Babi Guling – how to make a cheat’s version at home


babi guling at Ibu Oka

If you google it, there’s a lot of posts about where the best babi guling – Balinese roasted suckling pig – is in Bali. There’s apparently an unmarked doorway in a village called Buduk north of  Canggu somewhere thats open between 4am and 9am. There’s another listed in Sanur, and yet another in Seminyak that is supposed to be the best.

The best known, however, has to be Ibu Oka in Ubud. Is it the best there? I have no idea, but it’s absolutely certainly worth a visit. If I were to be pressed, hard, I’d say the one I had at Gianyar Markets might have been better, but let’s face it, a good babi guling is really not worth arguing about. It’s best just savoured. With a beer.

Ok, let’s be honest, there’s nothing that really replicates the taste of babi guling – Balinese suckling pig – that can be replicated at home in a commercial kitchen. For a start, in Bali it’s about a whole suckling pig. Without getting too much into the squeamish details, the base gede, or spice mix, is stuffed into the belly which is then stitched back up. The pig is then placed over a fire on a spit – which is hand turned…hence the name, turning pig.

Anyways, this recipe comes pretty close – especially if it’s been 18 months since you were last in Bali and dreaming and scheming about going back. The recipe comes from Adam Liaw’s After Work.

To get the best flavour out of it, you’ll need to start the day before.

For the pork

  • 2kg piece pork belly, skin on
  • 2 tbsp cooking salt

Basa Gede

  • 3 large red or golden shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 thumb sized knob of ginger, peeled
  • 1 large stalk of lemongrass (the white part), roughly chopped
  • 1 coriander root and the stalks (use the leaves for garnish)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric (I prefer to use peeled fresh turmeric – a bit less than the ginger)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce

Throw the lot into a food processor until to make a rough paste.


  • 3 large red or golden shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 large red chillies, finely diced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 large stalk of lemongrass (the white part) finely sliced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut (or other vegetable) oil
  • Mix it all together and let it sit to get t know each other for about 30 mins.

Cooking the babi guling

Score the pork skin with a sharp knife and spread the spice paste onto the meat side. Rub salt liberally into the skin and place on a rack (on a tray) uncovered, overnight in the fridge.

Remove the pork from the fridge an hour before you want to cook it. Heat the oven (fan forced to 190C and roast the pork on a rack for 30 mins.

Reduce the heat to 160C and roast for another 30 mins or so – until it is cooked through.

For good crackling, turn the grill setting on for the last 10 mins and wedge the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon. This allows the steam to escape and helps the crackle, well, crackle.

Serve with the sambal, some steamed or stir-fried greens, and rice. Then book your next trip to taste the real thing!