Guide to eating Nasi Padang and where to find it in Bali

For anyone either already in country or thinking of travelling to Indonesia, Nasi Padang may be one of the names you often hear related to the local food scene. But what is it? Where can you buy it? And how should you eat it? If you are looking to try Nasi Padang on your trip to Bali, you should read on to get the best of the experience. If you have tried it (and love it!), then check out what you might have missed and go get it again! Nobody ever has enough of Nasi Padang I would say.

Here you will learn about everything you need to know in our beginner’s guide to Nasi Padang:

What is Nasi Padang?

Nasi Padang means ‘Padang Rice’. This cuisine originated in the city of Padang in West Sumatra, and even though it is served all over Indonesia, it has still kept its original name.

Nasi Padang, in its simplest form, is a plate of boiled white rice served with accompaniments or small dishes. The main dishes of Nasi Padang are usually fried meats, curries, vegetable dishes, different chili sauces, and Indonesian favorites like tempe (a compressed soybean cake) and tofu. The flavors here are big and bold, and you can expect spice blends that include local delights like kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, chili, garlic, shallots, and more.

A plate full of Nasi Padang, Bali, Indonesia

A plate full of Nasi Padang. Photo by Kai Hendry

How to order and eat Nasi Padang

Getting to grips with how to eat Nasi Padang can be one of the things that put people off trying it, as it can look rather confusing at first.

To begin with, Nasi Padang restaurants are almost always instantly recognizable thanks to their glass fronted windows. The plates with the different dishes are stacked in the window and it can be quite an impressive sight. Once you actually get inside the restaurant, there are two ways to eat Nasi Padang.

A typical Nasi Padang restaurant, Bali, Indonesia

A typical Nasi Padang restaurant. Photo by Gunawan Kartapranata / CC BY-SA 3.0

The first is to stand at the window where you will be given a plate of rice. You can then point to the dishes you want to try and these will be poured over the top. You then take your plate and sit down in the restaurant to eat it, or you can have it as a takeaway where it will usually be wrapped in a banana leaf and paper.

The second way to eat Nasi Padang is to go directly into the restaurant and sit down… and wait. A plate of rice will be brought to you followed by a selection of small individual plates of dishes from the window. Usually, you will get anything from a dozen up to twenty different ones to choose from, but don’t worry as you don’t have to eat them all. Just choose the ones you want to try and leave any that you don’t. You will only pay for the plates you touch.

A table spread of Nasi Padang dishes, Bali, Indonesia

A table spread of Nasi Padang dishes. Photo by Gabriel Sai

What are the food choices in Nasi Padang?

To some extent it depends on what the restaurant has cooked that day, but Nasi Padang places don’t usually tend to differ very much in the kinds of dishes they serve. As such, some of the things that you can expect include.

Beef Rendang is probably the most famous of all the foods found in a Nasi Padang restaurant, and with good reason. Often voted the most delicious food in Asia, Rendang used to be made with buffalo in days gone by, although fortunately it now almost always uses beef. The meat is slow cooked in a curry paste and shredded coconut usually added that lends the dish a hit of sweetness that is a welcome foil to the pungent chilies that are also used. It can take several hours to cook the curry down, but it is one of the most delicious dishes not only in Nasi Padang restaurants but in the whole of Indonesia. Definitely not one to miss.

Sayur Nangka, common in Nasi Padang, Indonesia

Nasi Padang dishes. Top: Gulai ikan and bottom: Daung Singkong. Photo by hellochris

Gulai Ikan is pretty much a safe bet and is likely to be served in some form or other when you go to a Padang restaurant. Basically, gulai is a curry, and the fish used will be either freshwater or saltwater fish depending on where you are. The curry sauce has a creamy consistency that is achieved through the addition of a lot of fatty and delicious coconut milk, and the parts of the fish that you might be served can differ. Don’t be surprised however to find fish head curry among the gulai dishes on offer.

Daun Singkong are cassava leaves, and while they may not sound like the most interesting of options, the way you eat them at a Nasi Padang restaurant is key. They are almost always served on the side, especially if you get the Nasi Padang as a takeaway, so even if you don’t ask for them specifically, they will usually end up on your plate somehow. Daun Singkong are usually just served boiled, which means that on their own they can taste bland and slightly bitter. They are however packed with goodness, so make sure not to miss them out. They are meant to be mixed in with everything else on your plate and covered in a generous helping of curry sauce from the other dishes, so there is no need to eat them in their plain form.

