While Ubud Sleeps: Behind the Scenes of Warung Ibu Oka

Culture | Written By, Ayu Sekar | February 11th, 2017

Long before dawn breaks, and the bright tropical sun sends her fingers of light slanting through Ubud’s lush undergrowth, parts of this mountain community are already awake.

Photo By Ayu Sekar

Photo By Ayu Sekar

In the wee dark hours, people are at work preparing food for the coming day. The most productive of these places is in the open cellar beneath Warung Ibu Oka ’s incredibly popular restaurant off Jl.Suweta. Here in deep stalls, the days quota of pigs have already been butchered, anointed with spicy mixtures, gutted and stuffed with yet more spices before being put onto bamboo poles and set to cook over slow burning wood fires.

At each stall a man tends a pig. It is turned by hand, slowly and surely for around four hours to get the crispy perfection of the skin and the soft succulent moisture of the meat within. This is a job for the experts and those at IBu Oka’s have been doing this work for years.

If you are lucky enough to arrive while it is still dark, you will witness something akin to the fires of hell at work. But it is not. It is just the process to bring these beasts to the delicious perfection that has made Warung Ibu Oka in Ubud an institution.

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Photo By Ayu Sekar

While the pigs are roasting, others sit chopping and one man/woman team are at work making the long sausage. The pigs intestines are cleaned and lie awaiting the filling – a mix of pork meat and more spices to give it the distinct flavour that we expect from what must be Bali’s most famous offering. After the intestines are filled and tied, they are rolled loosely around a bamboo pole and placed in the coolest part of the fire so that they can slowly roast to a done deliciousness.

By around 9 or 10am, everything lies in readiness for the steady flow of guests that will make their way to the restaurant to sample the fare.

In another part of Ubud, not so far away, Pak Ketut Rimpin starts his day before sunrise to prepare his quota of ducks to make another Bali specialty – Bebek Betutu. The ducks are washed and cleaned then massaged until all the bones are cracked and it is ready to be spiced with the special duck Bumbu (one woman in our small group quipped –“I don’t want a massage with that guy” to the merriment of all onlookers). When ready, the ducks are wrapped in a specially prepared and dried banana leaf casing and tied with bamboo string which doesn’t burn in the roasting process. It is then then slow roasted in rice threshing for several hours till the spices imbue the meat with flavour and it is ready to fall off the one. This is yet another of Bali’s special festive and ceremonial offerings, although now we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy it more frequently than in earlier times.

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Photo By Ayu Sekar

By 8am, all the work is done and the delicious ducks are ready to be delivered and enjoyed by the clients.

The third place we visited was the home of Pak Sonur and his wife, who specialize in chicken dishes. Before the market was renovated, they held pride of place, with a special spot where people would come from far and wide to enjoy their famous chicken. Sadly it was demolished and they now have a simple restaurant in their home where the same dishes can be enjoyed.

The chicken is prepared Betutu style, which utilizes the same spices as the duck, and they also prepare a roasted chicken dish which is all lumped on to your plate with fresh cooked rice and spicy sambals.

These places can be visited, although Pak Ketut Rimpin is not so fond of visitors. Janete De Neefe of Casa Luna sometimes makes a tour to these places, which is the best way to visit. The least you can do is try a plate of Babi Guling at Ibu Oka’s and I promise, you wont be disappointed

Photo By Ayu Sekar

Photo By Ayu Sekar

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Ayu Sekar

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