Morning Street Food in Bali

I’ve really taken to Balinese street food lately, especially at breakfast time. At around 6 am, a few Balinese women arrive at the beach end of Jalan Pantai Sindhu and set up small stalls along the brick walls. They come laden with baskets on their heads, after cooking the morning snacks at home. They sell out quickly and are gone by 9.30 am. One young woman sells a fabulous array of Indonesian cakes, as well as tahu isi, and Balinese thick black coffee. The other older woman sells large wedges of cut fruit, rempeyek cacang (peanut krupuk) and triangular packets of rice with a little spicy condiment and a hard-boiled egg: open the package and it becomes your plate, then eat with your fingers Indonesian style.

Sweet cake lady

It’s an idyllic start to the day, slowly waking with the sun rising over the ocean. sitting in a traditional Balinese platform on the sand. Here’s my list of favourite kue ( snacks) from that shy vendor:

  • tahu isi- a large square of tofu stuffed with bean shoots then deep-fried in batter served with a small green chilli which you insert into the middle.
    Tahu isi. Stuffed and fried tofu.

    Inside the tahu isi
  •  dadar gulung – a green pandanus leaf  rice flour pancake rolled up and stuffed with grated coconut and palm sugar

    Dadar Gulung, rolled pandanus pancake stuffed with coconut and palm sugar.
  •  kue pisang, made from rice flour, coconut milk and sugar filled with slices of banana, the mixture is wrapped in banana leaf then steamed.
    Kue pisang for me.

    Mr T’s favourite green stuffed cake. I don’t yet know the name of this one, but it has a similar stuffing to Dadar Gulung.
  • klepon , green-coloured balls of rice cake filled with liquid palm sugar and coated in grated coconut. The liquid explodes when you bite into it. Made from rice flour, pandanus paste or powder, palm sugar or coconut sugar, grated coconut.
  • onde- onde. Round balls that look a bit like Moshi, but are completely different and taste rather healthy. Made from glutinous rice, mung bean (or lotus) paste, sugar, sesame seeds.

    round balls with sesame seeds are Onde- Onde
  • Kue Talam, a two layered steamed cake, usually in two colours, made from rice flour, steamed sweet potato, palm sugar, tapioca, and coconut milk.
Sindhu Beach, 6.30 am. Cake and Coffee vendor

The young woman, my new best friend, doesn’t speak English and I have just enough Bahasa Indonesia to get by. You’ll need to know your numbers, along with a few other words like gula (sugar) pisang (banana) kopi (coffee), tahu (tofu) and ketan ( sticky rice) or just wing it. Each cake and snack is a taste sensation and at dua ribu / IDR 2000/ AU 20 cents a piece, it’s hard to go wrong. Although there is a little palm sugar in each of these bites, they are not overly sweet, and go well with thick black coffee. Those containing sticky rice are rather filling too.

Which one today?

In the past, these Balinese cakes came wrapped in banana leaves, as did most street food items. You now notice that these tasty treasures from morning street vendors use plastic wrapping or sealed in cellophane. Some snacks, such as pisang goreng  (banana fritters) and kue pisang come plastic free. Of course, if I had eaten the huge banquet breakfast in my hotel, or opted for one seated at a little cafe nearby, I would be completely oblivious to the amount of plastic used along with the food waste that these places produce. The young woman photographed collects all the plastic waste she sells. It’s heartening to know that Bali is now addressing the plastic issue, with recycling bins prominently displayed.

Morning fruit with a squeeze of lime. Fallen Frangipani blossom.

Today’s breakfast of two coffees, two pieces of stuffed tofu, two little cakes, a wedge of watermelon and a wedge of papaya came to AU$2. I prefer this style of breakfast to the big banquet western style breakfast. It’s another chance to eat like a local, watching as they pull up on motorbikes to grab a coffee and a quick snack, and to catch a glimpse of Agung rising above the sea.

See list of popular Indonesian Kue here

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26 thoughts on “Morning Street Food in Bali”

  1. You’ve made me nostalgic for the Asian food stalls in Darwin! We used to go there every Saturday morning for breakfast and then I would buy a few of the banana leaf steamed sweets to take home with me. My favourite was one with peanut and honey in the centre. I think some of them were quite good recreations and others used what ingredients were available in Darwin 30+ years ago. Enjoy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Mindil Market in Darwin is one of the great eating experiences in Australia and such a wonderful melting pot of cultures there. I imagine you could fly up there quite easily from Alice for a night at that sunset market.

