The making of Bali’s incredible pig roast
A smiling, shirtless, tattooed man sits on a stool spinning four pigs over a searing fire. The fragrance of grilled pork is accompanied by intense heat from an open fire pit.
The room is dark and dirty, a scene more appropriate for a country village than the back of a Balinese restaurant.
This is the grilling station in Candra Babi Guling, a restaurant in Denpasar, Bali, recommended to me by locals after I ask for an authentic Balinese food experience featuring roast pork, or babi guling.
"I want the best," I say.
Setting off on a winding 30-minute cab ride from Kuta, I find Candra Babi Guling on a street with merchants hawking everything from motorcycle parts to durian.
Established 25 years ago as a bamboo hawker stall, today Candra Babi Guling is a full-service restaurant and arguably the best babi guling place in Bali. The owners, Mr. Candra and his wife, started the business on their own, but now employ 50 workers. The restaurant is open daily, from 5 a.m.-10 p.m.
The best time to have babi guling is mid- to late-morning, times that ensure the freshest cuts of roast pork are delivered to you.
Faced with a menu that included no English, but lots of photos, my small party was able to decipher what we wanted -- everything. We ordered the nasi guling campur, or “mixed roast rice.”
Fearing we wouldn’t get enough pork, we also ordered porsi sosis (pork sausage) and pepes otak babi, which is shredded pork with a mixture of chili peppers, lemongrass, curry leaves, tamarind, basil and other spices wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled.
The food came in a flash and we were presented with a large helping of pork in many guises: crispy pork skin that tasted of light coconut milk; sweet pork satay; blood sausage; dried pork floss; and a helping of rice and pork bone soup.
All of it tasted wonderful and the damage was only 168,000 rupiah (US$20) for the three of us.
As we ate, workers hauled massive platters of roast pork to the front of the restaurant, which was doing a brisk takeaway business. I asked the manager for a tour of the kitchen and he eagerly obliged, leading to my discovery of the fire pit and rotating pigs on spits.
It was 11 a.m. when I wandered in. The grill master had been up since 3 a.m. cooking pigs.
On a typical day, he and a partner grill 10 pigs for the restaurant during a 14-hour shift. They choose only young pigs, aged from eight to 18 months, and grilling can take three to four hours per pig.
Although most Balinese customers prefer takeaway, I think the pork is best enjoyed slowly in the dining room. My visit to the fire pit was gravy on top of the feast.
Jalan Teuku Umar 140, Denpasar, Bali, +62 361 221 278; daily, 5 a.m.-10 p.m., www.babigulingcandra.com