NOT A GOOD DAY TO BE A PIG

During the Balinese holy days of Galungan and Kuningan, which recur every 210 days to mark the return of ancestors to the family temples, Balinese really love to eat meat, especially pork. In fact, in less prosperous times, a typical Balinese consumed the majority of his or her annual animal protein during these holidays. The day preceding each of these holidays is Penampahan, a day that marks the climax of food and religious offering preparations for the next day's ceremony. Hours before dawn on Penampahan, Balinese communities begin the slaughter of pigs and the meat is often divided among households.

Once home, Balinese prepare pork in a number of ingenious ways, the most famous of which is lawar, a dish for which there is no peer in Asian cooking. The ritual act of preparing lawar (and traditional satay, for that matter) holds such significance in Balinese culture that it is given its own word: mebat.
This applies to its preparation not only in the home, but even in the village meeting house, or balai banjar. (While in Bali, look around the village meeting houses and you may see dozens of men assembled, collectively employing crude cleavers and cutting boards in a communal mebat.)

To make lawar, boiled young jackfruit, long beans, young papaya, and roasted coconut are grated and finely chopped, then added to a spicy minced pork that has been roasted in a banana leaf over coals. It requires a good hand to do the rest, mixing the above ingredients with perfect proportions of fried slices of garlic and shallots, a paste of at least fifteen spices, fried shrimp paste, hot chilies, kaffir lime leaves and juice, and salt. When available, chopped fresh peppercorns elevate the dish even further. And in defiance of all conventional food hygiene, some Balinese still add a generous dose of raw pig's blood to redden the dish and add flavor. Trust us, it's not necessary.
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On the morning of Penampahan, lawar is ready to eat by 7 or 8 a.m., and it is consumed immediately before the ingredients sour. (What’s the rush? Believe it or not, it's not the meat that sours first. It's the coconut.) Stomachs full, Balinese parcel leftover lawar – if there is any – into banana-leaf pouches and steam them, a preparation known as tum lawar. Minced pork meat mixed with spices is steamed in the same fashion, and variations to the banana-leaf fold indicate which parcel contains what.

As no part of the pig goes wasted, fatty chunks of meat are stewed with spices, fried shallots, local bay leaves known as daun salam, and soy sauce (a nod to Chinese influence in so much of Southeast Asian cooking) to create a pork stew known as Babi Kecap () And ever-economical and practical, Balinese prolong the shelf life of Lawar-if there are indeed any leftovers-by wrapping it into dumplings and steaming it along with the Tum Babi.
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Yet another famous Balinese pork dish is Babi Guling, a spit-roasted whole pig stuffed with a complex mix of tapioca leaves, native herbs, rhizomes and spices. Babi Guling made from a pig that was still suckling can often be seen as the centerpiece of religious offerings, left there just long enough to placate the deities before being eagerly seized and sliced up to feed the pious. Balinese prize the golden skin, so crisp you can snap it in two. You can order it in advance at Kafe Batan Waru.
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