Photo: Michael Motamedi

Exploring Bali's Incredible Street Food Culture With the 'Street Food Chef' Himself

Bali Food + Drink
by Nickolaus Hines Mar 19, 2024

There are many cities around the world where you can find incredible street food. Tacos in Mexico City, char kway teow noodles in Singapore, takoyaki in Tokyo and Osaka — the list goes on. On the latest No Fixed Address episode, hosts Michael Motamedi and Vanessa Salas assessed Bali’s incredible street food culture with chef Will Meyrick, a restaurant developer and former Top Chef judge.

Among his businesses and accolades, Meyrick also has a title that makes him a particularly apt expert for learning all things roadside dining: “The Street Food Chef.”

Meyrick has led restaurants in London, Sydney, and throughout Southeast Asia in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Indonesia. He eventually settled in Bali, and is now a household name in Indonesia with a set of award-winning Bali restaurants, cooking classes, and culinary immersion tours. His work has taken him to remote corners of the island and markets that the vast majority of travelers never make it to. It’s all part of years of research and commitment to representing Indonesian food and culture in the right ways.

The podcast starts with a tour of a traditional market. The main stop is a section where workers are preparing whole pigs for one of Bali’s most famous and important dishes: babi guling. Here, the pigs are gutted, cleaned, marinated with turmeric and tamarind, and roasted for this whole-pig meal.

Seeing this side of the production before delving into restaurants and learning more about Meyrick’s approach to food gave Motamedi context of this cherished meal. It’s also not something recommended for vegetarians or the faint of heart, due to all of the exposure to guts, blood, and butchering. But as Motamedi notes, you can’t talk about food without talking about culture, and babi guling is central to Bali culture, foodways, and spirituality.

Michael Motamedi

At the heart of all street food, Meyrick says while speaking with Motamedi in Denpasar, is of course the people making said food. These chefs make a handful of foods that people love day-in and day-out. Consistency and perfecting one thing is a bit of a lost art in today’s multi-hyphenate work culture. Without someone focused on consistency, however, you don’t have stand-out street food.

Listen to No Fixed Address on Spotify and Apple Podcasts to learn more about what makes Bali’s street food culture so incredible, the question of authenticity and deciding who gets to be a representative of a region’s food, and the spiritual ceremonies that should be followed when opening a restaurant in Bali (and the fires and other misfortunes that tend to happen when those ceremonies aren’t followed).

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