Guide to eating Nasi Padang 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

Aisyah Llewellyn

Author: Aisyah Llewellyn

Aisyah Llewellyn lives in Sumatra in beautiful Indonesia and writes widely about food and travel in Southeast Asia. Fluent in Indonesian, she also runs food tours educating travellers about Indonesian food and ingredients. She has travelled all over Indonesia but fell in love with North Sumatra when she first visited over 10 years ago. You can follow her on Twitter @BRITgrlINDOfood

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