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    1. Every country has a problem with plastic. It’s so easy for Europeans and Australians to pick on Bali. Before I left Australia, the sigle use plastic bag ban was in force- but only at the checkout. The whole supermarket experience is so full of plastic- bags for fruit and veg, plastic wrapped bananas, tomatoes and mushrooms in plastic boxes, Toiletries and beauty products, washing liquids, on and on it goes- acres of plastic. Its a world issue not being addressed by most.

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      1. Yes, it is a huge problem everywhere. We were recently in Copenhagen, Denmark, a country I thought to be progressive. We went into a supermaket and just about everything was wrapped in plastic, even worse than here. I was surprised and disappointed.
        My biggest problem is remembering my cloth bags. My solution is to hang them on the doorknob and I have to see them when I leave the house. As soon as I unpack groceries the bag goes back on the doorknob.

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        1. That’s a good approach. I have these little lace produce bags ( from Celia in Sydney) and they get packed into one favourite shopping bag. They either all live at the front door or in my car boot. That’s so disappointing about Denmark. How is Italy going on that front? I found that Lombardians were using plastic bottled water in their homes as they couldn’t tell if the ground water had been polluted.

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          1. I don’t see any Italians at the supermarket taking their own bags. There are huge sections of the supermarket devoted to bottled water and there are always huge slabs of bottled water in trolleys.
            I think this is ridiculous. The tap water is just fine, we drink it all the time. Besides, there are free water fountains everywhere. I don’t know if it is laziness or worry about the state of the water. I often see people filling up at the fountains, so I’m sure the water is good.
            I have noticed a campaign in Italy recently encouraging people to avoid bottled water, but they have a long way to go.
            45 years ago, when I first lived in Italy, we were given plastic bags for shopping, when we were still using paper bags here in Australia. At the time I thought they were a great idea!

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  2. We have stayed In Sanur a couple of times and I love the area you write about. Are you able to recommend a good place to stay? I am wanting to go back next year and perhaps also stay in Candidasa area. Ubud is a favourite but it’s time to spread the love. Am really enjoying your stories. 🙏

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement. This time I’m staying in Inna Sindhu Beach Hotel and Resort. I like the size of the rooms here and the privacy of the garden setting – you can’t see other guests from your verandah which I like. The pool is good. It’s also on the beach, but tucked behind a garden so it feels very private. We got a ‘room only’ price, which enables me to meet locals at the beach for breakfast. For a few more dollars, you can have the banquet breakfast, but I find those meals overwhelming. It’s at the Sindhu end of sanur, and is around $75 – $80 room only for two.
      Candidasa has an odd beach aspect, due to some building of groins to break the waves. I’m not fond of that spot.
      We quite Pemuteran in the North for a more low key experience- nice for four days or so. the drive through the country side is interesting and takes around 4 hours to get there.
      I find Ubud too busy now which is sad.

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      1. Thank you for your reply, I’ll look into Pemutrran for our next trip. I am hoping to go next year. I need to escape the winter, although I feel Tasmania has had a mild one so far!

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  3. Another wonderful installment of your visit to Bali. I love street food and your Balinese breakfast would be just up my ally. The thick coffee black coffee intrigues me. What makes it thick?

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    1. Balinese coffee is very finely ground and they put lots into a cup. It’s not brewed or percolated. And it needs sugar as it’s quite bitter and strong. Black is best, even if you like milk, as the milk here is always packet creamer or UHT on lucky days. You start looking forward to it after the initial shock.

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    1. You never know Dale- it might also be good for the GO to have winter breaks with water temperatutues of 27c, a bit of gentle walking and swimming in hot weather, and lovely Balinese food. Once I arrive here, my winter bones are rejuvinated. No more aching.

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    1. Palm sugar is a sweetener that is made from the sap present in the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. As its an unrefined sugar, it has lots of mineral trace elements and is healthier than other sugars. The cakes use far less than a western cake or jam on a bricohe, which is my justification for eating Indo cakes for brekky.
      Glad to hear your trees arrived- happy planting Signorina.

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  4. Loved your description of a lot of my favourites. Unfortunately, our recent trip to Bali was spoiled by too much rubbish in Canngu and too many people in Ubud. Haven’t stayed in the Sanur area for many years. Will have to try it next time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Val, The rubbish situation has vastly improved here and they are making a real effort. I went to Ubud last year and that will be the last time: the place is too busy and crowded- all my favourite streets now over developed. Sanur has its busy times ( late July and August- the European season) but the rest of the time it’s pretty quiet, so we keep coming back here.

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  5. Anything with watermelon has to be good doesn’t it? And it sounds like a great idea to avoid those western style brekky banquets! Great to hear that they are on to the plastic problem .. I was surprised to see the plastic in her basket, a sign of our times

    Liked by 2 people

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