Did you know that Ubud was included in the list of 15 Best Health Tourism Destination in the world by American publication Travel+Leisure? We can’t say we’re surprised. You will find all sorts of health centers in Ubud just a stone throw’s away, and even just the natural landscape itself might work wonders to your wellbeing.
But why is Ubud so famous for healthy living? Well, one reason is that Ubud is a deeply spiritual place—the name itself derived from the word “ubad” which means medicine.
Many people flock to the quaint country town to escape from the hustle-and-bustle of metropolitan life and find refuge in the mind-and-body-rejuvenating meditation or yoga. The sweeping rice paddy fields that form the town’s landscape certainly help in their journey to spiritual enlightenment.
In effect, Ubud has also been known as a wellness destination that covers healthy living through gastronomical offerings. These days, when people think of Ubud, they also think of organic, raw food, macrobiotic, probiotic, vegetarianism, and veganism.
It’s a town where a healthy living goes beyond simple trends.
The Vegan Practice of Balinese Hindus
In places that are far from the madding crowd like Ubud, the residents naturally still live inseparable to the nature surrounding them—some still gather their food straight from the garden or farm. It’s common to find animal farms at the back of a Balinese’s house complex (in which there are 4 to 5 houses) in which they kept chickens, ducks, pigs, and cows. However, the latter is exempt for consumption as cows—just like in India—is considered as sacred and thus the Balinese don’t consume red meat.
In fact, vegetarianism is not an alien concept for Balinese Hindu. Those who adhere closely to the teachings of sanatana dharma omits all kinds of animal meat from their menu. Sanatana dharma is a set of virtues that regardless of class or caste people should follow such as the practice of honesty, patience, mercy, generosity, and refraining from injuring living beings, which are manifested into its followers leading a vegetarian lifestyle. (The priests of the Brahmin caste also practice this belief, more so because meat heats the body and thus can affect their focus in prayers.)
Plant-based Menu in Ubud
In general, the island of Bali is a heaven for foodies, and Ubud has cemented its status as healthy food—and lifestyle—central. Yoga retreats, health centers, health food shops, and vegan-friendly joints are easily available and spread out across town.
The vegetarian/vegan option takes many forms: from immaculate restaurants serving fine-dining vegan cuisines to a natural setting under a hut surrounded by rice paddy fields to an unassuming-looking warung (a traditional food stall) offering a fusion of local and international vegetarian menus.
The local dish high on the list (and which you can find almost anywhere) is the Indonesian staple Nasi Campur (mix rice). The common version of nasi campur is comprised of a scoop of rice accompanied by an assortment of side dishes such as sautéed vegetables with grated coconut, shredded chicken, boiled eggs, caramelized fried tempeh, corn fritters, and krupuk (the local version of crackers).
Now you can substitute the white rice with a brown one, fake meat made from mushrooms or soy-based protein, and have the dishes cooked with coconut oil and sans MSG.
So what are the other specials on the menu? Here are a few samples of delicious vegan food courtesy of Balisimo Café at The Purist Villas a perfect accommodations villas accommodations villas resort for Indian Guest in Ubud:
- Cassava Banana Flower “Pasta”
A delectable homemade gluten-free pasta made from organically-sourced cassava banana flower. The dish doubles its healthy quota with the addition of basil, pine nuts, almonds, ginger flower, red spinach, pumpkin leaf, beetroot, microgreens, plus gomasio and probiotic sour kraut to help cleanse your palate afterward.
- Balisimo Vegetable Curry
A warming cuisine perfect for the cool air of Ubud. It’s a savory curry twist consisting of grilled eggplant, spinach, tofu, baby beans mushrooms, and pumpkin leaf, marinated in delicious Balinese vegan-curry dressing. Who says vegetarian food must be bland?
- Tempeh Mushroom Rendang
Rendang is actually a signature dish from the Padang region in West Sumatera; a slow-cooked meat serving steeped in coconut milk and a paste of mixed ground spices such as ginger, galangal, turmeric leaves, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chilis—all of which possess antimicrobial properties. Balisimo switched the meat with nicely-textured tempeh and add in snow peas, long beans, sweet potato, and roasted carrot, along with the world-famous rendang sauce. A delightful vegetarian twist rich in spices.
Touring the Health Scene in Ubud
Ubud is the ideal place to take an ecotour to explore the town’s permaculture sites, to learn raw food preparation, and to see first-hand the farm-to-table practice of some of the plant-based restaurants in town. Here are some of the eco-friendly activities you can do in Ubud:
Yayasan Emas Hitam Indonesia
A literally down-to-earth foundation that highlights the best practices of permaculture for the sustainability of our environment. Volunteer at the foundation (usually open every Saturday) and learn to make compost (the titular emas hitam or black gold), or perhaps even try their compost toilet that uses sawdust instead of water!
Address: Jl. Subak Uma Petulu Lebah, Petulu, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar.
Phone: +361 8174730029
The most popular health food shop in Bali where you can find freshly-baked bread, spirulina, chia seeds, natural skin care products, organic fruits and vegetables, homemade almond milk, and many others. Try also their café for delectable healthy food and green smoothies.
Address: Jl. Jembawan 1 No.1, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar
Phone: (+361) 976324.
Zero Waste Bali
The new healthy kid on the block but who has slowly but surely gained a devoted follower. It’s a bulk-food shop that allows you to buy organic coconut oil or natural sunscreen using your own containers.
Address: Jl. Raya Sayan, Singakerta, Ubud.
Phone: +361 813-5385-7357.
Earth Café & Market Ubud
Similar to Bali Buda, Earth Café Bali also displays an array of natural, chemical-free products and a Mediterranean-style café that serves plant-based, macrobiotic food utilizing organic and seasonal local products.
Address: Jl. Goutama Sel., Ubud.
Phone: +361 851-0083-5545.
Tucked away in Jalan Sayan, Moksa is a farm-to-table restaurant that exclusively serves plant-based menus. All their ingredients are freshly plucked from their own permaculture garden.
Address: Puskesmas Ubud II, Gg. Damai, Sayan
Sayuri Healing Food Café
Taking a cooking course in Sayuri Healing Food Café will get you up to speed about the appeal of living-raw food. Their Academy offers Raw Food and Dessert Chef Trainings (Level 1 & 2), Raw Chocolatier Training, monthly 4-Day Raw Food Intensives, and general introductory classes on raw food, raw desserts, living food, and fermentation.
Address: JL Sukma kesuma no 2 , Br Tebesaya
Phone: +361 82240485154.
Ubud Vegan Festival
Ubud is indeed one of the best vegan culinary destinations in Bali (with Canggu only recently taking the runner-up position), so naturally it’s the perfect place to hold a vegan-centric festival. Since 2017, the town welcomes the Ubud Vegan Festival organized by the Down to Earth Bali vegan community (who founded the Earth Café).
The festival takes place every October and it features various activities from talk shows attended by health experts and vegan practitioners from around the world, plus community discussions, movie screenings, cooking classes, and a display of vegan products and culinary (with yoga classes on the side). At the 2nd festivities, the festival branch out to Canggu as well.