That’ll Do, Pig: Ibu Oka’s Babi Guling, Bali

Hours before my most memorable meal of 2007 in Ubud, I had one of the best el-cheapo lunches of all time, too. It was a Bali Bali good food day!

Lunch was at Ibu Oka’s Babi Guling, a divey food stall frequented by many local chefs. Don’t even think about ordering anything but the Roast Suckling Pig. (Is this where the word succulent comes from?)

Okay, the owner, told me that they go through about four pigs a day – or approximately 400 servings. She would not divulge the secret blend of spices, (maybe she thought I was going to rip her off and rush back home to open up a chain of McSucks.)

The banana leaf plate consisted of a pile of fragrant rice , piled high with tender slices of piggy, a piece of blood sausage, some other unidentifiable internal fried bits and pieces, crowned with a piece of kulit (crispy skin). Sheer perfection when doused with the accompanying sambal –– a saucy blend of chilis, coconut, and spices. Ibu Oka’s is located on Jalan Suweta, Ubud. Lunch only, with a line from11-3:00ish or until they run out of pig. ($1-$2.00)

Actually-shhhhhh- I did manage to get a recipe that I think is very close to Ibu Oka’s, but I just haven’t had time to get out my piggy roasting spit and try it. If you do, please let me know how it turns out.

Here is my recipe for Babi Guling:
1 suckling pig, weighing about 6-8 kg (13-17 lb)
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
10 shallots, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
5 cm (2 in) ginger, peeled and chopped
15 candlenuts, chopped
10 cm (4 in) fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
5 cm (2 in) laos finely chopped
25-30 bird’s-eye chillies
10 stalks lemon grass, sliced
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste, roasted
5 fragrant lime leaves, finely shredded
2 salam leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons turmeric water

Posted by Janice Nieder on January 24, 2007 in Food

Comments (17)

  1. Indrayana Tirtayasa
    Indrayana Tirtayasa says:

    The most delicious babi guling in Ubud!

    Having been there several times for a lunch. Just come earlier (about 10/11am) to avoid lunch-crowd.

  2. Andrea Barton
    Andrea Barton says:

    I agree. The pig there is delicious.
    However, if you would anytime stop by Surabaya, they have an even better babi guling, named KENKEN BIGUL.
    There the pig is even more tasty, and the spices have more juice and aroma.
    Ibu Oka is okay if you prefer eating there, but if you havn’t noticed, the pig doesn’t taste good when you bring it home.
    KEKEN BIGUL on the other hand, is really good, u can take it home, and it would taste the same.
    THe owner says the restaurant prohibits the usage of preservatives. And they are going to open soon in Sunter and Kelapa Gading, Jakarta.
    hehe.

  3. Kurnia
    Kurnia says:

    Ibu Oka ?
    Yeah, this July will be my 3rd time eat there.
    The taste is delicious, the the price very chip
    My mother inlaw love it very much, so i should bring it home.
    I sugest you to try Ibu Mangku Restaurant.
    It is also one of the best Bali’s Restaurant in Ubud

  4. pinay
    pinay says:

    absolutely delicious!!!!! it’s one of the best things about our bali honeymoon. The skin was uber crispy and the meat was really flavorful. One bite of the babi guling gives you a burst of flavors you never even knew existed.
    One things for sure…a trip to bali would not be complete without a stop at ibu oka.

  5. Made lole
    Made lole says:

    I been there uhhuhuhuhuhuh yammy

  6. Steve
    Steve says:

    Been to Oka’s many times…. very, very good. HOWEVER, the best babiguling is located in Gianyar – about a 30 minute bus ride due east. Melasti has been selling roast pig there for over 75
    years. It’s located directly across the street from the main entrance to the market. mmmmmmm 🙂

  7. Ken
    Ken says:

    kenken bigul is horrible. I’m from surabaya, but have to admit that kenken bigul is considered the best there is in Surabaya. But not worth trying if you’ve been eating babi guling in bali.

  8. hakkamui
    hakkamui says:

    I love Ibu Oka, I eat there almost every lunch during last trip! I am planning a trip before end of March, will definitely go Ibu Oka again!

    I will nonetheless heed Steve recommendation and go try Melasti in Gianyar.

    Let’ babi guling!

  9. Nyoman
    Nyoman says:

    Hi there,
    I have been to many babi guling warung makan in Bali and I never forget the taste and the spicy of babi guling. Ibu Oka’s place most visited by tourists and local beacuse of her location in Ubud. Yes she is the best.
    I am going to make babi guling for my neighbor’s party 4 of July and to make them sweat.

