I did a little solo trip to Ubud, Bali recently, on a mission to write the third book. No, it’s not really an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ thing, given that I wasn’t there for 3 months and the travel wasn’t exactly a ‘voyage’ – Bali is only a 3-hour flight away from my city. Bali is close by, fairly easy in accessibility, has amazing food scene and lots of yoga classes. I stayed in Ubud, the epicenter of hippies, environmentally-conscious communities (and some borderline fanatics), and Yoga-loving, clean-eating, chakra-aligning enthusiasts.
Although not a vegan, I absolutely love vegan food done well, and I took the opportunity to hunt and try out some vegan spots in Ubud. Now I will not say that I’ve tried all of the vegan restaurants and cafes in town, but of all of those that I did try, here are my Top 3 recommendations if you should ever feel like indulging your inner vegan-self when you are in Ubud, Bali.
1.) Moksa Plant-Based Restaurant
Puskesmas Ubud II, Gg. Damai, Sayan, Kec. Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
In a nutshell, if you only have time to go to one vegan restaurant, then say no more. This is the place. Set in a higher elevation from the rest of the town which provides a beautiful breeze, Moksa is a farm-to-table concept restaurant – meaning that they have a farm just next to it, and pretty much everything you consume there is grown organically next door. The ambience is chill, the hospitality amazing, and I found myself sitting there for almost four hours eating non-stop while writing on my laptop, set in the beautiful green garden.
Now let’s talk about the food. Lead by Chef Made Runatha, the menu is enticing, imaginative and extensive – think lasagna made with cashew cheese, burger patties made from jackfruit (the ‘vegan’ meat, as they call it), eggplant rendang (if you’ve never had rendang, you’re missing out on life), and vegan ‘ribs’ and mash (made by juicy, flavourful tempeh). I started off my meal with a tall cold glass of coconut water, and had a plate of the vegan ‘ribs’. The tempeh was braised in home-made BBQ sauce, retaining its juicy interior and barbecue-y taste. They temped slices were served on a bed of creamy sweet potato mash and a side salad.
I also ordered a plate of jackfruit crepe, which is a naturally-colored green crepe stuffed with a filling of sweet ripe jackfruit, goji berries and coconut. It was amazing. I wish I had the stomach space to eat more from the menu.
Price-wise, my total meal of coconut water, tempeh ribs, dessert and iced coffee came up to about RM48, which is considerably very appropriate given that it was all organic and very, very filling. I honestly can’t wait to go back again.
PS: They also have morning markets every Wednesday and Saturday, as well as yoga classes (you can check the schedule on their official website)
Tempeh 'ribs' - slathered with homemade BBQ sauce, with a side of sweet potato mash and salad
Pandan crepe stuffed with jackfruit, goji berries and coconut, eaten with coconut ice cream, berry sauce and strawberries
The restaurant is next to its organic farm
2.) The Seeds Of Life
Jalan Gautama No.2, Ubud, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
If you want to take it up a notch, why not try a vegan, raw restaurant? Yes, you read that right. Nothing is cooked over fire in this cosy little place (the concept that the more raw it is, the more nutrients the food retain), but despite that, the menu is exciting and extensive. They have a whole separate menu for jamu (health shots made from fresh herbs and spices) and drinks, and then a whole menu for meals. And let’s not forget the dessert counter with so many delicious, raw and vegan delicacies such as the raw chocolate tarts, so many types of energy balls, carrot cake and vegan cheese cake.
How nice can a vegan meal be? One may ask. The key to why the food is so good here is that they are inventive. In fact, it’s so inventive that I came here 3 times just so that I could try a little bit of everything, from the breakfast menu, to brunch, and lunch. I had a dehydrated papaya crepe stuffed with ‘nutella’ which was such a treat, a vegan version of the classic breakfast made of scrambled corn ‘eggs’, stuffed mushrooms, marinated spinach, eggplant 'bacon‘ and live bread, a plate of raw lasagna made from cashew cheese, avocado, mango, tomato, beetroot and spinach, and cauliflower ‘buffalo wings’ which was served raw, slathered with spicy harissa and vegan cheese sauce.
I also had some of the desserts and a couple of juices, and none of these things were not good. Another upside to this place is that it is located right in the center of town, so it’s not hard to find.
If you’ve never tried eating raw before, The Seeds Of Life is definitely a place to start.
Raw caulifower 'buffalo' - slathered with harissa, dipped in vegan cheese dip
Mushrooms stuffed with scrambled 'eggs' made from corn with black salt, topped with spinach, tomato salsa and eggplant 'bacon'. Served with raw bread.
A twist on the 'lasagna' - layers of beetroot, spinach, tomatoes, mango, cashew cheese, zucchini and avocado
Dehydrated papaya stuffed with raw cocoa and hazelnut cream - tastes like Nutella!
Jl. Nyuh Bulan No. 1, Banjar Nyuh Kuning, Ubud
Before we get to the food, let’s talk about the interior and setting. It’s away from town, in a small building painted white and sapphire blue. Kind of like something you’d see in Santorini. There are large windows which means it’s not stuffy inside, and the seating style is cozy, making full use of the nooks and crannies of the building.
