Top 8 Vegetarian Food to Eat in Bali and Indonesia

Indonesia is not often thought of as a vegetarian’s paradise, which is a shame because one may find lots of choices here, especially in Bali. It may be true that Indonesians like meat, and especially fish, but it is also true that meat in Indonesia can be quite expensive. As such, an Indonesian’s everyday diet is most likely to be rice with meat used sparingly as an accompaniment, as well as a range of vegetable dishes that not only deliver punchy flavours but also boost the nutritional value.

Moreover, with the popularity of tourism in Bali, there are also more international vegetarian dishes to choose from here. But I would suggest giving local vegetarian food a try and you will definitely be delighted. You’ll be surprised by the vegetarian choices you can find here in Bali or anywhere in Indonesia. Here are some of the best Indonesian vegetarian dishes that I recommend:

Gado-gado

Indonesian food is (sadly) not a very well-known cuisine, but if people can name any dishes found here then they usually mention Indonesia’s most famous salad, Gado-gado. Put simply, gado-gado is a dish of vegetables that usually includes lettuce, cabbage leaves, steamed carrots and potatoes, and often tofu and bean sprouts. The whole thing is then drenched in a thick and delicious peanut sauce and is often topped with extras like egg or prawn crackers. If you avoid these crackers however then the entire dish is vegetarian, and in the heat of Indonesia this salad is a welcome break from yet another plate of steaming rice. This can be found in just about any local restaurants or warungs in Bali.

Gado-gado, a vegetarian's favourite in Bali and rest of Indonesia. Fried Tempe on the bottom right

Gado-gado, a vegetarian’s favourite in Bali and rest of Indonesia. Fried Tempe on the bottom right. Photo by eltpics

Tempe Goreng/Sambal

Tempeh is probably the grande dame of vegan and vegetarian food in Bali and Indonesia, evolved as a cheap way of adding protein to a meal. Tempeh is essentially soy beans that have been compressed into the shape of a bar which is then sliced into strips and fried until it darkens and the flavour becomes deliciously nutty. Tempeh is so tasty that it is sometimes simply fried until crisp and then served that way (tempe goreng) or it is often fried with chilli paste to give it some kick (tempe balado or tempe sambal).

Nasi Padang

Nasi Padang basically means ‘Padang rice’ as it originated in the Padang area of West Sumatra. You will spot a Padang restaurant (all over Bali and Indonesia) due to the distinct stacked plates in the window. Once inside, you will be served a plate of white rice and a selection of smaller dishes (sometimes as many as 20) will be brought to your table. You simply choose what you want to eat and ignore the rest. For vegetarians, therefore, this is a dream scenario as you can easily spot and avoid meat and stick to the wide range of vegetarian options available. Some of the veggie highlights of a Padang restaurant are dishes such as daun singkong which are cooked cassava leaves as well as other items like telur balado, hard boiled eggs that have been coated with fried chilli paste. Other favourites are eggplant (terong) cooked until it is falling apart and also mixed with chilli paste, or potato cakes called perkedel. Tahu (tofu) is also common and is served in large blocks and is usually fried.

A plate full of Nasi Padang, Bali, Indonesia

A plate full of Nasi Padang. Photo by Kai Hendry

Sayur Asem

Sayur asem translates as ‘Sour Vegetables’ and in this way this dish is slightly reminiscent of something like Tom Yam soup in Thailand. The sourness in this soup comes from tamarind, and you will usually find veggies like snake beans, corn, and melinjo (a local plant). The soup is served over rice and is entirely meat free so is a safe one for both vegetarians and vegans alike. This can also easily be found in Bali restaurants, especially those where you order dishes to go with your rice.

Sayur Lodeh

A firm favourite in Indonesia is sayur lodeh, a coconut milk based soup that uses gourd and carrot to add some heartiness and is served with rice. Other additions can be things like tofu depending on who is making it, or sometimes other vegetables will be added into the mix as well. In some varieties of sayur lodeh (like in Sumatra) small shrimps are usually used to enhance the flavour, but the Javanese and Balinese version usually makes it without which means that it will be vegetarian.

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Nasi Goreng

Perhaps Bali’s and even so Indonesia’s best-known dish would be nasi goreng. This dish is simply a plate of fried rice with various things added to it to make it more exciting. You can, in theory, cook nasi goreng with pretty much anything and you will find it with meat, fish, and seafood in it, although in its purest form it is simply made of fried rice with some vegetables like carrots added to it and topped with a fried egg. If you ask for it to be made ‘tanpa daging’ (without meat) then this is usually what you will get and it will be safe for vegetarians. Just watch out for the toppings as it is often sprinkled with peanuts and small salted anchovies (ikan teri). If you don’t eat fish or seafood then ask for it to be ‘tanpa daging dan tanpa ikan’ (without meat OR fish).

