Lombok in south central Indonesia is popular not only for its beaches but also for its local cuisine. If the beaches and natural resources cannot convince you to check out this amazing island, then maybe the local dishes will. Eating and drinking in Lombok is unrivalled in the country. If you are a serious backpacker, surfer, nature lover, nature photographer, adventure seeker, world traveler, or someone who simply wants to relax by a tropical beach and enjoy savory exotic foods, then Lombok is for you.
The name itself gives a hint; “Lombok” in Bahasa Indonesia means “chili pepper”. If you have not been to Indonesia before, you don’t really understand hot and spicy yet. Indonesians are never satisfied without red hot (or green) cayenne pepper on their food, either cooked, raw or eaten as side dish. Surprisingly, though, Lombok cuisine is not the spiciest recipe in the Indonesian menu. In fact, it pales in comparison to other regional cuisines. Perhaps the name “lombok” is better translated in Bahasa Sasak (native language in the island), where it would mean “straight” instead of translating into “chili pepper”, as it does in Bahasa Indonesia. Nonetheless, Sasak food deserves worldwide attention.
The local foods are very savory, the most popular of which is ayam taliwang. This local favorite consists of chicken with a rich red sauce made from galangal, turmeric and tomato. Galangal is powerfully delicious and medicinal blue ginger. Ayam taliwang is best served with nasir campur or mixed rice. Rice is a staple in Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The typical Sasak meal is rice with kacang (peanuts) tahu (tofu), tempe (fermented soy patty), ayam (chicken), sapi (beef), ikan (fish), and vegetables, and don’t forget the sambal (ground cayenne peppers) on the side. The locals are never happy without sambal, and it is good if you can try it. Be careful, though, because it can be very hot to a non-Indonesian palate.
One the other hand, if you are one of those tourists who do not exactly love being adventurous with food, you should not fret because there are rows of restaurants and food joints in Senggigi and Gili Islands serving all kinds of international foods. Take your pick – hamburger, pizza, pancake, pasta, beef steak, and even ice cold beer, of course. If it’s drinking that gets you going, there are also several bars in the area. Lombok is one of the few Muslim destinations that allow the sale and consumption of liquor.
Senggigi is the tourism hub of Lombok, so it is almost sure that you’ll visit this place. The Gili Islands are also quite popular. These are the tiny islands off Lombok’s northern coast offering one-of-a-kind experience in swimming, snorkeling and diving. Food and drink in upscale restaurants in Senggigi and Gili Islands are understandably more expensive than in other Lombok destinations. To backpackers and savvy travelers, eating and drinking in Lombok is best enjoyed in smaller restaurants, called warung, where the foods are cheap and yet very authentic and delicious. Warungs are all over the island.