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Warung Mak Beng: Sanur, Bali

The 86-year-old Mak Beng, or Ketut Tjuki, is a living legend in the Balinese culinary world. She has inherited rare recipes for authentic Balinese dishes from her mother and mother-in-law.

Since opening its doors in l941, the modest Warung Mak Beng has been one of the most popular places to eat in Sanur. Located near the Grand Bali Beach hotel, the eatery attracts a mixed crowd of foreigners and locals.

Mak Beng’s specialties include fish soup cooked with Balinese traditional spices, grilled fish, satay and her extraordinary chili sauces.

“It takes my grandmother hours and hours to make chili sauce. The taste is second to none,” said Ketut Dodit, one of Mak Beng’s grandsons.

“Everything on the menu at Warung Mak Beng is made using secret family recipes that we patented in 2005,” Dodit said.

Mak Beng, who married a Chinese man, Nyoo Tik Gwan, has kept her eatery small for the sake of quality.

“We don’t want to expand or open other outlets. We have many regular customers and are grateful for what we have,” Mak Beng said.

Customers, many of whom Mak Beng knows by name, come from as far away as Japan, Korea and the U.S.

“My foreign guests are particularly fond of my hot and spicy fried fish, grilled fish and soup,” Mak Beng said proudly.

Warung Mak Beng opens from 8.30 a.m through 5 p.m. “But we often have to wait until lunch time before we get anything to eat,” said Vera, who eats at the food stall most weekends.

“There are plenty of seafood stalls and restaurants in Bali but the taste here is different,” said Jacky, another regular. “Mak Beng is always careful to choose the freshest fish. Spices are chosen with extreme care to maintain the special nature of the blend,” said Dodit who has been trying to master his grandmother’s recipe.

“It is a trial-and-error process. If I can’t get it right, my grandmother is always willing to go over the recipe with me again. She has been perfecting her recipes for almost 60 years and she wants us to get them just right,” Dodit said.

Wasti Atmodjo