Indonesian Nasi Goreng, Bali, Indonesia

Indonesian Nasi Goreng, Bali. Photo by RStacker

Mie Goreng

Indonesian Mie Goreng, Bali, Indonesia

Indonesian Mie Goreng, Bali. Photo by suhseal, cropped to Mie Goreng

Mie goreng is the partner of nasi goreng but where ‘nasi’ means rice and ‘goreng’ means fried, ‘mie’ refers to the noodles in this dish. It is the next most popular one dish meal in Bali and Indonesia. Mie goreng or fried noodles is a vague name because the dish itself is also rather vague and it can be made with a variety of different noodles and with a range of things mixed in depending on what the cook has to hand. In its purest form again, however, it will be meat and seafood free, so ‘tanpa daging dan ikan’ should ensure that you get a plate of steaming fried noodles with fresh crunchy veggies and sometimes an egg scrambled in.

Rujak

If you are not used to it then rujak can be a strange concept. Basically, it is a fruit and vegetable salad that is served with a thick sauce made of chilli and peanuts and it can be something of an acquired taste. Each part of Indonesia appears to make rujak differently, but some things that you might find in it include water apple, raw unripe mango, pineapple, cucumber, or sweet potato. In Bali, the rujak is sweet and sour with a mix of fruits. This mix is then doused with a savoury sauce which is often cooked down to a glutinous consistency that can be almost like toffee. Sometimes the sauce will use small amounts of terasi which is a shrimp paste, so if you want to check you can ask ‘Pakai terasi?’ (‘Does it have terasi in it?’). If you get a ‘no’ then you are good to go and it will be vegetarian and vegan. Rujak is often eaten more as a snack than as part of the main meal and you will find it sold from many a cart or small stall at the side of the road.

Rujak in Bali, Indonesia Food

Rujak in Bali, Indonesia Food. Photo by Sue

Indonesian food should be better known than it is, as there is a huge amount of variety on offer here, and much of it features diverse, complex flavours that are simply delicious. Indonesians unashamedly love meat, fish, and seafood, and vegetarianism is uncommon here, but if you pick and choose, you will find a great range of fresh, tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes in between the meat curries and barbecued seafood anywhere in Indonesia and more so in Bali. Do let us know if you know more vegetarian food in Bali and Indonesia!

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Top 6 Local Restaurants (Warungs) To Eat In Sanur, Bali

Sanur may not be on everyone’s hit-list to visit in Bali but when it comes to cuisine, it has one of the best local restaurants (warungs) around. While you can get toasted sandwiches and burgers aplenty here, if you scratch beneath the surface you will find a world of hidden culinary gems. Many of the best places to eat in Sanur are local restaurants call warungs, which can range from basic restaurants to more of a cafe type atmosphere, or even just a buffet style glass case with a few chairs and tables set up in front of it. Often the food at a warung is simple local fare so if you are looking to try some traditional Indonesian local cuisine then this is the place to find them.

Sari Bundo

Open 24 hours a day so you can satisfy a craving at any time of the day or night, Sari Bundo is a traditional Nasi Padang joint on Jalan Danau Poso that can be spotted a mile away thanks to its iconic stacked plates in the window. The food is traditionally from Padang in Sumatra so you will find favorites like beef rendang, a spicy beef dish, and sayur nangka or jackfruit curry. You can either just go up to the window and choose the dishes you want atop a plate of rice, or you can sit at a table and let them bring the food to you which can be quite the experience. Tiny dishes, sometimes up to twenty, will be placed in front of you along with a plate of white rice, and you can then choose which ones you want to pour over your plate. You only pay for the dishes you touch and you are absolutely not expected to eat everything in front of you!

Address and Telephone: Jalan Danau Poso 95, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan; +62 361-281389.

Warung Jawa Moro Seneng

Located directly next to Sari Bundo, and also open 24 hours a day, Warung Jawa is a hit amongst locals in the know thanks to its rock-bottom prices but heaps of local flavors. Warung Jawa serves Javanese style Nasi Campur or mixed rice and you can choose from local favorites like chicken curry, slices of omelet, and vegetable dishes, all piled high onto of a plate of rice. The food is served buffet style so just point to what you want and pay for the number of dishes you have selected. The food here is perfect washed down with a cooling glass of teh manis dingin (iced sweet tea) and this is definitely the place to come if you want some local food on a budget.

Address: Jalan Danau Poso No.78, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan.

