This was my first time to Bali, yes, how come? Despite living only 2 hours away from the heaven on earth, I did not have the opportunity to go until now. And since I was there, I had to try the legendary Balinese dish – babi guling.
So what is babi guling? Essentially, it is roasted suckling pig. The pig is stuffed and infused with a spicy concoction typically involving turmeric, coriander seeds, lemongrass, black pepper and garlic, and traditionally spit-roasted. It’s available at a range of warungs where locals flock for a quick lunch or dinner.
Warung Babi Guling Sanur is a bit of a hike from Sanur’s main tourist drag of Danau Tamblingan, but it’s worth it. The staff told us they usually go through three pigs a day — and it’s all prepared on the premises out the back. Many said it’s better than the famous Pak Malen’s (which popularised babi guling because of its proximity to Seminyak), but as I had not tried Pac Malen’s version, I shall reserve the commentary until I had tried both.
Behind the nondescript warung is the kitchen as well as living quarters to the folks working in the warung. They would prepare the pigs early in the morning and start the roasting before the sun comes up. They open the restaurant after the first pig is ready to be served. Everything is prepared with love in this kitchen, and they welcomed us to walk around. Not recommended for the squeamish, the hygiene condition wasn’t great, but it did churn out delicious food.
There’s no need to order, as they serve only one dish – babi guling. The rest of the accompanying dishes come automatically.
The serving of came with a piece of puffed up crackling, a serving of urap, a slice of pig blood sausage (urutan), pork lawar and a few other side dishes round up the plate. All these food accompanied a plate of nasi putih with sambal matah that was already placed on the table for you to add some more spice into the meal.
The soup packed a huge punch. A thick, luscious assam broth with a variety of green veggies and flecks of pork meat that I imagine melted off large chunks of bone in a pot that simmered for a long time. Truly excellent. I am still trying to figure out what was that eggplant like vegetable in the soup. If anyone can tell me, please leave a comment.
This was probably the highlight of the entire plate – the crispy suckling pig skin. To call it crispy was a misnomer – it was almost like a piece of glass, and perhaps at a certain angle, it would still cut like broken glass. It was fragile yet hard enough to get going, unlike the suckling pig you get here, where the skin is crispy but becomes soft very quickly. Because they have to sell this pig the whole time, they have developed a technique to crisp up the skin that keeps p over time.
Unfortunately there was only one piece per plate, and usually they would not sell the skin separately as they need to give at a least a piece for every serving. It was late in the afternoon, so they made an exception and gave us a plate of the suckling pig skin. Unforgettable experience eating through the plate of “glass”.
Chunks of pork belly were used to make this delicious sate babi (pork satay). Just like traditional satay, which use herbs to marinate the meat before grilling; the aromatics in this case was not pronounced but the sweet soy glaze that they brush onto the sate as they grill the meat, similar to the Japanese yakitori, was delicious.
And I was surprised to find a piece of braised pork belly with the fatty part all rendered properly. It was unlike the Teochew or Hokkien style (they don’t use five spice), but the result was the same, a piece of fork-tender pork belly without the greasiness.
Bali is most probably the only place you can get pork this easy in the whole of Indonesia as Bali’s population is generally non-Muslim. So there are many warungs that sell babi guling because of its fame and popularity. Go and try anyone of them, perhaps you can find a gem among those little alleys.
Warung Babi Guling Sanur
Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai No.256, Sanur, Denpasar Selatan, Kota Denpasar, Bali 80227, Indonesia
Visited Mar 2023