The Indonesian island of Lombok is home to a unique food culture. It’s the birthplace of some well-loved classics, and the local flavours are influenced by a generous harvest of fresh seafood, vegetables, grains and fruits.
Foods here are named after the regions where they originated, for example the delicious Sate Rembiga comes from a town of the same name in the West of Lombok. Although this is a small island, the regions (and their flavours) are distinct. You can keep yourself on your toes by trying to remember not only the foods you’ve eaten, but the regions they come from.
If you’re interested in trying Lombok’s diverse selection of local foods, we’ve compiled the best places, dishes, and tips to make the most of your meals:
Where to Find Local Food in Kuta
In the Kuta region, you’ll be looking for either street stalls or Warungs – small, family-operated retail spots and eateries. These are the places most likely to sell flavoursome food in the typical Lombok style. There are also some restaurant options that demonstrate how Indonesian flavours can be integrated into other cuisines, with a less traditional and more forward-thinking approach. Here are our favourite places to find authentic food in Lombok:
Kuta Mandalika Beach Park
The Kuta Mandalika Beach Park is central to the town of Kuta, less than 10 minutes drive from KU Villas. It’s near the new MotorGP circuit, and runs between a main street and a stunning beach that’s popular with surfers. From time to time there will be live music, which you can enjoy along with the milling crowd of tourists and locals. It’s the perfect place to grab some food and soak up the atmosphere.
There are eateries of all kinds including warungs run out of local houses, food trucks and barrows, with a variety of price points. Keep your eye out for the smaller stalls and you’re a sure to find some classic Lombok meals and friendly locals to chat with you about them. You’ll also often find fresh coconut vendors on the beach and some more upscale restaurants selling Westernised food and cocktails in the local resorts.
Jalan Raya Kuta
Jalan Raya Kuta is the main street in town, less than 10 minutes walk from KU Villas. It’s the place you should beeline for when you’re ready to get out of the hammock and look for some food and a bit of hustle. Start at the top of the street and walk down towards the water, passing local retailers and eateries as you go. Keep your eyes peeled for stalls that cook fresh seafood for you on the spot – a Lombok specialty.
KUBUN is KU Villas’ all-day restaurant, specialising in fusing Western comfort food with Indonesian classics. Meals are made with the freshest of ingredients, hand picked from the chef’s garden, just nearby on the KU Villas property. At KUBUN you’ll find Lombok-style touches to international foods, like the Melinjo crackers in the Hawaiian style tuna bowl. You’ll also have the option of more typical Indonesian meals, such as Bubur Ayam (keep reading to find out more about this dish). This is a sit-down restaurant with a more upscale feel to your usual stalls and warungs, and well worth a visit for the hand picked ingredients and unique menu.
Local Foods to Look For
Bubur ayam, otherwise known as chicken congee, is a savoury breakfast porridge. The porridge is made of rice, and served with a whole host of sides including lightly fried chicken, chicken broth, crispy fried shallots, kerupuk (flavoursome crackers) and coriander. It’s well-known across all of Indonesia as a comfort food, and can be found on busy streetsides in Lombok. A trip to Indonesia simply wouldn’t be complete without trying Bubur Ayam, and is great as a wholesome breakfast before a day of high energy adventure on the island.
Note: Served at KUBUN
Ayam Bakar Taliwang
If you smell something delicious cooking on an open fire in Lombok, it’s most likely Ayam Bakar Taliwang. It consists of chicken pieces coated in spices and grilled perfectly. This dish sounds simple, but it’s all about the patented Lombok combination of spices; it packs a punch, so be ready for the heat (keep reading for tips on dealing with this)! The flavoursome marinade usually consists of shrimp paste, chilli and garlic, but can be mixed with other herbs and aromatics. This dish is so popular that there are even Taliwang flavoured instant noodles in some parts of the world!
There’s a variety of different types of Sate in Indonesia, and this is the best known from Lombok. It’s made with beef offal grilled on a skewer and served with chilli sauce. Bulayak refers to the rice cake these skewers often come with, wrapped in banana leaves and shaped like a stick. They are in-hand rice you can drag through the chilli sauce and eat, a true innovation when it comes to keeping your hands clean while eating street food.
Kangkung, known in other areas as morning glory, water spinach or ong choy, is a type of water spinach used throughout Indonesia thanks to its generous harvest. While you’ll find this ingredient in plenty of Indonesian dishes, the best is Plecing Kangkung. It’s a flavour-packed vegetarian dish made of kangkung topped by a spicy coconut sauce, and usually served with fried peanuts for some extra crunch and a lime wedge for some zest. Plecing Kangkung is one of the many Lombok-native dishes that has found its way onto the neighbouring island of Bali, where it’s commonplace as a nutritious vegetarian meal or side dish.
If you leave Lombok without an addiction to Kerupuk Kulit, you’re in the minority. At first they sound unorthodox; they’re made from the soft inner skin of a cow, sun dried and then fried in coconut oil. Their flavour is hard to put your finger on, but completely moreish – a mix of savoury and sweet. They have the texture of a puffed rice cracker, and come in a big bag that can be found all over the island for beachside snacking.
If you become an uber-fan of Kerupuk Kulit, you can visit Seganteng Village (around a 1.5 hour drive from KU Villas), where they make Kerupuk Kulit in front of your very eyes.
Tips for Dealing with Spice
When you’re eating in Lombok, high-level spice is par for the course. In Indonesia there are 322 different types of sambal, a famous chilli sauce. If you’re not already a spice lover, eating in Lombok will be a baptism by fire, but you’ll leave a connoisseur of chilli types and spice levels. For help getting into the swing of things, here are some ways to curb chilli burn:
Oil works to break down the chemical component in chilli which causes the burning sensation.
So, if you take a bite and realise you’re in over your head, just walk to the vendor and request some more oil – they usually have some on hand near their hot plates.
Drink milk, not water
Lots of people reach for water when the heat gets too much to handle, but you should try milk instead. Milk contains a protein that acts as a detergent for spicy oil, attracting it, surrounding it and helping you wash it down. Some drink stalls in Lombok will sell cartons of milk or ice creams that you can grab on the fly to cool things down.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book; if you find yourself in a heated situation, coat your tongue with honey. It acts as a barrier as well as diluting spice. We recommend picking up a squeeze bottle from a grocery store and carrying it with you if you’re particularly sensitive to heat.
Eating and staying in Lombok
When returning home from your Lombok adventures, you’ll want to return to comfort and fun. KU Villas offers private rooms and villas, a pool, restaurant, spa and weekly events, all situated just minutes away from the centre of Kuta.