Warung Jawa at Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Warung Jawa at Sanur, Bali. Photo by Balifan

Warung Krishna

For some of the best Balinese food in Sanur head to Warung Krishna, a little out-of-the-way place on Jalan Kutat Lestari. It may be a little outside of the main tourist hub of Sanur but it is definitely worth it and you can expect Balinese staples like fish satay and lawar, a dish of mixed vegetables, shredded coconut and herbs. Service takes place at the buffet bar next to the tills in the restaurant, so just go and have a look and pick whatever you fancy. They also do a delicious sauce made from pickled chillies which are not to be missed, although be warned that this is a pretty spicy choice so it’s not for those who can’t take a little heat. To get here you need to cross over the bypass and then head down Jalan Tirta Nadi II and turn left onto Jalan Kutat Lestari.

Address and Telephone: Jalan Kutat Lestari No.04, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan; +62 361 281661.

Warung Krishna at Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Warung Krishna at Sanur, Bali. Photo by Good Food Bali

Warung Dapur Sanur

Another place to eat along Jalan Danau Poso, but this time at the far end towards the bypass, is Warung Dapur Sanur, which is noted for its healthier take on Indonesian food. To that end, Warung Dapur Sanur serves a range of healthy choices such as brown or red rice instead of the usual starchy white, and then adds to this with a choice of nasi campur dishes like fried tempe or tempeh (compressed soybean cake) and both vegetarian and meat curry options. Aside from the toothsome Nasi Campur buffet bar at the front of the restaurant, you can also order Javanese and Manado dishes like bakso (meatball soup) and bubur Manado, a kind of rice porridge from Sulawesi.

Address: Jalan Danau Poso No.15, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan.

Warung Dapur at Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Warung Dapur at Sanur, Bali. Photo by Balikutours

Warung Pantai Indah

If you like your dinner to come with a view then this is definitely the place to come. Warung Pantai Indah is a little beachfront cafe located on Pantai Indah and alongside selling the coldest beer on the beach (they claim), they also serve a range of Indonesian and Western dishes. One of the best choices here is the beef or chicken satay or meat on skewers, which comes served atop its own miniature grill over charcoal for a deliciously smoky flavor. They also do delicious curries infused with coconut milk, all with a gorgeous sea view. Drinks come in the form of the aforementioned cold beer or you can go for a freshly picked coconut opened in front of you. The entrance to the beach and Warung Pantai Indah is opposite Bali Deli on Jalan Tamblingan.

Address: Pantai Indah, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan.

Warung Blajong

Warung Blajong at Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Warung Blajong at Sanur, Bali. Photo by Let’s makan

For another hit of Balinese cuisine, try Warung Blajong on Jalan Danau Poso. This restaurant is more upscale than the local warungs or cafes in the area but the food is fantastic and the prices reasonable. Come to Warung Blajong for local Balinese classic dishes like siap betutu or roasted chicken, as well as pepes (food wrapped in Banana leaves) such as be pasih (fish grilled in banana leaves). If you are new to Bali then this is a great place to come to try a range of Balinese food in a less hectic setting than a local warung and friendly staff are on hand if you need some help choosing what to order or want some of the dishes and cooking methods explained.

Address and Telephone: Jl. Danau Poso No.78, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan; +62 361 285613.

Sanur is indeed not the best-known stop in Bali for its food but all you need is a little local knowledge and a hunger for finding the best dishes around, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Even just a few days here will take you on a whistle-stop culinary tour of some of the best places to eat in Bali that include Sumatran, Javanese, Sulawesi and Balinese cuisines. Tuck in!

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Top 10 Must Visit Places in Sumatra

The island of Sumatra, located to the west of Java, is home to rich landscapes, blustering volcanoes, and unique culture that makes it a fascinating if under-visited stop on the tourist trail. The tourism infrastructure is more basic in Sumatra than other areas, but for those who make the journey, a trip across this diverse island is a rewarding experience, and some of the highlights include tropical islands, limpid crater lakes, enchanting wildlife, and bustling cities, to name but a few.

Here we take a look at the Top 10 Places to Visit in Sumatra.

Mentawai Islands

Just off the coast of West Sumatra lie a cluster of volcanic islands that make up the Mentawai Islands, a hidden gem perfect for those who want some surf and sand that is firmly off the beaten track. Travel here is not too arduous if you take a ferry from Padang to the largest of the islands, Siberut, and from there you can venture on to smaller islands that boast better surf breaks like Pulau Sipora.

