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!

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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:


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.


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 10 Best Restaurants in Bali

Being a top tourist destination in Indonesia, Bali has a wide range of restaurants that serves from local Balinese cuisine to international flavours to suit everyone. Since usually time is limited with so many places to visit in Bali and so many things to do in Bali too, it can be daunting to think whether you have the time to sample all the best restaurants as well!

Balinese cuisine is top notch among the Indonesian various cuisines. It is a blend of Indonesian, Chinese and Indian, making it a unique yet delicious combination. Rice is the staple here but you can be sure to find other types of main meals as it has customize to the influx of tourists. Famous Balinese food includes lawar (chopped coconut, garlic, chili with pork/chicken blood), Bebek betutu (duck stuffed with spices wrapped in coconut leaves and then cooked inside embers), Balinese sate (spiced mince meat on stick) and Babi guling (spit roasted pig stuffed with spices). Just with these few mentions had salivate our appetite. You can find these Balinese good food from warungs (stalls), markets and also nice restaurants.

Babi Guling at Bali, Indonesia

Babi Guling at Bali, Indonesia

Besides that, Bali is also dotted with a wide selection of international restaurants that are notable for delicious food and well mixed drinks. Therefore you may take a respite once in a while from the local cuisine and indulge in these if your stay in Bali is long enough for you to get bored.

Since there are so many restaurants to choose from in Bali, we have come out with our take on what is the Top 10 Best Restaurants in Bali for you to enjoy before the time runs out during your visit.

Fair Warung Bale, Ubud

All travelers who came to this restaurant rave about it’s delicious food and that is the most important for a restaurant. Here you will find local Balinese fare with a mix of a few other Asian selections. The owner and staff is known for their friendliness while the food is known for quality and freshness. You just have to head over to this restaurant to try for yourself and it is a must as it could be the best restaurant in Bali for being rated number 1 in tripadvisor!

Bebek Bengil at Bali, Indonesia

Bebek Bengil at Bali, Indonesia

Bebek Bengil, Ubud

Known as the dirty duck diner, this place is famous for of course the duck. Bebek is the Indonesian name for duck and here they cook it in few ways. You can order smoked duck or crispy duck to suit your palate. The duck also comes with accompaniments to complement your food and they are a tasty bunch Indonesian style, especially the sambal (chili condiment).

Naughty Nuri Warung and Grill, Ubud

Here is where you get your grill fix, everything from racks of ribs to burgers to grilled pork. A place for pork lovers while being reasonably priced. Not exactly a fancy restaurant but the warung (stall) style eating can lend to a kind of setting too. Another bonus is that the Margarita here is surprisingly good as well.

Indonesia Must Eat: Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)

Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)

Dulang Cafe, Kuta

Most travelers come here for their authentic and delicious Indonesian food. Food that people enjoyed here are the nasi campur (rice with various dishes), sate (meat on stick), nasi goreng (fried rice), mi goreng (fried noodles), spring rolls, sop buntot (oxtail soup) and curry chicken. That said, their international offerings are also up to standard, such as their greek salad or the club sandwich. On top of it, the ambiance is good for cooling down and relaxation.

Jimbaran Seafood Dinner

This is not exactly one restaurant per say but head down to Jimbaran anyway before sunset to get a table at one of the many restaurants that line up by the beach. The ambiance here is amazing as you dine and watch the sun set over the horizon in spectacular hues of orange and purple. Seafood here are generally delicious albeit a bit pricey, take your time strolling and peeking at the menu before deciding on which restaurant to eat.

Sunset seafood dinner at Jimbaran, Bali

Sunset seafood dinner at Jimbaran, Bali

Melting Wok Warung, Ubud

One of the best restaurants that serve authentic Indonesian Balinese food, you can be sure to satiate your appetite from them here. The menu may be limited to 10 Balinese dishes but the selection is well chosen and the food is freshly cooked.

Ultimo, Seminyak

Here is when you decide to take a break from Indonesian food, the answer would be Italian food at Ultimo in Seminyak. Many tourists attest to the authenticity and quality of the food here and the ambiance is set just right for casual dining. Service is known to be good, quantity of the food generous and prices affordable. Come early as it is normally full house by 6pm!

Nasi Babi Guling at Bali

Nasi Babi Guling at Bali

Warung Sibuni, Uluwatu

Despite the name, you would actually find European and fusion food here. A cozy place that is meant for people to come for quick bites, healthy food and drinks while also surfing the internet (wifi is provided). You will find food like fish and chips, pineapple fried rice, pork loins and sate, not your usual mix but still refreshingly delicious. The service is friendly too and the internet connection is apparently fast.

Potato Head Club, Seminyak

One of the most famous club and restaurant in Bali, this is one place that many travelers say you must go. The service is friendly, food is good while the lounge and ambiance is set beautifully against ocean view. Making a booking here is advisable as it is very popular and line outside can go to very long. Good food, good music and good view, what more can one ask for?

Rock Bar at Ayana Resort, Bali

Rock Bar at Ayana Resort, Bali

Rock Bar, Ayana Resort

Perched on the cliff overlooking the roaring sea, Rock Bar is one to reckon with during your visit here in Bali. There is always a long line of people trying to get in and it is well worth the wait. The drinks and small bites here are good but the best is because you can have them while overlooking the waves crashing sea that stretches into infinity. Come here for the complete experience though not exactly for the food.

