Apr 07 2011

Where is Bali’s best babi guling? Part 1

Published by at 11:32 am under Food


Babi guling, or suckling pig, is one of Bali’s most famed dishes. 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 also available at a range of warungs where locals flock for a quick lunch or dinner. Ibu Oka’s in Ubud is the most famed spot on the island to grab a plate — Anthony Bourdain recommended it a few years back — but Balinese friends have also suggested Pak Malen’s in Seminyak and Warung Babi Guling in Sanur, so I tried those, for this first in a series of two posts…

Entrance to Pak Malen in Seminyak

No white tablecloths at Pak Malen's

First up, Pak Malen is located on busy Sunset Road in Seminyak, just at the turn-off a block before Raya Kerobokan (heading from Simpang Siur). It’s a typical nondescript roadside warung, and is usually busy when I pass it. My plate was swiftly served up along with a lukewarm Teh Botol (I may have got a cold one if I’d specified.)

Babi guling at Pak Malen's

Babi guling at Pak Malen's

The plate boasted a single 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 (urap — the generic word for a Balinese vegetable salad in coconut chilli dressing), served over white steamed rice. I didn’t seem to get too much in the way of anything offal-y — but that’s possibly because they’re used to plenty of tourists. The soup on the side was watery with a few chunks of bone-gristle. The dish was 20,000 rupiah, plus 3,000 for the Teh Botol. It’s open from around 11:00. I’d rate it, on the new Travelfish.org Bali Babgul Scale, at a 2.5/5.

Entrance to Warung Babi Guling Sanur

No white tablecloths at Warung Babi Guling Sanur either

A day later I ventured into Warung Babi Guling Sanur, which is located just opposite McDonald’s on the bypass. If you’re heading to see one of Bali’s loveliest dentists, Dr Retno, you should definitely try to tie in a stop here (at Warung Babi Guling, not McDonald’s.) It’s cleaner than Pak Malen’s, and the staff told me they usually go through three pigs a day, from 11:00 to closing time at 19:00 — it’s all done on the premises out the back.

Babi guling at Warung Sanur Babi Guling

Babi guling at Warung Babi Guling Sanur

This version clocked in at 25,000 rupiah, plus again 3,000 rupiah for the Teh Botol. It was much better than Pak Malen’s. The serving of pork slices was more generous, though the main crackling was about the same, but the accompaniments seemed to be made with much more love, if I can be so corny — even the urap, which had loads of mung beans and other green veggies in it, was exceptional, along with the extra crackling and even an amazing chunk of well, I think it was pork fat. A side of small sausage and one or two other additions rounded out the rice portion of the meal, but most delectable of all was the thick, flavoursome soup. Wow! The soup was really something, a thick, luscious 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. Rated: 4.5/5 on the scale.

Entrance to Ibu Oka's in Ubud

Tea towels, not white tablecloths, at Ibu Oka's in Ubud

Ibu Oka’s is an institution and widely recommended as the place one must try babi guling in Bali. In a central location in Ubud just near the palace, it’s easy to find and the few tables, split between a raised and covered platform you take your shoes off to sit at and a few under umbrellas, fill quickly after the 11:00am opening — we were there at 11:20 and by the time we left, the place was full. Around five to six pigs are served daily; they stay open until they run out at about 15:00pm, so best to get in early.

Suckling pig ready for eating

Suckling pig ready for eating

Our plate had a generous serving of pork meat with a dollop of spicy sauce; but this was the only babi guling dish that did not require me to blow my nose and wipe my eyes while eating, it was so mild. The urap was crunchy but overall, the servings were on the greasy side and oversalted. The nasi babi guling special was 30,000 rupiah, and the Teh Botol a rather pricey 5,000.

Ibu Oka's version of babi guling

Ibu Oka's version of babi guling

It was a bit disappointing, but to be fair to Ibu Oka, everyone’s expectations have risen along with the reputation of this place, so if it was still a roadside warung, I’d probably have been far more impressed. Also: no soup?! Rated: 3.5/5 on the scale.

