Balinese Culture: Food at the birthday

In the morning of a random Friday when I just went out of the house, 2 of my neighbors approached me. They have invited me to a birthday for the next day. They told me that there will be lawar (Typical Balinese food). I became very excited and started making plans so I could attend the birthday.

The Balinese Birthday

Balinese offering for a birthday
Balinese offering at the front door

Before entering the Balinese housing complex, I noticed a big offering in front of the door. It showed some significant ceremony happened. I arrived after the ceremony. When entering the complex, there are more offers.

offerings on the table
A table full off offering
balinese offers where the placenta was burried
More offerings, this is on top of where the placenta is buried

The main language spoken at the birthday is Bahasa Bali, normally only Balinese attend such family festivities. I cannot understand the language but when they speak with me it’s either in Bahasa Indonesia or English. It was a nice experience as they made me feel at home.

Food and snacks before the main meal

The main meal was being prepared by multiple families that help out. This is called “gotong royong”. You help and you can expect also help back later. Before the main meal, there are trays of snacks and fruit available at multiple locations where you can sit. On the fruit platter, there is Salak (snake fruit), Pisang (Banana), Mango, mandarin and peer. There is also some fermented rice which has some alcohol.

fruit platter at Balinese birthday
fruit platter

Ketan (glutenous rice)

Ketan, Glutenous rice, alcoholic food
fermented rice, (glutenous rice) on krupuk

This rice contains alcohol. The taste was a bit bitter and sweet at the same time. The sweet taste comes from extra added sugar, this can be converted in to alcohol during the fermentation process. I consider it not to be very strong, but I was keeping in mind to keep space for the main course(s).


Simpang, a sweet tasty pudding like snack wrapped in Banana leaf
pudding like sweet wrapped in banana leaf

Sumping is a delightful snack wrapped in a banana-leaf. It is made from rice-flour, sugar, pumpkin coconut and a little bit of salt. Its taste is sweet and I did not notice any pumpkin flavor. A very small coconut but in general just a sweet snack to feast before the main course came.

Final preperations on the Balinese Buffet

Pork being chopped up
Chopping the pork

There was a roasted suckling pig. While I took this picture, I was eagerly waiting for the food to be ready. Here you see a man chopping the pork in smaller pieces part of the skin with fat attached to it. The women in the back were preparing some “bungkus” / take out packaging. This was meant for the people in the nearby neighborhood. Even those who did not come got dinner! talking about awesome neighbors.

Buffet opens! Lawar is ready

Lawar Buffet at balinese birthday. Typical Bali food
Buffet for a late lunch

Steamed rice is at the top right. In Bali they have a saying: “Tidak ada nasi, tidak ada makan”, which means: “If there is no rice, there is no food. It goes without saying the Balinese eat rice a lot. Below that on the picture we see a picture of blackened something. I had no idea what it was so I just took it and ate it.

Later that evening they told me it was pork heart and intestines. Next to that was the chopped up pork from before. Above that is fried fish with a hint of sambal. In the pan above is some soup like a pan. This was used to give the rice some extra taste. In the glass bowl, they boiled the bark/wood from a banana tree. This was surprisingly delicious and tasty. The texture is not like wood at all.

Below that there are 2 types of Lawar. Lawar Putih and Lawar Merah. Lawar Putih is just finely chopped coconut, some herbs and a little bit of meat. The Lawar Merah is the same, but they use the blood of an animal to make it taste different. It did not taste like blood. Above the lawar is Salt, and Sambal. Not to forget a sate, meat on a stick and krupuk. Let’s look at the result:

My plate full of Balinese food
I took a little but of everything! Lawar

This is a feast meal! Balinese traditional food is delicious. As you can see I took a but of everything, it resulted in a full plate of joyful tastes. Also, there was no spoon or fork, so we all ate with out hands. I was a bit unexperienced in this but I got the hang of it while eating.

The trick is to smash the food a bit between the thumb and the rest of the fingers and use the thumb to scoop it in the mouth.


After the food, you will notice that some people finish eating and go home. Selasai Makan Pulang, it litterly means finished eating, going home. I thought the party was almost over as only few people left. A few hours have passed and more people started to come in again, and some of that went home came back. In the evening the eating continued. The buffet was constantly refilled. I really like to taste both ways: Spicy and not spicy. So this was a good opportunity to eat it again. I stayed until the end and with home with a belly of Balinese food and became richer in experience.

From beginning to end, I felt happy I was able to experience a traditional Balinese birthday. The people are nice to talk with, the food is amazing. This was the best experience for me that the people in Bali are so hospitable. What is your favorite Balinese signature food?

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