Aside from the island’s natural wonders, Bali is home to a diverse mix of cultural influences. You can see these influences in the local food, where native-grown animals like pork, chicken, and duck are prepared with recipes handed down from generations.

Of the many dishes that have become popular in Bali, babi guling stands out in its popularity. This aromatic take on roast suckling pig combines crispy pork skin and juicy meat with tropical flavors and a unique roasting process.

Babi guling is an important part of Balinese culture, as iconic as the temples and the beaches that make Bali unique. From traditional celebrations to single-portion meals, there’s a babi guling meal for everyone.

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The Origin of Babi Guling

Photo: The Spruce Eats

Ever since Anthony Bourdain put babi guling on his list of “best ever” roast pig dishes, the Balinese treat has won the hearts of tourists and locals. But babi guling has always been a part of traditional and native culture in Bali.

The early Austronesian settlers in Bali introduced the concept of roasting pigs over coals. With the introduction of Hinduism to the island, spices such as turmeric, ginger, and onion were introduced to the cooking process.

While traditional Balinese celebrations often included babi guling, the dish became a sensation when Ibu Oka in Ubud started serving individual portions in the early 2000s. Since then, every restaurant has its own process of babi guling, including “secret” recipes for the spice mixture that goes with the roasted pig.

What Makes Babi Guling Unique

Photo: Bali Discovery

There are a few things that are constant in every recipe for babi guling. The spice mix, which often includes chilis, onion, garlic, ginger, and turmeric, is rubbed on the inside and outside of the pig, and the spices are also used in the sambal (hot sauce) that comes with the dish. The pigs are roasted for hours over coals made from coconut husks, and coconut water is basted over the pig during roasting to give the meat a sweet and juicy flavor.

Once the babi guling is ready, it is then chopped into pieces and served with rice and side dishes that range from satay and vegetables to blood sausage and innards. The skin is crisp and paper-thin, the meat gets its sweet flavor and juicy texture from the coconut water, and the spicy sauce adds an extra kick.

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Where To Get Babi Guling

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Every local has their own favorite warung for babi guling, but two of the most popular ones stand out: Ibu Oka in Ubud and Pak Malen in Seminyak. Both are known for their mouth-watering babi guling, but both are also known for their long lines. Regardless of which warung they visit, Balinese locals and frequent visitors recommend going early in the morning or lining up before opening hours to get the best freshly-cooked babi guling.

Because babi guling takes a long time to roast, it’s also included in high-end banquet menus, especially for rijstaffel-style dinners. Rijstaffel is Dutch for “rice table” and involves rice served with a variety of Indonesian and Balinese main dishes, not just babi guling. Dapur Raja restaurant in Ubud has a rijstaffel menu where babi guling shares the spotlight with other Balinese treats such as roast duck and tuna satay. Similarly, the rijstaffel at CasCades in Ubud’s Viceroy Hotel also features their own take on babi guling alongside yellow rice and seafood dishes like grilled mahi mahi and baby squid.

Some fine-dining restaurants offer babi guling-inspired main courses made with pork belly instead of whole suckling pig. The babi penibel from Iwa at Hotel Tugu in Canggu is one example, spiced with lemongrass, ginger, and other Balinese flavors.

For the ultimate luxury dining experience, however, nothing beats having your own custom-roasted babi guling. Every one of The Private World’s luxury villas in Bali is equipped with a concierge service and private chef who can arrange to have your very own babi guling feast at any time.

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Final Thoughts

Babi guling represents the best of Balinese hospitality. Regardless of how you feel about roasted pig dishes, the experience of eating babi guling is an unforgettable one. Every plate of babi guling will always leave you wanting more.

Give babi guling a try on your next visit to Bali to experience the unique tastes and aromas of Balinese cuisine. You might even find your new favorite Balinese dish.

Featured Photo: Balinese Nasi Babi Guling by Come 2 Indonesia