When you see pictures of Bali, they're often of clear blue waters, huts in the middle of the ocean, and expensive-looking resorts. However, behind this touristy image is an extremely unique culture that celebrates and boasts amazing Balinese food. The two of us spent two weeks volunteering in Bali and were shown the true culture of Bali, and most importantly, the food. Here is the best of the best of our Bali food experience.

Mei Goreng

Erin Gillingham

This is a simple staple dish. Most often it is a vegetarian dish, but meat can be added. It may just look like noodles with veggies but the taste is so much more complex. The veggies are exotic and cooked but still crisp while the noodles are the perfect texture. This dish is served all over the island and throughout Indonesia. 

Nasi Goreng 

Erin Gillingham

One of the most popular Balinese food dishes is fried rice. 'Goreng' means fried and 'nasi' means rice. It can come with shrimp (as seen here), other meats, or vegetarian-style. The shrimp is always fresh out of the ocean and takes the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. The hollowed out cucumber is home to a snappy soy sauce blend.

Mangosteen 

Delaney Coleman

This is the sweet and smooth mangosteen fruit. They grow on trees around the island and go for beyond cheap. This fruit is the best that I have ever tasted. The sweet, white flesh contains a small seed that should not be eaten; it's half the fun to get all of the meat off of it. Other exotic fruits in Bali include jackfruit and durian.

Chicken Satay & Fried Tempeh 

Delaney Coleman

A sample plate of fried veggies, fried tempeh, and a tower of rice. Most Balinese entrees consist of rice, meat satay and shrimp crisps. Satay dishes are made with peanuts that are crushed into a goo (resembling peanut butter) and mixed with different spices. Most chicken satay has a mild flavor, but this particular chicken satay was extremely spicy. I had to order a glass of milk since I was crying from the heat.

Balinese Vegetable Stew

Delaney Coleman

A delicious homemade Balinese stew that was served to us at the Friends of the National Parks Foundation homestay. This foundation is located on a small island just off of Bali called Nusa Penida. Most of the fruits and vegetables that we ate here were grown on site. We harvested some cucumbers as well that were the size of eggplants.

Gulai 

Erin Gillingham

Curry dishes are extremely popular as well. It gets its color from a combination of coconut milk and turmeric. The rice is added to the curry and the warm sauce coats each grain making for a delicious bite each time. Many curries seen in the United States are thick and coat the veggies or meat in it, but Balinese curries are thin due to the high amount of water in them.

Fresh Juices

Erin Gillingham

Every restaurant you go to in Bali will have a variety of fresh juices to choose from. The most popular options are papaya, melon, avocado, and banana. The juices are made with very few ingredients which keeps the drinks simple and pure. You can get juice in a cup or order coconut water served straight out of the nut.

Pisang Goreng 

Erin Gillingham

Most Balinese desserts consist of fried bananas. They can be served plain, or dolled up with caramel, coconut and ice cream as seen above. Another popular banana dish is banana pancakes which consist of a crepe-like pancake dotted with banana before cooking. In Bali, the ice cream seems creamier, the caramel seems richer, and the bananas seem sweeter. 

These are only a few dishes from Bali, and barely a fraction of all the foods that you'll see on the 18,000 islands that make up Indonesia. If you're like us and have the travel bug, hop on a plane and head to Bali for an unbelievable experience, and leave with a very happy stomach.