Don’t leave Indonesia without tasting these 12 favorite local dishes
Indonesia is blessed with many natural wonders and a rich cultural heritage. This diversity is reflected in its arts, its architecture, its songs, its languages, and of course, its culinary preparations! If you are visiting Indonesia, make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to taste these 12 remarkable dishes!
1 | Nasi Goreng
“Nasi Goreng” means “fried rice”. The basic idea of this dish is actually to avoid food waste because, originally, the rice used for this dish is the rest of dinner or lunch. It easy to find the Nasi Goreng. Almost all places, from the five-star restaurant to the street stall. The right time to eat the dish is also very versatile; whether for breakfast or dinner, it’s up to you.
The taste of this preparation is a typical sweet, salty and slightly spicy mixture. There are many type of toppings that can fit into Nasi Goreng, such as minced chicken, sausage or fish. The garnish is usually topped with cucumber and egg slices.
2 | Sate
The “Sate” are skewers essentially composed of slices of grilled marinated meat strung on bamboo stems and grilled over an open fire with charcoal. In Indonesia you can find sate made from different types of meat, such as chicken, beef, lamb, scallops and fish. Before being grilled, the meat will first be marinated with a tasty sauce. Sates are served with many types of toppings, such as peanut sauce, sliced shallots and diced tomatoes, or spicy yellow sauce.
Almost every region in Indonesia has its preparation. For example “Sate Ayam” (Chicken), “Sate Kambing” (Lamb) are the most popular on the whole island of Java. For in Bali, these are the “Sate Lilit” which can be made from grilled chicken, or fish prepared with grated coconut and coconut milk.
3 | Soto
Soto is a soup that is also found almost everywhere in Indonesia. A bowl of Soto basically contains “bihun” (rice noodles), sliced cabbage, a handful of bean sprouts and meat. Its broth is clear and flavored with turmeric, lemongrass, shallots and garlic.
The type of meat used for soto may vary, depending on its originality and where it is served. The most common Soto in almost all parts of Indonesia are Soto Ayam (chicken) and “Soto Babat” (cow or goat offal). You can also taste the Soto Betawi in Jakarta which has a thick and creamy broth.
4 | Gado-gado
If you are a vegetarian or just someone who doesn’t like to eat meat, then you can try this traditional Indonesian salad called Gado-gado. Gado-gado basically means “mixture”, derived from the way it is served, which mixes steamed vegetables with peanut sauce.
A plate of Gado-gado usually contains steamed spinach, bean sprouts, green beans and corn. It also includes cucumber, boiled apples, hard-boiled egg, and fried tofu and tempeh. For the final touch, these ingredients are mixed together with a creamy peanut sauce. You can also choose the variety of vegetables and the taste of the peanut sauce, which can be spicy or sweet.
5 | Rendang
Rendang is a preparation of spicy meat. It can be made from beef or lamb. A plate of Rendang offers a mixture of spicy and creamy taste by a combination of chili and coconut milk. Some people think that Rendang is similar to Curry, but it is not soup like curry at all.
This dish is originally from the Minangkabau tribe, west of Sumatra, and is usually served on special occasions like Eid al-Fitr. However, you can easily find this dish all over Indonesia, especially in Padang restaurants.
6 | Bakso
Another popular street food in Indonesia is Bakso or meatball soup. The meatball is usually made from a mixture of tapioca flour, salt and ground beef, but you can also find chicken, fish, pork or shrimp dumplings as appropriate. Sometimes the meatball is also filled with various contents, like eggs or cheese.
A bowl of Bakso consists of broth, meatballs, rice noodles, vegetables, tofu and bean sprouts. Fried shallots and celery are sprinkled there, sometimes with a supplement of wonton (Chinese ravioli).
7 | Mie Ayam
Mie Ayam is a chicken noodle dish. It is one of the popular dishes that you can easily find all over the street stalls. Generally it is also served with Bakso.
A bowl of Mie Ayam contains a handful of boiled wheat noodles garnished with diced chicken. Once boiled, the noodle is seasoned with a mixture of cooking oil, soy sauce and garlic. The combination of these ingredients creates a fusion of sweet and salty flavors that melt in your mouth. Really delicious!
8 | Batagor
Batagor is an acronym for “bakso tahu goreng” actually “tofu fried fish balls”. This food looks like a fried dumpling, it is an authentic snack created by the Sundanese, an ethnic group from West Java.
The mixture of tofu and fish paste will be covered with wonton skin before being fried. Later, the dish will be served with peanut sauce and lime juice. You can also request a spicy condiment to add more flavor.
9 | Tongseng
Another dish that should be on your Indonesian culinary list is meat with curry soup called Tongseng. Lamb, mutton or beef is used for this preparation. The dish is creamy and spicy because it contains coconut milk and various spices such as garlic, shallots, black pepper, ginger, coriander, galangal and lemongrass.
The word tongseng comes from the friction sound of the spatula on the wok when frying the meat. The preparation comes from Central Java, where you can easily find restaurants or stalls selling this food.
10 | Ketupat Sayur
A plate of Ketupat Sayur contains sliced ketupat (rice cakes boiled in braided coconut leaves) and a vegetable stew with coconut milk. Sometimes it is accompanied by tofu and tempeh cooked with soy sauce.
Usually you can see the vendors of Ketupat Sayur going around the streets pushing their restaurant carts or carrying their baskets of food on their shoulders. This dish is quite versatile. You can eat it for breakfast or dinner.
11 | Ketropak
This vegetarian street food is native to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. It’s basically a plate of rice vermicelli mixed with fried tofu, vegetables, rice cake, blanched bean sprouts and shrimp crackers topped with peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce.
Fun fact, this dish has the same name as a Javanese theater performance which is also called Ketoprak!
12 | Bubur
In Indonesia, rice porridge is not limited to Bubur Ayam with its tasty taste. They can also have the creamy and sweet taste of rice flour, coconut milk and palm sugar. Unlike Bubur Ayam, the sweet variants of Indonesian porridge like Bubur Sumsum and Bubur Candil are served as a dessert presented on a banana leaf plate. You can easily find this dish in traditional markets.