Like with so many businesses in this region of the world, one of Bali Vegan Warung’s selling points is its staff. This restaurant is owned and run by a woman who is full of energy and comes complete with the stories to accompany a life full of overwhelming experience. She’s lived all over the world and after her husband’s death she settled back in Bali, where she focuses her energy on cooking up fast and filling Balinese cuisine.
The food struck me as what I’d imagine Balinese comfort food to be. It’s not five star cuisine but then that isn’t always what I’m after. It’s cheap, hot food, which in a town of raw food and vegan cuisine with a middle class price tag to match, can come as welcome. She proudly proclaims all of her food to be gluten free too, so if you are looking for gf options in Ubud then this is a sound option.
The balado comprised of well cooked (aubergine is the only vegetable I think should be overdone) grilled eggplant, coated in a tomato based sauce. This was topped with still-crunchy carrots, pineapple, onion, garlic, and chili. The dish was oily, but I mean that in a good way – it’s often another requirement I associate with a successful aubergine dish.
Generally I am not a big fan of vegan fish (nor was I a fan of the real thing), but I tried my partner’s order and was pleasantly surprised. I find faux fish dishes are a little more, well, meaty in Eastern cuisine than back home, and I like that texture. The dish, as is typical, it is made from soya protein wrapped in seaweed, and is topped here with finely diced vegetables in a tomato based sauce.
Easily my favourite option from the menu, the satay skewers could fool any omnivore. Upon questioning the ingredients and preparation, the proprietor explained she made the tender skewers with her supreme master (Loving Hut) group out of soy and mushroom proteins.
I have always felt satay to be not only underrated, but also prepared in such a bog-standard black and white manner that it is dull here at home. Not these babies. Savoury lead the game here, with a little bit of sweetness, unlike the stereotype of cloyingly sweet and super thick peanut sauce coated skewers I find in most recipes.
My conversation with any Balinese person who would hear it, especially in a restaurant, inevitably began with a profession of how much I love tempeh. After chatting about the difference in the fresh product versus what you find elsewhere in the world (when the owner lived abroad she didn’t like to eat it), she presented us with an off the menu portion of kering kentang tempe. It’s made from frying potato and tempeh, then combining these with a sauce of brown sugar, garlic, galangal, chili, and more. It is a version of the slightly sweeter kering tempe I have previously hailed.
The banana chocolate pancake (which I’m pretty sure isn’t gluten free) is a highlight. Prior to my vegan days I spent my appetite in Asia on banana pancakes, and was gutted to find my holidays devoid of this great pleasure upon adopting a plant based diet. You can only imagine my delight upon finding an alternative, finally, and I’m pretty certain you can’t imagine just how many I ate. Really.
I don’t have a picture of it, but one of my favourite savoury options (next to the satay, of course) was the garlic tofu, a slightly fried bean curd dish which came soaked in a salty and tangy lime garlic sauce. I’d wager the dressing to consist of little more than water, salt, lime, garlic, and perhaps a dash of soy sauce, and it was spectacular in its simplicity.
All in all, Bali Vegan Warung is a good choice for anyone who wants to support a local business producing simple, inexpensive, and tasty meals. If the owner is about, she’ll happily chat to you and answer any questions your might have (and then chat some more. And then some more). The menu isn’t huge, but the more I eat out the more I appreciate that; I would much rather a few dishes done well than an endless splay of average plates. Of all the restaurants in Ubud, this was one of the few I frequented.