You may have seen it on t.v. or maybe with your own eyes, but the moment when it’s all over. Skin glistening, juices dripping, the pleasure senses exhausted awaiting this moment. What’s been made is a thing of rarely paralleled beauty. No, I’m not talking about sex… well food porn for sure. The glorious suckling pig. In this case Babi Guling, the Balinese style suckling pig.
To make this pig would be no easy feat. Carefully roasted over an open fire of wood coals and coconut husks. Continually turned on the spit to create a perfectly balanced crisp bronzed skin, the colour of a dark succulent honey. An orgy of spices and herbs are stuffed into the stomach cavity left alone to mingle in the natural juices permeating the flesh. A staff of bamboo sticking through from mouth to butt hole. In a few hours, it’s all over. It’s time to rest, relax and wait. The best is yet to come.
There it is in front of me. A basket with a scoop of rice on it, which is just used as filler. What I came for is beautifully layered on top. Slices of thin, juicy, tender meat with an herbaceous sambal spooned over it. A couple pieces of fried pork meat, a few chunks of fresh blood sausage, which was an unexpected surprise and then the piece de resistance, the gloriousness that is the skin. A sumptuous thin layer of melt in your mouth fat, covered by the toffee like skin that snaps between the teeth like a pork brittle. Only a single piece is set on top, so of course I ordered a separate plate which comes with an extra five pieces of sin. Sheer bliss as my eyes roll back with nearly every bite. I’m glad I was by myself so no one saw the faces I was making. On a side note, a small bowl of pork and vegetable soup accompanied this which takes a bit of a backseat, but is absolutely delicious as well.
While in Ubud for a week I frequented Ibu Oka a few times. The renowned restaurant ever since Bourdain serves just about nothing but Babi Guling. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on it and while there is debate as to whether or not it is the best in Bali, in my opinion food is to subjective it’s hard to find the ‘best’ of something. Regardless, this was a mighty fine pig. A ‘combo’ plate for 55,000 IDR came with everything mentioned above except the soup. For 70,000 IDR the soup is added with some extra meat and the much needed addition of extra glistening skin is 60,000 IDR. The skin and blood sausage are limited so I recommend going for lunch between 11:00am and 1:00pm to make sure you get the good bits. Opening hours – 11:00 – 6:00pm.
After my fourth and final time on the sad morning I was leaving Bali, they let me behind the scenes to see their kitchen. This put a smile back on my face. There was a man stacking wood for the roasting pits readying them for the following day. Another man chopping mammoth piles of chilies, lemongrass and whatever else went into their concoction of spices, while a women made homemade chicharron. As I made my way to the back, there they were. Two whole finished pigs resting up before heading to the chopping block. I wanted one to myself to perform an absolute disgraceful act of gluttony and eat until I couldn’t walk and then eat some more. I slowly retreated out of the kitchen before I made the mistake of just taking a bite out of the side of one. There was a lot of knives in the kitchen and I don’t think they’d be plaesed.
By no means is this the only place to indulge in this truly magnificent creation. It can be found anywhere on Bali in roadside restaurants to narrow unsuspecting alleys. Ultimately Ibu Oka is probably a bit more expensive than probably most places, but it is walking distance is town and you are guaranteed to have a sublime serving of Babi Guling, something you will long for in the near future.
Have you ever been here? What did you think of Babi Guling?