COCONUTS HOT SPOT — If you’ve got a thing for spicy food (or if you don’t, but are ready to step into the danger zone), then you’ve got to try Spesial Sambal (SS), an Indonesian warung that’s recently opened in Bali’s Bukit area. The place has over 30 types of sambal varieties that will set fire to your palate.
For those not yet familiar, sambal is a core component of Indonesian cuisine. Yes, essentially, it’s a chili paste. But a highly versatile one that can be dipped into, slathered onto things, or mixed into pretty much any meal, with different regional takes across the Indonesian archipelago.
Originally hailing from the Javanese city of Yogyakarta, SS blew up there and rapidly made its way across Java and over to Bali. Here in Bali, we already had two “posko pedas” (rough translation: spicy stations; sounds better in Indonesian. Trust us.), located in the metropolis of Denpasar — but we’re pumped to have one in the island’s south now.
Don’t let the fact that this place is a chain shop put you off. It’s seen success for good reason.
So, on to the food. The warung’s concept is similar to Chinese dim sum. When you enter, you’re given a paper copy of their entire menu where you can mark up which vegetables, meat, seafood, egg — and of course, sambal — dishes you want them to send to your table on a bed of nasi. Don’t forget to order the rice, a necessary base for all that goodness.
Plates are small and best shared — though we’d recommend getting your own chicken breast or drumstick. Don’t share that. You can choose to get it fried (classic Indonesian style), or grilled in kecap manis (sweet soy sauce).
Our personal preferences skew towards getting the chicken and tempeh grilled (you haven’t truly experienced tempeh until you’ve had it smoky and sweet, grilled SS-style), then getting the jamur (mushroom) crispy and cumi goreng (fried calamari).
If you couldn’t already tell, SS is not the kind of place to go to when you’re craving health food. For us, this has become our go-to for those times we’re in feast mode and only comfort food will do.
Prices are nice and cheap, too: Sambals start at IDR2,500/US$0.17, and one of the most expensive menu items, beef, is just IDR12,500/US$0.87 per portion.
Sambals on the menu — they’ve got all the greatest hits to come out of Indonesian cuisine over the years, plus unconventional concoctions that come with non-traditional mix-ins. The spice level of each is denoted with a ranking out of four chilis, though living up to the warung’s name, not a single one in the selection seems to have a single-chili ranking.
If you’re overwhelmed with the variety on your first visit, here are some of our usual favorites for inspiration: the traditional sambal tomat (basic tomato and chili), sambal bawang goreng (fried garlic), and sambal lombok ijo (green chili).
But if you’re looking for a new experience, then there’s always that selection of more outlandish options, like sambal rempelo ati (liver), sambal belut (eel), or sambal pete (stinky beans).
Coconuts Hot Spots are notable new restaurants or undiscovered gems around Bali that we think are worth a visit.
Waroeng SS Uluwatu
Jl. Pura Masuka no. 1, Ungasan