A Guide to Bali's Vegan Friendly Cuisine
Bali is perhaps one of the easiest tropical destinations to visit for any vegan. Not only due to the abundance of tempeh and vegan restaurants serving world class food from all corners of the world but because of the amazingly vegan friendly local cuisine.
In Indonesia you’ll find as many versions of coconut curries and vegetable stir frys as in any other tropical country - but that is not the exciting part. What makes the country stand out and what truly makes Bali's cuisine interesting for vegans is the fact that Indonesia is the birthplace of tempeh and the locals love it! Tempeh is made of fermented soybeans and is a nutritional powerhouse packed full of protein and probiotics. The Balinese literally use it for everything, whether it’s in vegan and non-vegan dishes. You’ll find it served as a main meal, snack, side dish or as a meat or fish replacement in curries and stir fries. (It’s also common for the locals to use tofu in similar ways).
In addition to the classic tropical thick coconut curry, which in comparison to other countries in the region (e.g. Thailand and Cambodia) is more savory and spicy, they also have a few unique and really exciting local specialties that you shouldn’t miss.
A plate of blanched or steamed vegetables served with tofu, tempeh, longtong (rice cooked in banana leafs) with a side of peanut sauce. Sometimes it’s all mixed together but we personally prefer it served separate.
This is what fuels both Indonesia and Malaysia. The name translates to fried rice. It is sometimes served with a side of rice or nut crackers but don't forget to ask if the crackers are vegan since they can be fish or shrimp based.
A plate of fried noodles served similar to a Nasi Goreng with vegetables, tempeh or tofu, seasoned with a sambal.
A plate containing several smaller dishes served on a bed of rice. The dish varies depending on what vegetables are available, what restaurants you eat at, what region you’re in and who cooked it.
This is not a dish on its own but it’s worth mentioning for context. Sambal is a curry paste made from fresh chillies, garlic, shallots, lime, and vinegar. It may contain shrimp paste so don’t forget to ask before you place your order. Sambal is used to season food and can also be served as a side dip. The recipes are often passed down through generations and it seems like every cook in Indonesia has his or her own version.
Caution: Before you dive into all these fantastic local delights you need to be aware that fish sauce is used across Indonesia. It is not used to the same extent as in the rest of Southeast Asia but it does exist which means that you should always ask for your local food to be served without it. Also, egg is sometimes considered a “vegetable” and we recommend that you ask for no egg even if it’s not mentioned in the menu.