There you have it, the best restaurants of Bali. If you are living in Bali or have been to Bali and found that we have not mentioned your favourite restaurant do let us know!

Photo credits from top: Zenubud from bali, Naotake Murayama, Monica Arellano-Ongpin, Kevin Poh, momo and Jeda Villa Bali

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Top 10 Indonesian Food You Must Eat

There is actually more to Indonesian food than Nasi Goreng. Yes, you heard me right. There is so much to Indonesian cuisine that giving you a Top 10 Must Eat is almost impossible, but we shall try.

Here is a list of best Indonesian food that you must eat when you are here, though by no means complete, but we will try our best to keep it open and up for debate.

May the best food reign supreme!

Nasi Goreng – Literally means fried rice, it is actually the usual famous Southeast Asian style of stir-frying cooked rice, but with it’s very own Indonesian spices and mix

Indonesia Must Eat: Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)

Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice). Photo by Monica Arellano-Ongpin

Soto Betawi – There are a few Soto here in Indonesia that you must try, first is the Soto Betawi, which the soup is made of beef or beef offal with cow milk, it is a unique variation in itself with a distinct taste.

Indonesia Must Eat: Soto Betawi

Soto Betawi. Photo by zoyachubby

Rendang – Literally means dry curry, rendang is a really popular dish in Indonesia that is actually a dry beef stew. It is originated from Minangkabau (or also known as Padang) in West Sumatra. That is why it is either called Rendang Padang or Rendang Minangkabau. Rendang is basically meat, normally beef but sometimes liver, chicken, goat or other meats, would be cooked in coconut milk and spices until dry resulting in an intense concoction of taste and texture. It is one of the best food in the world, try it to believe it!

Ketoprak – Ketoprak is one of Indonesian traditional food. It is a mix of bean-sprout, deep-fried tofu, onion, eggs with special peanut sauce.

Soto Mie / Soto Mee – Sotomie (or Mee Soto) which is one of the most popular soto for its own right, it is either made of chicken or beef for soup and served with noodles and sliced risoles spring rolls. Of of the best Sotomie in Jakarta can be found at a stall inside Mangga Dua.

Indonesia Must Eat: Soto Mie / Soto Mee

Soto Mie / Soto Mee

Sate / Satay ayam – Sate or Satay Ayam (chicken), are skewered and grilled (BBQ) chicken served with flavourful peanut sauce. It is also known as national dish of Java, Indonesia, making it a strong contender to our Nasi Goreng.

Indonesia Must Eat: Sate / Satay Ayam

Sate / Satay Ayam. Photo by Christopher Johnson

Rawon – Rawon is a black beef soup, made with beef and keluak (black nuts) as the main spice giving it a strong nutty taste and dark in colour, along with other spices and normally served with rice.

Gudeg – A traditional food hail from Yogyakarta in Central Java, gudeg is a stew made from young jack fruit (nangka) with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic, and lots of spices. It is one of the most flavourful food in the world, melding everything from taste to textures.

Indonesia Must Eat: Gudeg

Gudeg. Photo by ^riza^

Bakso – Bakso or Baso in Indonesia, is a meatball made from beef surimi (meat paste, normally beef, with some tapioca flour). It is usually served in a bowl of beef broth with noodles, bihun (rice vermicelli), vegetables, tofu and eggs.

Indonesia Must Eat: Bakso

Bakso Stall. Photo by Jos Dielis

Soto Ayam – This is a chicken soup which is yellow and slightly spicy, normally served with lontong or nasi empit or ketupat (rice cakes) and vermicelli (rice noodles).

Sayur Asem – Sayur Asem or sayur asam (literally sour vegetables) is a tamarind soup made from peanuts, young jackfruit, melinjo, long beans, chayote, corn and meat stock (normally beef) and of course tamarind.

Nasi Kuning – Nasi Kuning (yellow rice) or sometimes known as Nasi Kunyit (turmeric rice) is a famous Indonesian breakfast rice cooked in coconut milk and turmeric. It is usuall serve with some omelette, grated coconut and spices and fried anchovy and kacang (peanuts).

Ayam goreng – Ayam Goreng seem to be as simple as it sounds – fried chicken, but the Indonesian flash their frying skill here at the best with one of most amazing fried chicken you will find in the world, crisp on the outside juicy on the inside.

Indonesia Must Eat: Nasi Kuning with Ayam Goreng

Ayam Goreng. Photo by gromanuk

Gado-gado – Gado-gado (or also known as Lotek) is an Indonesian salad, a combination of boiled vegetables doused generously with peanut sauce dressing. There are other similar dishes like pecel and atah or karedok.

Gado-gado, a vegetarian's favourite in <a href=Bali and rest of Indonesia. Fried Tempe on the bottom right” width=”640″ height=”427″ />

Gado-gado with Fried Tempe on the bottom right. Photo by Vernon Chan

Yes, the list is more than 10 because we are still voting to see which of these make it to the top 10 and who knows if there would be a new entry. Please do comment below for your choice or if you have a recommendation of your own. Let’s spread the goodness of best Indonesian food!

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