans for you, no problem. You want a fresh coconut? We will send someone to cut one down and stick a straw in it for you, no problem. You want to rent a scooter or snorkel equipment, have a massage in your villa or go on a tour? No problem). They also have incredible, wildly tropical grounds which are kept immaculate. Of course, this kind of extravagance comes at a heftier price tag, but it is so worth it (our villa cost about $900 for a week).
Kadek Homestay– On the other end of Amed, this small guesthouse is also at the extreme other end as far comfort and price go. The rooms are nice enough- simple and breezy. But for $14 a night you get AC, an ocean view and breakfast in the morning. The staff are really friendly, although they don’t speak much english (and we don’t speak much Indonesian). They also rent scooters and snorkel equipment. If you are in the market for some seriously budget accommodations, you could do much worse! They also have reasonably fast internet, a definite pro.