Famous for their scenic coastlines, newly-built MotoGP circuit, and the second-biggest mountain in Indonesia, Lombok is home to colorful culture of the Sasak people; rich with traditional heritages.
There’s a local saying that ‘Lombok’ was actually derived from ‘lomboq (straight)’ in the Sasak mother tongue. Some would assume that the word refers to how Sasak people are quite straightforward when it comes to life.
But in other parts of Indonesia, it’s pretty common to perceive ‘Lombok’ as the other word for ‘cabai’ or chillies. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons why Lombok cuisine and dishes are well-known to have a bold and spicy flavor profile.
If you’re still wondering what kind of dishes you’ll encounter on your next visit to Lombok, this article might just be the thing you need!
We can’t talk about iconic Lombok dishes without what would probably be the best thing they ever discovered; Ayam Taliwang.
Whole chicken marinated in spice blends of dried red chillies, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, charred terasi (shrimp paste), kencur, and gula merah, grilled to perfection over charcoal fire. This festive chicken is an everyday staple here in Lombok, and is usually served alongside plecing kangkung and beberuq terong.
It is spicy, sweet, tangy and rich. The charcoal gave this protein a fiery, maillard kiss, caramelizing the marinade as well as locking in all the flavors; resulting in a juicy, rich mess of chicken. Supposed to have originated from Karang Taliwang in Lombok, this dish would be the one to convert all the spice non-believers, or just for weary travelers who’s new to the whole Lombok culinary adventures.
Nasi Balap Puyung
There would be more variation to nasi campur here in Indonesia than there were beaches in Bolivia.
While it’s no surprise that you’ve been exposed to the Balinese take on nasi campur with crispy, roasted pork, urutan, and lawar on the side, Nasi Balap Puyung from Lombok doesn’t differ as much. The components commonly found in a plate of Nasi Balap Puyung would be fragrant jasmine white rice, shredded spicy-turmeric chicken, lawar or stir-fried beans, urap, and sambal; sometimes also served with half of marinated hard-boiled egg.
It was believed that the name came from the traditions of young men in the heart of Lombok who’d eat these platters for breakfast as their source of energy before they kick-off a motorcycle race (balapan). Some locals in Lombok vouched for “Inaq Esun” in Lingkung Daye as the best place to get your first Nasi Balap Puyung ever.
The everyday festivities of Lombok dishes would not be complete without this legendary side; Plecing Kangkung. It’s a pretty straightforward and humble dish consisting of sambal plecing and roasted peanuts over steamed water spinach (locals usually call them kangkung).
The spicy kick of the sambal plecing is mellowed with the smooth and delicate steamed kangkung that will always be the perfect addition to any of your Lombok rice meals. Some people also love to sprinkle a little bit of lemon or key lime juices on top for an extra boost of tanginess that helps to brighten the dish.
To appreciate food, one should learn to utilize everything that they have, including meat trimmings and vegetable roots and/or stalks.
Sate Rembiga, using a somewhat slightly gamey, but tender to the bite, is one of the best examples for this. The parts used in this satay was never disclosed, but many believed they use beef trimmings–and not just your regular Indonesian beef. Most of the cattles in Lombok are free-range; they eat whatever they like and are not restricted in cages, resulting in a tender, and slightly sweet meat.
The meat cuts are marinated in a spicy chili blend for two hours, before skewered and grilled over charcoal fire. The best thing about Sate Rembiga is that it’s best enjoyed by itself; no extra peanut sauce or dippings needed!
You can never get too much sate while you’re in Indonesia, and Lombok ones are definitely a must-try.
While Sate Rembiga stands on its own (sometimes eaten together with rice), Sate Bulayak is served with spicy peanut sauce, saur (shredded coconut), and bulayak, Lombok’s own lontong. The name ‘bulayak’ came from the technique of wrapping aren or enau leaves around the lontong. To open one, you need to press the ends of the lontong, and unwrap it in a circular motion. They’re a lot smaller than your usual lontong, and have a slight umami note from the enau wrappings.
The people of Narmada in West Lombok used to cook this dish along with Hindu’s odalan or traditional rites in pura.
It’s quite funny and somewhat comforting to know that traditional foodways are inherently, and most of the time, way more sustainable than the processed food we mainly consume.
Kelaq Ares is a nice reminder of it. While unrelated, the naming of ‘Ares’ might just fit due to the flavor profile being slightly spicy, as many other authentic dishes from Lombok are. This Sasaknese dish used to be cooked for ‘begawe beleq’ or big family events like weddings and such. But what is it about this dish that makes it sustainable?
The answer is simple: they utilize food waste, precisely the stuff people usually scrap, and that is banana fronds. Combined with santan or coconut cream and an ensemble of other Lombok spices, this vegan-friendly dish are heavenly on top of warm rice.
Even Lomboknese salad is spicy. In a very good way.
It is still debatable whether beberuk terong counts as a salad or a sambal – but despite the dispute, they’re godly when eaten with warm rice and your choice of fried protein. If you’re familiar with Sundanese lalapan and sambal trancam from East Java, then this dish might be the compromise of those two.
As the name suggests, beberuk terong uses eggplants (commonly the round, green ones) that are charred, cucumbers, green beans, shallots, red chillies, and other ingredients you’d find in Lomboknese sambal.
It’s always a good time to eat your soup! Though it’s hot outside, many Indonesians and other South-East Asians love to have hot, steaming bowls of soup for their lunch. Vietnamese have their Pho, and Sasaknese people in Lombok have bebalung sapi.
It might look just like any regular soup, but the gem of Bebalung Sapi lies on their broth that is packed with spices and all the goodness of beef bones that is simmered for hours. A comforting yet punchy soup. The bones are tender and as juicy as it gets, and the use of tamarind brightens this soup, cutting down the fat with a tangy sensation.
This dish was traditionally made out of stallions, but were altered to beef to make it accessible for everyone that can’t stand its gamey texture and aroma.
Closing this section with the last, but not least of Lomboknese satay and authentic food: sate pusut.
Resembling kofta from the Middle East, sate pusut is what they called sate lilit and is made from beef that is grounded instead of sliced. The grounded beef is blended with shredded coconut and spice blends with the base of red chillies and candlenuts, before being wrapped on flat skewers and grilled on an open charcoal fire.
Every bite of sate pusut is a rich and fulfilling one. Lombok people usually enjoy this with a plate of warm rice or lontong and plecing kangkung on the side.
Chill After the Chillies in Rinjani Mountain
There’s no better experience than to reinvigorate yourself after a full day of culinary adventures in Lombok. Escape to the clean air of the second-highest mountain in Indonesia through Bobocabin Gunung Rinjani; where the modern, hi-tech cabin compromises beautifully with the goodness of nature.
Here in Bobocabin Gunung Rinjani, you’ll get the chance to have a fully-personalized experience through technology such as the B-Pad; the master screen that can control light colors and intensity, connects to the in-cabin bluetooth speakers, access ambient sound, and the toggle to control the smart window – all within the touch of your fingertips!
Indonesia is filled with hidden culinary gems and heritages waiting to be explored and experienced. Wherever you go, Bobocabin will always be the accommodation you can rely on, whenever you need it. Your adventure starts here.
Writer: Al Azka Zuraida
Header image by: Andrea Huls Pareja via Unsplash