Feb 21, 2018
In her classic novel, Love And Death In Bali, Vicki Baum describes 1920s Denpasar: “We passed through the town of Badung, which is also called Denpasar from its street of shops where Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Arabs have their funny little booths.”
Around a century later, Denpasar, now a city home to almost a million people, preserves much of that multicultural edge and trading-town buzz. “There’s a big cultural diversity: people from Yemen, a Muslim sect from India, and the Chinese on Jalan Gajah Mada,” says street food chef Will Meyrick, who’s leading my food tour of Denpasar. “It’s not just a Balinese city.”
Our first stop, however, is thoroughly Balinese: roast sucking pig at Babi Guling Candra (140 Jalan Teuku Umar; above). Meyrick and Denpasar-born Nita Dewi, one of two alternative guides on the tour, escort me round the back. In a furnace of a room, men spit-roast whole pigs over smouldering coconut husks; outside, a worker pares crackling from a finished porker with a ferocious blade.
“When I first opened my restaurants, I was coming to Denpasar every night to do the shopping so I got to know many locals,” Meyrick says; his restaurants include Sarong, Mamasan and Tiger Palm. “When I started to do TV, they all remembered me.”