Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and home to over 240 million people. With a diverse mix of languages and ethnic groups spread across 17,000 islands, the food scene is considered to be as diverse as its geography! Traveling through Indonesia is a culinary journey unlike any other.
Its cuisine has been similarly shaped with influences from China, Europe and India. For instance, the Indians brought curries with them when they first arrived and it is now a mainstay in Indonesian cuisine.
Although meals appear simple to prepare, the clever and frequent usage of various roots, spices, grasses, and leaves adds zest to most dishes. Unless specified, food in Indonesia is rarely spicy. Chili condiments known as sambal are provided as well so that you can spice your own food to taste. Do note that some sambal is made from fermented shrimp or fish so smell it first if you are not sure!
Similar to most of its neighbors, rice is Indonesia’s most important staple food. It is usually served at every meal and is often the main ingredient for desserts and beverages. In fact, what could be considered its national dish is a rice-based dish! Let us look at some of the must-try dishes when in Indonesia and some popular places to try them.
Nasi Goreng, literally translated as “fried rice” – is Indonesia’s version of fried rice. Unlike the more common Chinese-style fried rice, the orange-colored Nasi Goreng contains a light blend of chili and other spices. Nasi Goreng is ubiquitous and is available everywhere, from the inexpensive street stalls to upmarket restaurants. In fact, this was one dish served to President Barack Obama during his visit to Indonesia in 2010.
Nasi Goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih, Di Pamulang Permai 1 Blok B 38 No.12. Pamulang, Jakarta, Indonesia; Tel: 0811190775
Nasi Goreng Kebuli Apjay, Jl. Panglima Polim IX, RT.2/RW.7, Melawai, Kby. Baru, Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12160, Indonesia; Tel: +62 812-8359-996
Image credit to: 80plates.com
Mie goreng – pronounced “mee goreng” refers to the Indonesian version of fried noodles and is served differently in the country, depending on where you are. Restaurants in the tourist areas such as Jakarta will serve thin, stir-fried, yellow noodles with spices and vegetables. However, you may get a pack of instant, ramen-style noodles that are high in fat and MSG when you order Mie Goreng in Flores or other rural areas.
Mie Udang Singapore Mimi, Jalan Green Ville Blok AV No. 15 F, RT.7/RW.14, Duri Kepa, Kb. Jeruk, Kota Jakarta Barat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 11510, Indonesia; Tel: +62 21 5633363
Image credit to: FoodtoGlow
Gado-Gado refers to Indonesian-style vegetable salad made up of assorted ingredients such as lettuce, beansprout, steamed potato, boiled egg, fried tofu, corn kernels, spinach, cucumber, lontong (compressed steamed rice in banana leaf); smothered with thick peanut sauce and topped with prawn crackers.
Gado-Gado Bonbin, Jalan Cikini IV No.5, RT.14/RW.5, Cikini, Menteng, RT.14/RW.5, Cikini, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10330, Indonesia; Tel: +62 21 3141539
Gado Gado Cemara (Sejak 1947), Jalan Tanah Abang 5 No.36, RT.14/RW.2, Petojo Selatan, Gambir, RT.13, Petojo Sel., Gambir, DKI Jakarta, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10160, Indonesia; Tel: +62 21 34831897
Satay is one of the most popular street snacks one can find in Indonesia. Similar in appearance to a kebab, albeit smaller, satay is a dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat. Usually made from chicken, beef, goat, pork, or anything else that can be grilled on a stick, satay can serve as a quick snack or a main meal depending on the quantity of small skewers purchased. Satay is usually served with peanut sauce or sambal.
Toni Ubin Satay, No Jagakarsa, Jl. Jagakarsa Blok Pepaya No.33, RT.5/RW.1, Lenteng Agung, Jagakarsa, DKI Jakarta, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12620, Indonesia; Tel: +62 878-8846-4986
Sate Khas Senayan, Jalan HOS. Cokroaminoto No.78, RT.2/RW.5, Menteng, RT.1/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10310, Indonesia; Tel: +62 21 3928763
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans that are formed into a patty, similar to a very firm veggie burger and then roasted or fried. Tempeh has a textured and nutty flavor that goes well with a variety of dishes. Considered a side dish rather than a main, it is readily available in most restaurants, food stalls and even supermarkets.
Aneka Gorengan: Pasaraya Grande, Lantai Lower Ground, Dapuraya, Jl. Iskandarsyah II, Melawai, Jakarta
Dining out in Indonesia can be an interesting experience and knowing what dishes to try makes the experience even more worthwhile.