Warung Putu Sanchia is located about 50 metres from Simpang Siur. This area looks kind of unappealing — let’s face it, it can be an eight-lane highway when motorists get enthusiastic. But you could actually eke out a pleasant enough afternoon here — a lunch of babi, a scalp sensation at Cozy 100 metres away and then an excellent coffee at no-frills Caswell’s. Unfortunately though, the babi here wasn’t the best.

Starting to think white tablecloths don't go with babi guling

Starting to think white tablecloths don't go with babi guling

Putu Sanchia was empty at late lunchtime when I popped by and come to think of it, I’ve never seen it busy — not a good sign. The tables are all a bit grimy from being right next to thick traffic and the place is bereft of atmosphere,  but normally that’s not an issue if the food is fantastic. This was the only place I tried that wasn’t more devoted to babi guling than other dishes; it offers ikan bakar Jimbaran style and ayam betutu Gilimanuk with equal excitement.

My serving of babi guling was hot-plate style, and initially pretty impressive. A good size, it came with two sticks of very fatty meat — or maybe it was just fat — but either way, it was delicious, as well as a small serving of tender meat, a small piece of crackling, a few offal-y and other fatty bits, including a small piece of blood sausage, and a decent urap with another spicy salad with a great texture.

No white tablecloths but a nice thin layer of traffic grime

Putu Sanchia's hotplate babgul version

I was enjoying the latter until I saw a slice of something with hair still springing from it, but babi guling is about using up all the pig, so truly, that was my problem. It was good! The soup alas was fatty, gristly and flavourless and the puddle of fatty sauce left in the hot pot a little too reminiscent of cheap fast food. The plate was the most expensive so far — 32,000 rupiah. No Teh Botol here — so I went for a passionfruit juice-y sort of thing (es marqisa, 12,000 rupiah). Rated: 2.5/5 on the scale.

Stay tuned for our next post in a few weeks covering other babgul spots in Denpasar, Nusa Dua and Petitenget.

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34 responses so far

34 Responses to “Where is Bali’s best babi guling? Part 1”

  1. Adam @ SitDownDiscoon 07 Apr 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Its really sad that ibu oka is the only Babi guling that the vast majority of tourists tries. I really like ibu oka as it’s a bit of a frantic atmosphere and there is a collective anticipation over what is about to arrive. But, if you want the best, many Balinese will say that there are plenty of others that are better in terms of taste and value. I agree. Whatever the case, there is nothing better than a bit of pork with a mean bumbu to satisfy this appetite.

  2. Adrion 07 Apr 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Babi guling Sanur is my fav :-) BTW, Handayani is in By Pass Nguhrah Rai Tohpati, the 4th traffic light after Warung Sanur. 50m before the traffic light.

  3. Jeff McNeillon 07 Apr 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I have to say, if you are going to have half-points, might as well have a 10 point scale. But really you have three ratings, so why not a three point scale, such as: Ok, Better, Best.

  4. samanthaon 08 Apr 2011 at 12:08 am

    Thanks Adri, I’m going to try it. Did you try any others?

    Jeff, I take your point on 10 point scale. (Clearly, I prefer eating to maths.) Your three point scale wouldn’t work though as this is only part 1 of a series. I’m still hoping for a 1 and a 5. Maybe even a 0.5 ;)

  5. samanthaon 08 Apr 2011 at 12:10 am

    Adam, Pak Dobiel is still on the list… Did you have any others? Tweets get lost so quickly if you don’t favourite them straight away. I’m hoping to go back to the Sanur place to watch them make it; using my Indonesian lessons to brush up on the vocab I might need.

  6. Adrion 08 Apr 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Sam,

    Yah, I went to the kitchen in Warung Sanur and took some pictures :-)

    I tried babi guling Chandra in Teuku Umar, but didnt like it. Its a restaurant for tourist (local tourist) not original warung babi guling and a bit pricey. ( I dont remember how much tho).

    Now am really craving for babi guling :-)

    -A-

  7. Theodoraon 09 Apr 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I am going to have to check the one opposite McDonalds. Gianyar is supposed to have the best — one does good sausages by the market, but I didn’t eat the babi guling itself. I’m curious about the distinction between Gilimanuk style and Gianyar style which I see advertised on warungs.