Sayur Nangka is another stalwart of Nasi Padang restaurants and it’s rare that you will find one that doesn’t serve this dish. Sayur Nangka is jackfruit curry that takes large pieces of juicy jackfruit and mixes them with a spice blend and coconut milk to make a slightly sweet and spicy dish. As Nasi Padang is often heavy on meat, this is a great side dish to try if you want to get a dose of vegetables.

Sayur Nangka, common in Nasi Padang, Indonesia

Sayur Nangka, common in Nasi Padang. Photo by Aisyah Llewellyn

On a trip to Indonesia, Nasi Padang is one of the foods that you absolutely mustn’t miss, and wherever you are, you are sure to come across a restaurant somewhere. The fact that Nasi Padang has travelled so far from its original home is West Sumatra is testament to how delicious it is, so don’t let the towering plates and dizzying array of choices put your off.

Nasi Padang in Bali

If you want to try Nasi Padang in Bali, then here are some of my personal favourite places:

Sari Bundo
Jalan Danau Poso 95, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan; +62 361-281389.
Open 24 hours.
Meals from around IDR 25,000.

Restoran Sederhana
Jalan ByPass Ngurah Rai No.11 C, Bali; +62 361-754875.
Open from 9 am until 10.30 pm.
Meals from IDR 30,000 with drinks.

Natrabu Minang Restaurant:
Jalan ByPass Ngurah Rai No. 163, Sanur, Denpasar Sel., Kota Denpasar; +62 361- 286824.
Open 10 am to 10 pm.
Meals from IDR 25,000.

Have you ever tried Nasi Padang and what did you think of it? Which Nasi Padang dishes would you like to try on a trip to Indonesia? Tell us in the comments!

Related articles:
Top 10 Indonesian Food You Must Eat
Top 6 Local Warungs to Eat in Sanur, Bali
Top 10 Best Restaurants in Bali
Top 8 Vegetarian Food to Eat in Bali and Indonesia

Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali

Arguably the most popular temple in Bali, Tanah Lot definitely lives up to its fame, with its dramatic setting. It is one of the six revered, cardinal temples of Bali and is dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. Tanah Lot means “Land in Sea” in the Balinese language.

Tanah Lot is located at the edge of the rocks, giving it a breathtaking view and look, especially during sunset. The temple itself is 100m offshore and is only accessible to the Hindus. It cannot be reached by anyone during the high tide. The cliff-side path to the north passes the Pura Enjung Galuh temple (behind which are the best views of Tanah Lot) and then some steps down to the beach and onwards to Pura Batu Bolong temple perched atop a rocky headland.

Nowadays, there are many souvenir stalls surrounding the area, catering to the tourists. There are also some eateries that will open up for sunset drinks and meals.

Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali. Photo by Madeleine Deaton

History and facts

Tanah Lot temple was built back to 500 years ago by a Javanese priest and has been part of the Balinese mythology, venomous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple.

Where is it

Pura Tanah Lot temple is located in Tabanan at the north-west of the southern part of Bali, about 20 km from Denpasar or Kuta.

Side view of Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Side view of Pura Tanah Lot Temple. Photo by Vladimir E

Why visit

Although overrun by tourists, Tanah Lot temple is worth a visit just for its architecture, location and its significance as a very important worship place in Bali. The stroll over ragged ocean stones and the sunset cast over the whole setting will be unforgettable.

When is the best time to go

Carvings of Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Carvings of Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali. Photo by Ken Marshall


Many people come here during the sunset to catch the sun’s setting magic but if you want to avoid the crowd, early morning (before 9 am) is also a good magical time to admire the temple in silence.

Kecak Dance is held here every evening after sunset at 6.30 pm for 45 minutes. There is also a ceremony held here every 6 months, check with the place you stay.

Fees

The fee to enter the grounds surrounding Tanah Lot Temple is 60,000 Rp. (as of 2016). You’re not allowed to enter the temple except to pray. Parking fee for a car is 5,000 Rp. A guide is not necessary.

Opening Times

Open from 7am to 7pm for visitors. For worship purpose it is open for 24 hours daily.