Mentawai Islands, Sumatra, Indonesia

Mentawai Islands, Sumatra. Photo by Claire

Medan

The largest city in Sumatra, Medan is often maligned as a tourist spot and only used as an entry and exit point for the nearby Lake Toba and Bukit Lawang, although to miss Medan altogether is to miss a trick. Internationally it may not be well known, but within Indonesia is it considered one of the country’s premium foodie destinations, particularly in neighboring Java, and visitors flock here just to eat and drink their way around the city. If you are using Medan is your main entry point on to other things in Indonesia, then at least make sure to sample some of its culinary delights before you leave, such Soto Medan, a spicy coconut milk based soup often eaten for breakfast and Mie Aceh, curried fried noodles.

Medan Grand Mosque, Sumatra, Indonesia

Grand Mosque, Medan, Sumatra. Photo by Ismail Batubara

Lake Toba

As you move around North Sumatra, one of premium attractions here is Lake Toba, which has the claim to fame of being the largest crater lake in the world, having been formed by a massive eruption of a now dormant volcano, or, if you believe the local legend, by a magic fish. Lake Toba is known for being the home of the Batak, one of the main indigenous groups in Sumatra, and the tombs of Batak kings of old as well as traditional Batak style houses can all be visited at Lake Toba.

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Holmes Nainggolan

Padang

Padang is yet another place in Sumatra that is raved about by domestic travelers and largely ignored by international tourists. One of the main reasons that foreign tourists go to Padang is to move on to other places like the Mentawai Islands, and so the city has a wide range of accommodation options and facilities, but the biggest draw here is the food. Widely touted as the best food in the whole of Indonesia (a lofty claim in a county with over 17,000 islands) Padang food comes in the form of the ubiquitous Nasi Padang, a range of small plates of vegetables, curries, and accompaniments like tofu or tempe (compressed soybeans) served with rice.

Bukit Lawang

Orang Utan Sanctuary at Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Orang Utan Sanctuary at Bukit Lawang, Sumatra. Photo by Arian Zweger

To the north of Medan, you will find Bukit Lawang, most well known for its Orang Utan sanctuary that aims to rehabilitate these precious primates and reintroduce them into the wild. Bukit Lawang lies at the beginning of Gunung Leuser National Park, a protected area of jungle that stretches up into Aceh Province and due to its unspoilt charms it’s is a great place to go trekking and check out some of the local flora and fauna.

Pulau Weh

Pulau Weh is arguably one of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia, but unfortunately, most visitors never make the trip up there to find out. Located off the coast of Aceh Province, Pulau Weh has some of the best diving and snorkeling in Indonesia and is thankfully far less crowded than other beach locations, while still having just enough visitors to ensure that tourists will be well catered for.

Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Pulau Weh, Sumatra. Photo by Chalz

Banda Aceh

The capital of Aceh Province, Banda Aceh has sadly become synonymous with the devastating tsunami of 2004, although a trip here also offers a glimpse into a very different way of life to the rest of Indonesia. The Tsunami Museum, in particular, is an extremely moving experience, and the majestic Grand Mosque is an example of the beauty of Islamic architecture and is also well worth a visit to learn more about this conservative corner of the country. As Aceh is also famous for its coffee, visitors shouldn’t miss a trip to one of Banda Aceh’s most famous coffee shops, Warung Kopi Solong.

Nias

Bali may claim it has the best surfing in Indonesia but Nias has a well-established surf scene for those in the know. The island of Nias is perfect for those looking to get away from the crowds at Kuta, and there is just the right mix of facilities like guesthouses with a serene and unhurried atmosphere that is often lost in frenetic Bali. Aside from the surfing, Nias has some amazing local rituals such as stone jumping.

Nias, Sumatra, Indonesia

Nias, Sumatra. Photo by Atlas Obscura

Bukittinggi

The best thing about Bukittinggi may not be the city itself, but actually, the areas that surround it, and in particular the gorgeous Lake Maninjau that ripples with clear emerald waters and is firmly off the tourist trail. Located in West Sumatra, Bukittinggi is home to the Minangkabau, the indigenous people of the area, so it’s also a great place to find sweeping unique Minangkabau architecture and learn more about this matriarchal society.

Lake Meninjau at Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia

Lake Meninjau at Bukittinggi, Sumatra. Photo by Wikimedia

Palembang

The capital of South Sumatra, Palembang’s claim to fame is that it is one of the oldest cities of Indonesia, as well as being the center of the Srivijaya Kingdom in the days of yore. What makes Palembang a worthy stop in Sumatra is its status as a port town and its position on the Musi River. Many of the city’s main attractions are located along the river, and there are also quaint floating restaurants on local wooden boats that serve some of the best food in Palembang.

Even though still under the radar of the tourists of Indonesia, Sumatra has a lot of interesting tourist attractions to offer. Do you have another must visit place in Sumatra? Share with us so that we can learn more about what Sumatra has to offer.

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