The Four Seasons Sayan offers guests and the public the opportunity to enjoy Babi Guling as part of a traditional Balinese feast at the Sokasi Chef’s Table.
Just when you thought you’d seen the last of me – I’m baaaack! Sorry for the break in transmission, but I’ve been head down for the last few months on a large research and writing commission that seriously ate into my blogging mojo! However, you don’t get rid of me that easily, and I’m back to share a fabulous Balinese culinary treat with you, and to tell you a little about Babi Guling – a dish much loved by any regular Bali visitor.
Babi Guling, or roast suckling pig, is a hugely popular tourist dish in Bali and can be found at roadside stalls, cafes and restaurants every day, however it’s origins are steeped in ritual and holy protocols.
Food is an important part of the daily rituals of Balinese Hindus, and is always offered to the gods before being served. Far from the daily indulgence it is today, Babi Guling was once only prepared as a ritual offering in traditional ceremonies – indeed, the average Balinese citizen still only eats it on very special occasions.
The Four Seasons Sayan offers it as part of a very special dining experience – their Sokasi Chef’s Table dinner of slow-cooked dishes that are normally reserved for ceremonies. Hosted in the Sokasi Cooking School on the banks of the Ayung River, this is an exclusive experience for very small groups and The Bloke and I were very excited to be able to take part in such a unique dinner.
The meal commences with Ayam Timbugan, a deliciously spiced chicken dish which is cooked in a sealed section of bamboo, next to or on an open fire.
Next is Jagung Pangang, baby corn grilled and basted with a tomato and chilli relish. This is a small dish with astonishingly big flavours – it is cooked with base gede, a spice that chef Wayan Sutariawan calls the ‘magic’ of Balinese food.
This is followed by a king prawn smothered in three of Bali’s most loved ‘bumbu’ spice pastes – white, yellow and red, then oven baked.
Barramundi is up next – and given a totally unique Balinese treatment. It is marinated in ‘klengis’, the left-over coconut pulp from the making of coconut oil (see my previous post about this), then wrapped in corn husks and char-grilled, making it moist and deeply flavourful.
The following course is bebek betutu – which I can only assume translates to divinely delicious duck. A whole duck is stuffed with base gede, wrapped in banana and palm leaves, then buried in an underground clay pot oven for 12 hours.
Finally it’s time for the star of the show – the Babi Guling. The Four Seasons believe that the preservation of traditions behind these dishes is important, so the suckling pig is especially presented by local holy men whose sole job in their community is to kill, prepare and cook the pig according to the rules and regulations of their religion. One of them sits next to the fire pit turning the spit by hand for hours and, once the pig is done, they disappear into the night, leaving us to enjoy their handiwork.
Those of us who have room manage to fit in the dessert of deliciously refreshing lime sorbet, with raw Sayan Valley honey – made right in front of our (now bulging) eyes.
I love the everyday Balinese food, like nasi goreng and chicken satay, that we all associate with this island paradise, but anyone with a true culinary curiosity for authentically traditional Balinese food is going to love this experience. The Sokasi Chef’s Table Experience is open to the public, and offered three times a week. Contact Four Seasons Sayan for details.