When I lived in Bali about ten years ago the health food scene was just getting started and Bali Buda was one of the few places where you could find raw and vegan options. I still clearly remember the day I discovered their cafe in Kerobokan. I had been in Bali for a couple of weeks enjoying the local cuisine and while Indonesian food can be really delicious, more often than not fried food is included as part of every meal. So even though I was eating mostly vegetarian I was beginning to crave something fresh, light, and more appropriate for the tropical heat.
My first meal at Bali Buda was a papaya smoothie and a garden salad and it made me realize just how much I needed living foods. It was somewhat a moment of bliss, even though I wasn’t even a raw foodist at the time.
Actually when I first became serious about eating raw foods Bali Buda helped make the transition very easy. For quite a while I had a steady diet of their juices, smoothies and salads, as well as far too much raw pizza and way too many raw desserts! Raw cacao was just gaining popularity and at the time this was the place to go for your raw chocolate fix.
Now there is much more awareness about benefits of eating raw foods and Bali has become a paradise for health-conscious and plant-based diners. Still Bali Buda remains the best place to buy organic groceries and raw food supplies on the island and is a solid option for a healthy casual meal.
If you are spending any amount of time in Bali you will really appreciate their selection of fresh produce and prepared foods. There are six locations on the island but the most popular would probably be their stores in Ubud and Kerobokan, which was the one we visited on our most recent trip because it was closest to the villa where we were staying.
They always stock a great selection of local, organic produce including Asian greens. In particular their fresh lettuce mix is crisp and delicious and wonderful if you plan on making salads at home. You can find fruits like organic apples, papaya, banana, tangerines, limes and others depending on what is in season.
You can also choose from a wide assortment of healthy prepared foods that you can see in the glass jars above. This includes gomashio, beetroot hummus, organic tomato sauce, hot sambal (a spicy Balinese condiment), passionfruit jam, almond butter, tahini and for the paleo dieters there is also homemade bone broth.
My favorite is the Bali Spice Sauerkraut, which are some of the most delicious fermented vegetables I’ve ever tasted. The base is cabbage which is made more interesting with the addition of crunchy carrots and jicama. The seasoning reminds me of a traditional Balinese curry and is only gently spicy with dominant flavors of turmeric, cinnamon and clove.
We also love their coconut water, which comes in glass bottles making it so convenient to stay hydrated. At Bali Buda you can also ask them to make you Kunyit Asam – the local turmeric health tonic drink – to take home in a bottle.
Breakfast is healthy and simple at Bali Buda and while they are known for offering some of the best baked goods on the island, there is also plenty to choose from for those on a gluten-free, plant-based diet.
We took advantage of their fantastic and reliable home delivery service a few times and you can see above the Ultimate Fruit Salad. When you eat fruit salad in a restaurant it generally tends to be not that exciting but this one contains lots of interesting tropical fruits and if it is your first time in South-East Asia there will be some that you most likely haven’t tried before. The actual fruits will vary depending on what is in season but these ones contained pineapple, guava, papaya, mango, strawberry, super-sweet passionfruit, salak (also known as snake fruit), banana, lime, sprouted almonds and mint.
The fruit salad is a great way to start the day but other great options include Balinese Chia Pudding with banana, coconut cream, pandan leaf and coconut sugar or the Balinese Morning Glory with sweet potato, banana, coconut milk, shredded fresh coconut and dates. If you have a sweet tooth you can even venture into dessert territory with the Tropical Living Fruit Pie – slices of tropical fruits on a date and nut crust with a creamy cashew topping.
For lunch or dinner there are a few raw food options to choose from and the salads are always reliable. I tried Dr. Bobbi’s salad – sliced mango, avocado, tomato, cucumber and onion on top of fresh salad greens. It normally comes with feta cheese but no problem to leave it out. I didn’t care too much for the black olives which were the regular canned variety and didn’t do anything to enhance the salad. I’ve also enjoyed their Garden Salad and Thai Green Papaya Salad.
The salads always come with a selection of dressings on the side. The blueberry dressing was very light and its mildly tart flavor complimented the sweet mango really well.
The Live Food Platter was on the menu when I lived in Bali years ago and is a substantial meal for the raw foodist. It comes with guacamole and a delicious veggie cashew paté, which you can eat on top of flax pizza crackers, sliced jicama and crunchy cucumber. The house-made sun-dried tomatoes are sweet and juicy.
While Bali Buda has a great selection of fresh juice (try the detox drink), smoothies, raw sweet treats and a few savory raw options I really hope they will expand the raw offerings on their menu. After being away from Bali for quite some time I expected to see some new items but the menu hasn’t really changed very much at all. While it is great to keep what works I would love to see Bali Buda continue to develop their creativity and keep up with current trends in raw food. Raw and vegan diners are now spoilt for choice in Bali and I feel that this adaptability is essential in order to continue their longevity as one of the leaders in the healthy food market.
If you include cooked vegan foods in you diet there are lots of other options. We were really impressed with the gluten-free red rice wraps, which reminded me of Indian idli – a fermented steamed rice cake. The wraps were served warm and seemed to be made fresh to order. These ones were filled with roasted veggies and salad and we replaced goats cheese with the veggie cashew paté to keep it plant-based.
The Gado-Gado is an Indonesian favorite containing fresh steamed vegetables with brown rice, toasted coconut and peanut sauce. I recommend you add a portion of Bali Spice Sauerkraut on the side to enhance digestion and just because it is delicious.
Personally I would like a larger portion of peanut sauce and more complexity in the flavors. Bali is famous for amazing peanut sauce but I found this one needed a boost of spice and seasoning and texture balance. Overall it tasted healthy but the sauce needs work to make this more satisfying dish.
Another gluten-free dish is the Eggplant and Sprouted Almond Enchiladas. They are served in corn tortillas with black bean salsa and a fresh side salad with their delicious signature dressing. Remember to ask them to leave out the yogurt but add extra avocado!
Bali Buda is also a good place to go with friends and family on a less-restrictive diet. You can enjoy the foods you love while they try free-range eggs and home-made bread, Balinese probiotic chicken soup, gourmet burgers, Italian-style pizza or pasta and fresh pastries and desserts.
The coconut passionfruit pie was amazing. Fresh grated coconut forms the base and the passionfruit filling made with coconut cream and coconut sugar reminded me of lemon curd. I was amazed how they were able to create such a rich dessert without any cream or butter. It’s not raw but it most certainly is worth it!
In a previous life I had a serious addiction to Bali Buda’s carrot cake. So I was really happy to discover that they now have a raw version. They managed to capture everything great about their baked carrot cake but it is much healthier. I love the raw carrot even more than I used to like the original!
Remember to grab some energy balls and other raw treats to take away when you visit. My favorites are the Cardamon Cashew – with coconut, dates and lemon – and the Pineapple Goji. If you prefer you can try the No-Bake Brownie, Spirulina Mint, Peanut Butter Balls or Raw Chocolate. I also used to enjoy the Chewy Chai Cookies and Pumpkin Flax Crackers and I am sure they are still great.
Bali Buda is a must-visit on your Bali trip – especially if you are planning on doing any self-catering – with their fantastic selection of fresh local, organic produce and healthy prepared foods.