Visitors who come to this small Indonesian island east of Java solely for the sand and sun are missing out on its rich, ancient, and fascinating food culture. We’ve learned so much from the Balinese approach to flavor—namely, not to shy away from it. The cuisine’s most common ingredients (pictured on this page) are intensely aromatic: White peppercorns and coriander seeds lend fragrance; different varieties of chiles impart direct, vibrant heat; candlenuts, a relative of macadamia nuts, add rich texture to curries; and grated coconut provides sweet meatiness to all manner of dishes. Garlic, shallots, and fresh rhizomes—ginger, galangal, turmeric, and kencur (a sharp, almost medicinal-tasting ingredient also known as lesser galangal)—are pounded into a potent paste called bumbu bali that forms the foundation of many of the cuisine’s most sumptuous dishes. It’s this appreciation for big, bold flavors that defines our favorite Balinese foods: turn bebek, a tantalizingly rich duck curry; urab, a refreshing salad of foraged greens bolstered with toasted coconut; and babi guling, luscious suckling pig stuffed with lemongrass, galangal, and vibrant herbs that make what, in our mind, might just be the world’s most delicious roast pork.
In this year's SAVEUR 100, we take stock of our favorite things: recipes, people, places. We consider every last one a new classic.