What is Megibung?
Traditionally, Balinese enjoyed eating together off one large plate or banana leaf at ceremonies or during preparation for ceremonies. People would sit cross-legged around it helping themselves with their right hand and scooping a mixture of food onto a banana leaf or eating it straight off the main plate. This communal way of eating is called megibung. In East Bali, the Karangasem Regency, people still practice the megibung style of eating at ceremony times. It is a very intimate and social way of sharing food, as well as being more economical and better for the environment: no plates, plastic or cutlery!
The food normally eaten megibung style are those which can be scooped freely with the hand, such as spicy fish wrapped in padanus leaves (pesan), suckling pig (be celeng), roast chicken or duck (siap/bebek betutu), spicy vegetables such as jukut ares (soup made from a banana tree trunk), jukut urab (strong smelling salad served warm) or lawar (grated coconut, condiments, meat and sometimes raw blood) and white or yellow rice (nasi putih / nasi kuning). All this is eaten with hands and washed down with Balinese rice wine (brem) or palm toddy (tuak).
In other parts of Bali, it is extremely rare to see people megibung these days because of the influence of imported cultures. Nowadays it’s more common to have buffet style or boxes of food (nasi kotak) at ceremonies, as many modern Balinese feel that the old system is both out-dated and unhygienic. In fact, in wealthier areas it’s not uncommon to see people eating buffet style complete with heated dishes, cutlery and even ice cream! Even though megibung is an important part of the Balinese heritage, sadly the tradition has almost disappeared from Balinese culture, except in a small number of villages.
Maybe it’s time for an enterprising restaurateur to open a megibung café!