Stephanie and I wanted to treat ourselves to a nice meal on Christmas day, but weren’t interested in the numerous turkey dinners being offered for the tourists in Ubud. Somehow I got it in my head that we should try to find that Balinese roasted pig I’d heard about.
As it happens there’s a now-famous eatery in Ubud that specializes in it: Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka. Partly famous because apparently Anthony Bourdain went there for their babi guling, or spit-roasted suckling pig, and proclaimed it the best pork he’s ever eaten in his life, or something like that. I haven’t seen the show, but that endorsement alone was enough to cause one intrepid traveler to book a flight to Bali to seek it out. For us it was a little easier. We just had to walk up the street.
We arrived around 1pm, which was a little worrisome, as I’d read that they close shop when they run out of pork. I don’t know if it’s due to the Bourdain mention, but apparently people start lining up at 10am—a little early for us. We had no problem finding a seat at the counter overlooking the street, and just as we were sitting down, we were treated to the arrival of a fresh babi guling.
Was it the best pork I’d ever had in my life? Not really. Maybe I’m just lucky, having lived in both North Carolina and Texas, two places that really know how to cook a pig. The spices were good, and the white meat was alright, if a little stringy—a difficult proposition in a place where the standard utensils are a fork and a spoon. Stephanie ended up with more fat than meat. The skin was probably the best part. The people next to us specifically asked for “extra skin” but were turned down because there wasn’t enough. I didn’t care for the blood sausage, that’s a taste I haven’t acquired, but the what-part-of-the-pig-did-that-come-from crunchy bits were fun. I’d definitely give babi guling another shot, perhaps at a warung out of town, just to compare.
But that’s not the reason you’ve read this far, is it? You want to know how is babi formed? Well we had a rare opportunity to get an inside look walking around Amed. The initial stages are idyllic—all the farm animals together in peace and harmony.
Unfortunately, things don’t end well for the babi. But at least now you know the truth.