Beach and sea, Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Beach and sea. Photo by Thomas Schlosser

Get in and get around

From Kuta or Seminyak – about 45 minutes drive
From Denpasar – public transport are limited and it is not available after sunset.

Where to stay near Tanah Lot

The nearest popular luxurious hotel you can find to Tanah Lot temple is the Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort *. This would be a great choice if you want to keep catching the beautiful sunset by the temple. Besides, there are also affordable hotels nearby such as Villa Puspa and Kubu Kedungu *. If you are in a budget, then you are in for luck with this highly rated affordable inn called Kedungu Surf Camp *

-> Find the best hotel deals near Tanah Lot Temple *

Where to eat

Recommended restaurant here is Melasti Tanah Lot. It is on the headland just north of the temple and has one of the most beautiful settings for a restaurant. Here one can enjoy candlelight dinner of fresh seafood while enjoying the famous sunset view. The meal may be a little expensive and the prime view tables are only reserved for evening diners.

Sunset at Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Sunset at Pura Tanah Lot Temple. Photo by koyne


Nearby tourist attractions

Taman Ayun temple at Mengwi – one of our top temples in Bali, this is more unknown but still a very beautiful royal temple.

Travel Tips

It is recommended to hire a car for the day in Bali for other excursions since all the tourists spots are far from each other. The road to Tanah Lot temple is also dangerous, so it is better to hire a car with a driver to take you there, or get a taxi and ask them to wait while you visit.

If you come early in the day, the paddy fields view along the way is worth the slow ride to take it in. A detour to the rugged beaches nearby such as Pantai Seseh is also recommended.

Related articles:
Top 10 Temples to Visit in Bali
Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple, Bali
Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Lake Bratan, Bali

Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Lake Bratan, Bali

Lake Bratan’s temple, called Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and also known as the Floating Temple, is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali. It is also underrated compared to Tanah Lot and Pura Luhur Uluwatu temples.

This temple is also the favourite of many local tourists but not as well known with foreigners, therefore relatively still unknown, it is a true gem to discover.

History and facts

This Hindu temple was built in the 17th century in honor of the famous trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It is also used to worship the lake goddess called Dewi Danu. The history dates back to the Mengwi kingdom of that time.

Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Lake Bratan, Bali, Indonesia

Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Lake Bratan, Bali. Photo by whyyan

Where is it

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is located at Lake Bratan in Bedugul Highlands of Bali. The lake is also worth a visit to take in the breathtaking views.

Why visit

One of our top temples to visit in Bali but still relatively unknown to foreign tourists, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan has its own charmed with its interesting thatched roof layered with reminiscence of pagoda structure and located just at the edge of the temple, allowing chance of reflections of its grandeur.

Festival at Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Lake Bratan, Bali, Indonesia

Festival at Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Lake Bratan, Bali. Photo by alex hanoko

When is the best time to go

If you are lucky and here during one of the many festivals held here at the temple, you will be in for a real treat. If not, you will still have a good time marveling at the beauty of this Hindu temple that is unlike the others.

Fees

The entrance fees is 50,000 IDR (as of 2016)

Opening Times

Daily 9 am to 8 pm

-> Find the best hotel deals near Pura Ulun Danu Temple at Booking.com *

Get in and get around

There are public transports that take you here to Lake Bratan from Denpasar or Lovina. There is also shuttle buses between the southern beaches and Lovina, it takes 45 minutes to get to the Pura Ulun Danu temple from Lovina. From Ubud, it will take a 1.5 hours drive and from Kuta, a long 2 hours drive.

Nearby tourist attractions

Dolphin watching at Lovina.
Jatiluwih rice terraces.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bedugul, Bali, Indonesia

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bedugul, Bali. Photo by alex hanoko

Travel Tips

Taman rekreasi Bedugul (Bedugul Recreation Park) nearby here has a lot to offer for water sports.
There are also many souvenir shops here that are different from the usuals you can find shopping in Kuta or Seminyak.
Don’t forget to check out the tiny temple at the western end.

Related articles:
Uluwatu Temple, Bali
Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali
Top 10 Temples to Visit in Bali
Bedugul, Bali: Mountains, Lakes and Treks

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.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Bali with Booking.com*

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!

Related articles:
Top 10 Indonesian Food You Must Eat
Top 10 Restaurants in Bali
Top 6 Local Warungs to Eat in Sanur, Bali