Culinary Bali: Nasi campur

Walk through the streets of Bali, and you can always find someone selling rice over an open table with assorted meats and veggies. This dish is what the locals call nasi campur, or mixed rice, and it’s a culinary adventure!

Nasi campur is a general term for any rice dish served with assorted meats or vegetables. It is not a Bali-exclusive term; it’s more of an Indonesian thing.

Usually, nasi campur is sold by street hawkers in brown wrapping paper or a banana leaf folded in a cone. It is generally called nasi bungkus, which literally means “wrapped rice”. If already wrapped, you can’t select what kinds of additions you want to eat; this type of nasi campur is for people on the go. It’s a cheap way to keep an empty stomach at bay!

Some sellers have a table or showcase with lots of food on it. Sometimes they are out in the open on the side of a busy street or inside a closed establishment. You can mix your own nasi campur when there’s a food display! You can point out which kinds of food you want with your rice, and the seller will charge you accordingly.

Balinese nasi campur usually consists of rice (obviously), some meat, lots of veggies, and the obligatory sambal. There’s also a lot to choose from. Sometimes, there are multiple types of rice: do you fancy plain white rice, brown rice, or white rice mixed with cassava or sweet corn? There’s also a wide variety of veggies: would you like water spinach with sambal (the notorious plecing) or some lawar? There’s also a selection of meat, served in different fashions: would you prefer babi guling, red spicy pulled chicken, or duck? To top it all off, sambal is the main condiment and fried shallots or cucumber slices for taste.

Since it is ubiquitous, you’ll find different sellers with different signature dishes, often within proximity to one another. That one nasi campur lady may serve amazing fried tofu, but the other lady could have excellent chicken. The dish also differs based on the region so you might find a different variety of nasi campur in Ubud and another kind in Denpasar.

Nasi campur is also sold in restaurants, from cheap to expensive ones. Thus, there’s no single “perfect” nasi campur; it’s up to you to craft (or find) your perfect blend. There’s no better way to experience Bali than on a plate!