  10. Steve
    Steve says:

    I just returned from a month long vacation to Bali. I did eat again at Ibu Oka’s ( both locations ) and Melasti’s in Gianyar. Ibu Oka’s new location in Mas is very good – clean and reasonable. The other location in Ubud is still very, very good. We arrived about 11:15 am and was starting to get busy – but we were served in about 10 minutes. Very yummy ….. mmmmm !!!! My wife and I went to Gianyar 3 times – the first 2 times was excellent. The last time was 3 days before going back to the USA and I got sick. I did feel a little queasy beforehand, but after the babi guling I got sick. The rest of the day and the following day were spent in bed. Again…. it might not be the babi guling, but in my mind being sick and the babi are inseparable.

  11. wisnuwardana
    wisnuwardana says:

    wah the best babi guling at bali ,was every where ,not just one place,almost every where ,that diffrent than the coustomer like it ,some people like sweet,some reguler, that all totaly deffrent , with this staff in bali almost available every where ,so just keep u mine all babi guling in bali alll the besssssssssssssst thank for try baliness food

  12. karen
    karen says:

    worst meal I have ever had in bali. Our family drove there from our hotel in Kuta just to try it. the ladies in the kitchen were picking up the food with their hands and there was a mangy dog wandering in the kitchen. what a let-down! my dog wouldn’t eat this !

  13. Shin
    Shin says:

    Ibu Oka is definitely amazing, there are also many “secret” side of the road/mountain spots that can equally surprise you. Karen, while it is unfortunate that you didnt enjoy the food at Ibu Oka, I hope you do realize that many people in Bali use their hands to eat and serve meals and as Ibu Oka is a partially outdoor establishment there are bound to be animals roaming about. I guess the fact that you stayed in a hotel in Kuta really just says it all. There is more to Bali and Balinese culture/food than the Hard Rock Hotel and McDonalds on the “kuta strip”.

  14. fLo
    fLo says:

    Ken” is the worst kind of babi guling…. its non edible at all!!! no where near the ones in bali…

  15. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Yes, babi guling is a pretty amazing culinary experience. It’s still cheap by western standards, and Ibu Oka serves one of the best babi guling around.

  16. Phil Ebbott
    Phil Ebbott says:

    I had better Babi Guling in the Back streets of Singaraja, And at some of the roadside stores heading up through the hills out side Lovina. Cheaper to, About 7500 Rupia, came with a soup full of better left univestigated pig bits, but was delicious. Iku Oba is good, Clean and a good bet for those with a less adventourous palette, but some of the smaller places where fantastic!

  17. Frank D Law
    Frank D Law says:

    Stopped by Bali on our way back from Shanghai. Loved Bali, especially Ubud which is a place we would come back to again and again.

    This is our third visit to Bali so we decided to give Ibu Oka one last chance, in view of the many superlative reviews in guide books, travel channels and magazines. Reasoning: So many cannot be wrong.

    But it looks like they can be. Although the meat itself which was served piping hot, was generally underwhelming, gamy but flavorful enough, the crackling was still as tough as old leather shoes! It really made my DW and me wonder whether those folks who write glowing reviews of Ibu Oka and their babi guling, including Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Timmem and John Brunton, the travel writer from The Guardian have ever tasted suckling pig in a Chinese restaurant? If they have, they would have tasted exactly how good suckling pig should taste like with crackling so crispy thin that every bite is to be savored! It is highly unlikely that after that, they would ever venture to describe babi guling as amazing”, “fantastic”, “best ever” and all the silly hyperbole that have come to dominate this debate and given Ibu Oka an undeserved reputation. I have nothing against Ibu Oka per se. It is the integrity of reviews that I’m concerned about!

    To draw an analogy, if you live in a small outpost, say in the far reaches of Siberia, you may describe your local football outfit as “amazing”, “best in the world” or whatever superlative terms you may wish to employ, not out of intellectual dishonesty, but only because you have never been exposed to the silky skills of the likes of Barcelona or Manchester United.

    That is probably how it is with this “amazing babi guling” nonsense! We were in Shanghai for 9 days and tried Peking Duck and suckling pig IN SEVERAL RESTAURANTS and the stuff that they served up were slices of culinary heaven!

    As we live in San Francisco, we have developed an affinity for the dish. We know that everyone is entitled to their opinion. But how do you judge a dish when you haven’t tasted even remotely the best? It is really like the uncultured and the philistine trying to pontificate on high-brow literature and classical music!

    I’m a fan of Anthony Bourdain and look forward to his witty presentations but on this occasion he has dropped the baton big time! I certainly hope that Bourdain will wise up and realize that he has to remain totally objective. At the rate that he’s going, I fear that his credibility will soon be shot!

    Finally, we remain baffled over these superlative reviews, because when we compare Ibu Oka’s babi guling to the suckling pig we have tasted in Chinese Restaurants from this side of San Francisco to Melbourne to Hong Kong to Singapore and Bayswater in London, we have to say that if the Chinese version and Ibu Oka’s babi guling are compared and placed on a scale of 1-100, the Chinese version would easily place near a hundred and Ibu Oka’s would limp in below minus 10. That is the difference between a culture with 2,000 plus years of culinary development and a rank amateur!

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