If you miss your Sunday roast with baby potatoes – Bali has a solution for you! It is called babi guling, or suckling pig. That is one of Bali’s most famed dishes and the closest thing you will find to Western roasted meat.
In Bali, the pig is stuffed and infused with spices such as turmeric, coriander seeds, lemongrass, black pepper and garlic, and traditionally spit-roasted. In the past, a babi guling feast was usually reserved for big rites-of-passage celebrations: weddings and funerals. But a baby’s third-month blessing or a child’s first tooth filling also qualified as reasons to roast a pig. Today you can find this delicacy in open-air restaurants that specialise in roast suckling pigs and are scattered throughout the island.
If you order a plate of babi guling you will get spicy minced pork sate-style stick, several small chunks of succulent pork flesh, a few pieces of beautifully crisp pork skin, some crunchy fried crackling, and a small spiced long bean salad called urap (the generic word for a Balinese vegetable salad in coconut chilli dressing), served over white steamed rice.
Locals say that the key to a good babi guling is that it shouldn’t just be all about the meat. There should be good vegetables aside as well as fluffy rice, tender meat and a piece or two of super crispy skin. There should also be a spice mix that pops in your mouth.
That mix of spices is called basa gede, literally meaning “big spice mix”. It consists of shallots, garlic, ginger, ginger-like galangal, turmeric, macadamia-like candle nut, bird’s eye chilli, coriander, black peppercorn, salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaf) and salt, plus a shrimp paste mixed in. Like salt and pepper to Westerners, this basa gede is in nearly every dish on the island. All you have to do is sit down, inhale the beautiful smell and start to eat. Enjoy!■