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The Quest for the Best Babi Guling in Bali

The Quest for the Best Babi Guling in Bali

 

Babi Guling is easily the most widely known Balinese dish and tourists have even been known to come to Bali just to sample it. The most famous place for Babi Guling would be none other than Ibu Oka in Ubud but it is it really the best? So far I have never known a Balinese person that says their favorite Babi Guling is the one from Ibu Oka and I would have to agree with them. To be fair, I don’t think the food at Ibu Oka is bad, it is a delicious selection of pork – I just think that as far as Babi Guling goes it is far from the best. Finding the best Babi Guling though takes a lot of work and perseverance however.

Babi Guling – The pork worth drooling over

For those that have never tried it, go out immediately and track some down – it is 100% worth it! Babi Guling (English: Suckling Pig) is a whole pig roasted over a fire and cooked to perfection. The Balinese love their Babi Guling and many ceremonies include it, not just as a food but also as an activity – the act of actually cooking it that is. The recipe for cooking Babi Guling can vary a bit here and there but generally the main recipe is pretty much the same everywhere.

Tracking down the best Babi Guling in Bali

So when you read that Ibu Oka, often claimed to be the best is not actually the best, lots of you were probably wondering where the best Babi Guling actually is. The truth is – it’s a secret. While I don’t ever discourage anyone from actually going there, the place is quite hidden, doing quite good business already and it has asked that I don’t publish their exact address.

What I can publish is some information to help you find the place if you are so inclined. Some clues:

  • The warung is in Buduk – This is a bit north of Canggu on your way into Tabanan and it is down a small road and located in a person’s home. The actual warung itself is not marked.
  • It opens at 4 AM and closes at 9 AM – This is a big clue and also will prevent you from looking for it during the day time when it is closed.
  • The place itself is down a very small alleyway – This alleyway is not marked and is barely big enough for a motorbike.
  • Follow your nose – When you are getting close you will know it because the smell of the pig cooking is overwhelming.

Actually finding this amazing Babi Guling

It is a very tough place to find especially as there are many turns and it is only open late at night when everything is dark and looks the same. The best way is to just find the town of Buduk itself and go from there. At that hour almost anyone that you see on the road will have the same destination – the famous Babi Guling. Ask people on your way if they know it and chances are they will lead you right to it. If you manage to find the small road that it is on (hint – it is on the right hand side of the right on a bend in the main road) finding the warung itself should be much easier. There will be lots of bikes parked out in front of the small alleyway, an obvious sign given the remote location and quiet time of night.

What makes it the best Babi Guling in Bali?

A very good question! While I don’t doubt that the people cooking it have a great recipe, it is all about the freshness. Most warungs will cook the pig at another location and prepare everything before bringing it to the warung to sell it. This warung cooks it right there in front of you and when it is done they pick it up, cut it up and serve it to you within 5 minutes of it being pulled off the fire. If you can get there by 3:30 AM then you can see the end process of it being cooked and also be one of the first to be served. Get there too late and you will have trouble finding a seat and have to wait in line to be served – even at 4 in the morning.

Who says it’s the best Babi Guling around?

The numbers don’t lie and the people lining up are definitely proof. Some people need more convincing and that is understandable, many of my Balinese friends did as well when I told them I knew about the best Babi Guling in Bali. They didn’t believe that a foreigner knew about a better Babi Guling place than them. So I would make a bet with them – if it was the best they had ever had, they would have to pay for me. If it wasn’t the best they had ever had, I would pay for all of them. So far that has been a bet that I have never lost.

Is it really worth the long, late night drive?

In my opinion, YES! I happen to be a connoisseur of Babi Guling though. So far, everyone I have brought there – both local and foreigner – has said that they would return to this far off place in the middle of the night. None of them seem to remember how to get back though!

The mix of people that frequent this Babi Guling place is quite varied as well. About half are young Balinese (14-24), just finishing up a late night arak session and looking to fill their stomachs before going to sleep. The other half are older men that would like to get a hearty meal before heading off to work in the rice fields or other early morning jobs. Women, outside of the ones working there, are few and far between. Many come dressed in the full-on Balinese garb of kamen, saput and udeng. You can really feel that you are in a truly Balinese warung every time you go there.

I’ve had the idea before that it would be great to help this family operation set up a place closer to the tourist center and open at a normal hour so that they could become the next famous Babi Guling. After a bit more thinking though, it doesn’t really seem to be what they want. These are people that set their own hours and still have extremely high demand. They live right behind the warung itself and seem like they are very happy. Trying to commercialize it would only ruin a great thing, which is exactly why this Babi Guling will remain a secret to all but those who are truly determined to find it.

It’s far from a modern workspace but the results are incredible.
The pig, fresh off the fire and waiting to be cut up
Look at that huge piece of skin they cut off!
The women preparing the the side dishes in the kitchen area
Trying to get the picture was difficult – it only lasted for another 2 minutes after it was shot

Photo Credit:

Main photo – Asen Lee

Additional Photos – Tanner Smith

22 Responses to The Quest for the Best Babi Guling in Bali

  1. We were so lucky to get a chance to experience this secret babi guling! Awesome to watch them roast the pig on the spit while the guy dashed salt and the skin crackled away. We arrived at 4am and there was a line up! We were lucky to get the first cuts of steaming hot meat. So tasty! Defnitely the best babi guling I’ve had in the past 3years living here in Bali. I don’t know where to find the spot again…damn it!

