Klepon (pronounced Klê-pon) is a traditional rice sweet, popular in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is a small boiled rice cake formed in a ball, stuffed with liquid gula jawa (palm sugar), and rolled in freshly grated coconut. It is one of my favorite sweets here in Bali, because has just the right level of sweetness, what’s unusual in Indonesia because people here like it SUPER sweet. Many cakes or desserts here have a little bit too much sugar for my taste, but Klepon has just the right amount of the tasty brown palm sugar; if you come to Indonesia you have to try it!
The green color comes from a paste made from the pandan or dracaena plant whose leaves are used widely in South East Asian cooking. In other parts of Indonesia, such as in Sumatra and in neighboring Malaysia, klepon is called as onde-onde. However, in Java onde-onde refers to the Chinese Jin deui, a rice cake ball coated with sesame seeds and filled with sweet green bean paste. Although popular across Southeast Asia, Klepon may have originated in Java. Klepon are often eaten as morning or afternoon snacks along with tea. One must take care when consuming Klepon, because a freshly boiled one usually contains hot palm sugar liquid. In Bali Klepon is famous around the area of Tanah Lot, where you can buy it at small stands on the side of the road. Usually you get them in a package made from banana leaf with 5-6 balls inside.
In the 1950s, klepon was introduced by Indonesian immigrants to the Netherlands and is readily available in Dutch or Chinese Indonesian restaurants and supermarkets all over the country.
Martabak is one of the most popular street foods in Indonesia. The dish has its origins in Saudi Arabia (mutabbaq – folded), through traders from India it spread to many Asian countries, among others to Indonesia and Bali. There you can mainly buy it in the evening. It’s like a huge multilayer pancake, stuffed with different condiments such as chocolate, peanuts or/and cheese in the sweet variation or egg and meat in the savory variant.
Nasi (rice) goreng (fried) is an Indonesian classic, which local people eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s a mix of fried rice, vegetables (mostly carrots, onions, water spinach and garlic) and egg normally served with prawn crackers on the side. You can get in at street sales, warungs or restaurants, normally you can choose between a vegetarian, seafood or chicken variation. I like it as a late breakfast, especially after workout or surfing when I’m very hungry.
Roti canai is an Indian-influenced kind of flatbread, which you can find in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In Bali you can get it at small street stands or in restaurans. The classic one is filled with fried egg, but there are a lot of variations.
A great place for this traditional dish ist the Roti canai – Street kitchen and dining room on Jl Raya Batu Bolong.
The fillings for roti reach from classical, like egg, onion, garlic or vegetables to western ones, for example tomato/mozzarella/basil. They also have sweet variants with chocolate, banana or sugar and cinnamon. Besides the flatbread there is also other local food on the menu such as nasi goreng (fried rice), curry or sate (spits with meat, tofu or vegetables served with peanut sauce).
I ordered the chicken curry, tempeh sate (tofu) with peanut sauce and hummus dip and roti stuffed with egg and cheese. All dishes were delicious, the presentation on the plate simple but nice to look at. The prices are very reasonable between 20.000 (1,30€) and 28.000 (1,80€) for a roti, 25.000-30.000 (1,70€-1,90€) for sate and 35.000 (2,20€) for the chicken curry. The interior of the dining room is beautiful, the furniture is a mix of old and new wood elements with a lot of pictures on the wall and decorative details all over the place. It is somewhat reminiscent of a living room, and you feel instantly at home.
This was the first roti I ate in Bali, but after this tasty first time I will try the ones from different sidewalk sales for sure.
One of the most famous dishes in Indonesia is nasi campur (mixed rice). I already wrote about the expensive variant from Kzu, today you can have a look on the classic nasi campur, which you can get in many warungs (tavern/shop) on the side of the streets in Bali. Warungs are usually small and close to the traffic, but you can get everything for take away and eat it at home or on the beach. If you decide for bungkus (take-away), you get the food in a piece of paper rolled into a funnel and when you arrive at your dinner spot you can unroll it, and use it as a plate. Indonesians are used to eat with their fingers, so you have to bring your own cutlery or do it the same way.
My favorite warung for nasi campur in Canggu is Bondowagi on Jl. Raya Canggu, between Jl. Raya Anyar and the petrol station. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (in Indonesia most locals eat the same kind of food for every daytime). The best time to come is midday, because then the variety is the best, they have around 20 different dishes in their showcase and you can pick as many as you like. Usually I take 5 dishes,my favorites are rendang (dried beef in spicy sauce), tempeh manis (soybeans sweet/spicy), water spinach, telur goreng (fried egg) and jackfruit in curry sauce. The look is not perfect but the taste is delicious and the price is unbeatable, between 10.000 and 20.000 rp (0,6-1,20€) depending how much meat you choose.
The best thing about nasi campur is that it never gets boring, because you can change the variation every time.