Sage doesn’t necessarily boast a long list of menu like Moksa, but it certainly has a delicious line of vegan options to choose from. The ‘pulled pork’ jackfruit burrito seems to be a fairly popular choice from the blogs online, and so that was what I ordered. It was delicious. The jackfruit was somehow cured to give it a different, spicier taste, and the texture was sturdy, almost like very soft meat. The burrito was stuffed with rice, cashew cheese, tomatoes and cilantro, served with a refreshing homemade tomato salsa and nut cream dip.
I also had a small shot of a jamu (health shot made from ginger, turmeric and other fresh herbs). It was pretty intense in flavor, although there is a warm feeling in the stomach after, which I guess is a sign that the jamu is good for your digestion. After the meal I tried out a cold glass of coconut milk latte, and although I’m not really a coffee fan I’d say that it was a great pick-me-up especially in the hot midday Bali weather.
Sage also serves dessert, and although I didn’t order any because I was full, the girl who sat at the table next to me claimed that their coconut cake was the best she has ever had, and she has been eating them almost every day for 2 weeks despite the fact that she was not a dessert person to begin with. I consider this a pretty good testimony.
Jamu - there are many variations, but this one is made with tumeric and ginger
Burrito stuffed with rice, herbs, tomatoes and pulled jackfuit 'meat'. Cashew cheese and salsa dip.
Note: There are many other vegetarian cafes/warungs/restaurants around Ubud that you would be spoiled for choice. I had a plate of local Indonesian mixed vegetarian platter at Café Wayan, which was amazing and cheap. I also had hotcakes with fruits at Watercress Café, and although it was fluffy and delicious, I thought it was a bit pricey. Ubud Raw Chocolate Bar makes amazing raw hot cocoa, and I also had a bowl of raw chocolate smoothie with fruits and granola at Radiantly Alive Café – it was very good and filling.
Balinese vegetarian platter - so much good flavours and textures in a single plate!
Smoothie bowl of cacao, banana, coconut chips, strawberries and granola
One of the temples around Uluwatu
Cycling in Ubud
Seafood in Jimbaran
Shops by the roadside along Legian, Seminyak and Kuta
South Bali was hot, humid, noisy and crowded. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Will I go there again? Probably not.
South Bali felt to me like a tourist’s place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tourist myself. But I’ve always loved traveling because I like discovering culture, and the best feeling in the world is when you find yourself wandering in a place where locals are going about their daily business and you’re just observing in amazement. Here in South Bali, it seemed like everything was catered for tourists. The beach was filled with tourists, the shops sold imported things, and the restaurants served hamburgers. Most of the shops sold overpriced souvenirs and it felt like a tropical Westernized city, in a way. Which is fine if that’s what you were hoping for, but I was personally looking forward to see the real authentic Bali. The traffic was horrendous too.
I wanted to discover this part of Bali on foot, so I made a point to walk along the stretch of Seminyak, Legian and Kuta, ending my walk at Kuta beach. The shops were interesting, and there were plenty of art galleries displaying works from local Balinese artists to some more established European ones. There were nice cafes open all day, and I spent a good day going in and out of shops with a bottled ice tea in hand. For every six shops I passed I was bound to find a massage parlor, and for as cheap as USD20 you can get an hour’s worth of good, Balinese massage. Which I did. A couple of times.
A common misconception of Bali is that it is famous for its beaches. It is not. The beaches are average, and truth be told you can get better ones in Malaysia. But the appeal was definitely there. We had dinner at Jimbaran, a famous place to have seafood right by the shore of the beach, and the energy was quite good. We went to see the Kecak dance at Uluwatu, which was a pretty good show, and later visited the many temples around Nusa Dua. If you put aside the fact that there were herds of people visiting that place all day everyday, you could imagine that once upon a time, Bali was a mystical place with high cliffs and temples in a faraway land.
A good way to explore the more local side of Bali would be on bicycle around Ubud. The route takes you through local villages, paddy fields and temples. It was good fun, and the weather was sunny with a chilly wind, which makes the perfect condition for a bike ride. Most of the routes were downhill, so I wasn’t all sweaty and disgusting by the end of it.
Overall, I could see why Bali would appeal to a lot of people. It has the wonderment of an exotic place with the convenience for all kinds of tourists. Aside from the nightlife, which was a bit too wild and noisy for my liking, I quite enjoyed discovering it, while hotel-hopping every single night. It certainly brings a lot to the table in terms of what you can do on vacation at a single island.
Where to Eat: There are plenty of restaurants offering both local and Western delicacies. Try Flapjacks if you’re looking for really good pancakes, both sweet and savory. If you walk into a local diner, try the fish satays which are really amazing. Food prices can range from as cheap as USD4 (local places) to pretty steep (Hard Rock Café, Kuta Beach). If you’re having seafood at Jimbaran, do NOT overlook those small hawker stalls selling grilled corn. They are out of this world!