  8. [...] from China and Java. Yet Bali's is a delicious, rich cuisine and it's not only worth tracking down babi guling and ayam betutu while you're here — why not learn how to cook a few dishes as well? A bumbu at [...]

  9. James 'Babi' Bourseon 31 May 2011 at 7:17 pm

    That’s a pretty good wrap and have def added the one near Macca’s to my hit list when next in Bali.

    In the meantime you should check out the following two on Babi as they rave about Ibu Okas … maybe you need to go try it again ;-)
    http://www.travel-betty.com/was-ibu-okas-babi-guling-worth-the-flight-to-bali/

    This one has some good pics of the piggies getting cooked up.
    http://justinsomnia.org/2011/01/how-is-babi-formed/

  10. Windaon 01 Jun 2011 at 12:07 am

    Try Pak Dobiel, in Nusa Dua. My favourite and best babi guling so far :D (even its too pricy)
    But its equal with the taste, tough :)

  11. When in Bali… | HeathyBurstson 13 Jun 2011 at 2:10 pm

    [...] Babi guling (suckling pig) is pretty popular in Bali. OK, it is everywhere. I actually didn’t try it but many did. Have you tried it? [...]

  12. 2Don 29 Jun 2011 at 8:29 am

    u want too eat the best babi guling in bali u should visit babi guling penatih,,it very very yummy,,u can try and the price is more cheaper,,

  13. renion 08 Jul 2011 at 6:48 pm

    try babi guling (suckling pig) at Gianyar traditional market, hmm they’re yummy and my fave as well :DD …

  14. danaon 08 Jul 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I consider myself to be somewhat of a babi guling addict and have tried sll 4 of the places you mentioned and in my opinion the only decent one is the one in Sanur. All are overpriced and lacking in taste though compared to your average babi guling warung.

    My personal favorite is in Buduk (on the way to Tabanan) and opens at 4am and closes at 9am. Despite the strange hours it is always packed and I have never brought anyone there (Balinese or otherwise) who said it wasn’t the best they ever had. 10k a plate
    A closer option would be a little tiny warung on Imam Bonjol called Pak Nyoman Saprig. It has a little bit of a different flavor but heaps of meat. Also only 10k.

  15. samanthaon 14 Jul 2011 at 10:17 am

    Guys, I went back to Warung Babi Guling Sanur the other day and was most disappointed in the broth this time, and also got hardly any meat. But the sate stick was amazing and the crackling — oh, my god — crisped to the definition of crisped, and when it snapped it melted to nothing immediately.

    I’ll have to try Buduk too — I’m gearing up for my second big round. Does anyone have any other must-tries please?

  16. Unique Dining in Balion 13 Jan 2012 at 7:01 am

    [...] for a whimsical shopping spree down Monkey Forest Road, indulge in Bali’s culinary delicacy, Babi Guling, suckling pig infused with a delicious myriad of Balinese spices served on a bed of perfectly [...]

  17. arno wilsonon 15 Jan 2012 at 6:25 pm

    When price in Bali is so cheap why keep referring to it as though it was a consideration? These people are selling at next to nothing because they are poor and they are being taken for a ride by “comparatively” rich westerners who now are comparing price as though it were a factor in anything at all. Please 20,000Rp is approx $2.50 US so give them a break – in the united states and most of the western world you would get nothing for this much less a meal!

  18. At Market in Bali – Intelligent Travelon 28 Feb 2012 at 11:30 pm

    [...] wives, and children — we pass the time with talk of Balinese eating habits and the infamous babi guling, or suckling pig, that is being offered at every roadside warung and food stall we pass. Women with [...]

  19. Becon 19 Mar 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I recently went to Pak Malen in Seminyak for my first taste of this famous dish. There were a lot of locals and we were one of two tables of tourists, a taxi driver showed us where it was. It was around 350000 last month, they may have charged us more but definitely worth the conversion of about $3.50. I really enjoyed their home-made sambal which had lemongrass and was super bagus hot!!

