Bali’s classic pork dish, Babi guling (which directly translates as “turning pig”) as it’s roasted on a hand-turned spit over an open fire, is an unlikely find in Indonesia, a country that has the most extended Muslim majority population in the world. But Bali is something of an anomaly: much of the community practices an off-shoot of Hinduism that’s been combined with local spiritual traditions, which means that pork typically forbidden in Muslim countries is highly accepted here. In fact, eating babi guling in Bali is perhaps the country’s most quintessential dining experience: a whole pig roasted over a fire and cooked to perfection.
The Balinese love their Babi Guling and many ceremonies include it, not just as food but also as an activity – the act of actually cooking it that is. The recipe for cooking Babi Guling can vary a bit here and there but generally the main recipe is pretty much the same everywhere.
According to today’s Balinese, the ideal, normal-sized, live piglet selected for babi guling is four months old and 35-50 kilograms in weight, bearing a cost of Rp.500,000 (35$). The pig must first be either caught in the wild, purchased from a piggery, or procured at the market. All-purpose pigs are on sale (in the livestock section) at the larger village markets held every three days. Small, squealing, pink-nosed pigs are usually carried home alive (or straight to the next ceremony) by sepeda motor (or rickety public bemo) in large bags or woven bamboo baskets.
Babi Guling (be guling celeng in Balinese) is an important window into Balinese history, religion, tradition, and culture. Prepared more to honor the gods than for personal eating relishment, classic babi guling is the island’s favorite, unofficial “national dish.”