Monday, July 26, 2010

Bali High - Babi Guling Ibu Oka (Did Tony B. Get it Right?)

By now, you all know that I have a weird, slight obsession with Anthony Bourdain. The man has my dream job; he's a curmudgeon New Yorker; and, so therefore he is somewhat of a kindred spirit. The idea that I would get to go to one of the same restaurants that he tried when he was in Bali was just too much. I was determined to go there, especially since we'd get one of those lovely "from a warung for less than $10 for two" kind of lunches out of it too.

I am talking about Ibu Oka, aka Babi Guling Ibu Oka. Babi Guling is Indonesian for suckling roast pig, a staple Balinese dish. Since the overwhelming majority of Indonesia is Muslim (and they don't dig on swine), Bali is really the only place to get this dish in the country.

It's been disputed up and down the interwebs as to whether Ibu Oka, which is right in the center of central Ubud, really is the best out there. I decided to see what I thought for myself. If you ever plan on visiting Ibu Oka make sure that you get there early for lunch. They open about 11am and close at around 2pm or until the the pig is done. Once the pig is done, so are they.

They had just brought out a new pig to carve up as we left.

There weren't many options for dishes since the main event was really about the pork (as it should be, right?). After some research I realized that we needed to order the "Special." The Special is a essentially a little bit of each aspect of little Porky. Here it is below.

Counterclockwise starting from the bottom: green stuff = lawar; some crispy pig skin; actual roast pork, blackish looking stuff = blood sausage. There was also rice underneath it all.

So what did I think?


The pork meat - All I can say is that it was moist, moist, moist and juicy. I was expecting a tad bit more flavor, but it was there due to the added spices.

The lawar - Here is a description of what it is: "Balinese traditional spices such as kunyit, shrimp paste, salt and ground pepper, galangal and other roots; grated coconut, green beans, boiled young jackfruit and occasionally, singkong leaves, all chopped up and blended together."

The lawar had a great spicy kick and flavor and was a great accompaniment to the pork.

I don't remember what this is, but I liked it.

It's probably some horrible part of the pig, but frying it sure made it taste good.

Midlights (not a word or a concept that exists, but who cares)

The crispy skin

I've never been a fan of pork rinds, so I don't know why I thought I would be a fan of this. It was fine. It had a nice snap, crackle, pop when you bit into it.


The blood sausage - Let me just tell you that I am not freaked out by blood sausage. We have a version of it in Antigua that I used to eat growing up, so I am no stranger to this. (Learn more about blood sausage here) I didn't like Ibu Oka's version because of its dry, chewy nature. That being said, the taste was actually good. I even ate Husband J's portion.


Ibu Oka was good. In certain instances, VERY good. Amazing it was not. I wish the pork was a bit warmer and that the Special was a tad bigger (Is that the "Supersize Me" American attitude coming through?). Actually I take that back. I just wanted to eat more of the meat. I thought the food was flavorful, but you can tell certain elements like spices have been toned down due to the high level of tourist traffic that it gets. That being said, for a cheap lunch in central Ubud, I would definitely go back. This time I'll remember not to bring Husband J. Apparently, he doesn't like pork that much. Who knew?! (I didn't..ooops!)

Thanks for the tip, Tony B.!


Mrs. Hot Cocoa said...

This looks awesome! My sister and I spent some time on one of our Hong Kong and Vietnam trips tracking some Bourdain-recommended spots, and what we discovered is that some of the places get a little lazy, a little maxed out, or just a little spoiled from all of the attention. That said, my experience was the same as yours, it seems; even those that were probably no longer as great as they were before they got in the No Reservations spotlight were still pretty darn good.

BigAppleNosh said...

Ohhhh goodness, you had me at crispy pork skin.

M and C said...

I love Tony! I can do without the blood sausage but I will take that crispy skin any day!

melinda said...

MMMMMM - as a bbq lovin' gal, I think I could dig this asian style pig roaast!


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