  2. Have you guys tried pinning the location on Google Maps? I’d love to check this out next time I’m there. I used to live on Kerobokan so it wouldn’t have been that far away.

    How did you find out about this place? Great find!

    • When I get out there the GPS on my blackberry usually goes out!

      When I used to live on Gatsu Barat I had lots of Balinese friends that lived in Dalung. We would hang out drinking until the wee hours of the morning drinking arak and after would be hungry. They turned me on to the place. For the record though I’ve never known anyone who has been there without being taken there by another friend. One of those hidden Bali gems for sure.

  3. Maybe we should keep it hidden so it doesn’t spoil then 😀

    I’m definitely going to hunt it out next time I come back though!

    Great blog. I stumble on it every few months. I must have tore through 30 articles tonight.

    • Thanks Rollan, I appreciate it. I agree keeping it somewhat a secret is best, the quality of the food at Ibu Oka declined once it got featured on tv and I would hate to see something like that happen. I frequently take people out there though so feel free to contact me when you get back.

  4. Hi Dana, Thanks for your report! A group of friends and family will be in Bali for my wedding at the end of June, we will be staying in the Canggu area, we would love to try this Babi Guling Restaurant, would it be possible for you to show us the way?? Appreciate your help Dana!

  5. […] Here is what I’ve found. Of course, I am only interested in providing a balanced and well informed report to all my loyal readers, so I believe I may need to try at lease two other venues for detailed comparison, Ibu Oka in Ubud is probably the standard benchmark. Fortunately, Bali is spoilt for choice when it comes to this succulent speciality. The sign usually give it away, though it seems for this challenge, we might only have our swiney senses to guide us! […]

  6. Great article, although one photo did concern me and that is where they are cooking the pig using milled wood. How do they know that the wood hasnt been treated? If there is any treated wood in there then I wouldnt be touching that meat, PCB & arsenate central. Regardless if its CCA or ACQ treated wood I would be very careful. If they source natural woods then there is no problems.

  7. Yesterday I did the search in the area, after looking for more details online. Someone on an indonesian site mentioned this place, it is called Selingsing Cepaka. After searching in the area by day, and asking many people with my crappy Indonesian, I found out that the guy on the photo’s resigned. Second, they don’t grill in the night (early morning) anymore. There are two places that grill with the same name, both have a sign outside and the old location is even on Google maps (babi guling selingsingan). The other is half a kilometre north. The first starts at 6pm the other at 7pm. I haven’t eaten there, so I can’t say anything about the quality. I can say that my experience at ibu oka in ubud was extremely disappointing (cold and old), but I was there at 2pm… It must have went downhill, since Anthony Bourdain put it on the map. Anyway, safe yourself the trip in the middle of the night and if you want to try the alternatives, go there before six, so that you can eat some pig!

  8. went there over the weekend and it was nothing short of amazing!

    though, the opening hours have changed – they no longer operate that early in the morning due to the neighbours complaining 🙂 we were very lucky we found people who knew where and what time to go!

  9. Babi Guling ADI at Sunset Road Seminyak Bali one the best traditional cuisine in seminyak with lots space parking

  10. I was lucky enough to find that place but unfortunately it was closed when I got there and was told that they have changed their opening time to 5pm.

  11. I’m intrigued!! heading to Bali next week & will definitely be trying to find this somehow! 🙂 just saw above the change of opening time, could someone be kind enough to tell me what the current opening hours are please? Many thanks!!!

  12. I am in Java and Bali since 1987 and have my favorite Babi Guling places after I have checked out many places. 95% are not really fresh and good. Some are expensive tourist traps as Candra, Jl TeukuUmar or Ibu Oka in Ubud. After dining at Slingsing I must say: pretty good, but not the best that I know, it´s fresh but not as tasty as….!!! To be honest, I wont tell the by far best Babi Guling, because I am still almost the only Bule in the place and I told the Mama there I am glad this place is still unknown and top secret and still not in a Tourist Tsunami. But I want to tell you place No. 2 in my opinion. There are many BabiGuling spots in Giyanyar which are really good you can check out. When I am in Denpasar I go to Sri Asih at Jl. Setia Budi corner Jl. Wibisana. They are from Giyanyar but operat in DPS. But you should not order the ordinary plate. I just order premium juicy meat without fat (daging yang terbaik tanpa lemak) with rice, lawar, sayur, salty sambal, soup and crispy skin, no sausages, meat sticks… I am still almost the only Bule there and if you say you want it as the “sama teman dari Jerman” with the silver Pickup car from Java, old Mama with the Micky Mouse voice and the other family members know what to do.

  13. Hi Dana, we would love to try this unforgatable experience do you think you can guide us to the place 😉 we are realy gourmets families enjoing all food experience;)

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