  20. Danaon 04 Apr 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Was part 2 of this ever written? I have written an article about the Buduk Babi Guling that I mentioned in my first comment, it can be found here: http://balimanual.com/2012/04/the-quest-for-the-best-babi-guling-in-bali/

  21. Samon 05 Apr 2012 at 8:54 am

    Hi Dana, yes part 2 is here — but I haven’t found your place in Buduk yet! Sounds intriguing!
    http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/bali/2011/10/28/where-is-balis-best-babi-guling-part-2/

  22. Danaon 08 Apr 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Sam,
    Are you still in Bali? As I stated in the article it has been asked that I do not publicly post the address, but I will take you out there if you want to try it. I took a group of 17 people out there this past Thursday and every single person not only said that it was the best Babi Guling they had ever had but also the entire experience was simply incredible. One of my friends took a video of it and it is in the editing stages rot now, I will post it up once it is complete.

  23. Yantoon 25 Apr 2012 at 7:29 am

    Hi Dana,
    Pls give me your e mail address !!
    Thinking of going to Bali this mid year !!
    Cheers
    Yanto

  24. Danaon 01 May 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Yanto,
    I prefer not to post my personal email address on the internet although you can contact me through my website which will be clickable on my name. Thanks.

  25. The best babi guling in Bali | Nicky Sullivanon 26 Aug 2012 at 1:46 pm

    [...] She has received a tip-off from a reader called Dana saying he knows where to find the best babi guling in Bali. The only catch is that we have to keep it a [...]

  26. Scarlet Scorpionon 28 Oct 2012 at 1:31 am

    Hi, we’ll be coming from Kuta. What should we tell the bemo if we want to go Warung Babi Guling Sarung? I’m so sold on the place after reading your blog :D It’s been quite difficult to find comprehensive blogs about Bali and it’s our first time and we’ll only be staying for 3 days so I just really want to make sure it won’t be a hit and miss kind of thing for us :)

  27. Samantha Brownon 28 Oct 2012 at 1:39 am

    Scarlet, a friend only mentioned to me the other day that the past few times she’s been past Warung Babi Guling Sanur it’s been closed — so we’re not sure whether it’s still open!! I would not risk it if you’re coming all the way from Kuta as the traffic through Simpang Siur to get there at the moment is really bad while they’re doing road construction work. If you’re heading along Legian toward Seminyak anyway, you might want to try Pak Malen instead — http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/indonesia/2011/04/07/where-is-balis-best-babi-guling-part-1/ There are surely a few babi guling joints down in Kuta proper — ask your guesthouse/hotel to point you to the nearest one!

  28. Evanderon 03 Nov 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Please try Babi guling Chandra at Jln. Teuku Umar, just 20meters after Dunkin Donuts. They serve you with soup. That’s my favorite. Number 2 in line will be Pak Dobil at Nusa Dua. Ibu Oka will be number 3 since there’s no competition at Ubud.

  29. [...] Eat Paste – Or babi guling that has been sitting out in the sun for 8 [...]

  30. Martynon 07 Nov 2012 at 5:55 am

    I have tried babi guling in most of the commercial outlets, but the best I have ever had was one in a small village in Singaraja. I saw all the preparation from killing, singeing, scraping, stuffing, cooking and then enjoyed the consumption of it, including all the offal. If you have an opportunity to do the same go for it ( although I recommend you skip the killing part, even the most hardened of people would be disturbed)

  31. [...] authentic, line ups at peak hours, limited seating, not as hygienic Tips: As recommended by this blog, Warung Babi Guling Sanur (Jl.Bypass Ngurah Rai, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia) is supposed to have [...]

  32. daveon 03 May 2013 at 5:55 am

    pak dobil is way over priced and they have different prices for tourist and local. its more worth while to go a proper restaurant.

  33. donyon 20 Aug 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Babi guling in penatih is also delicious and more cheaper. At kapal, badung in the traditional market u also can found a good babi guling. In denpasar, i recommended warung dodo, near the crossroads in satria traditional market and warung babi guling in supratman atreet near the central police office (polda bali), but the place just too small and crowded

  34. Tommyon 09 Dec 2013 at 5:28 pm

    The best is in UBUD, resturant name is IBU OKA at the old marked!

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