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A guide to Indonesian Cuisine

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Having historical influences from Dutch, Chinese, and Arabic interactions, Indonesian Cuisine is one of the most flavourful cuisines in the world and for the right reasons.

Indonesian cuisine is diverse, because Indonesia is comprised of nearly 6,000 populated islands of the total 18,000 in the world’s largest archipelago. These islands have attracted traders, pirates, and adventurers from all over the world throughout its history. Located among ancient trading routes and rich with botanical resources, these remote islands quickly became a global interest. Spices were valued not only for their flavour, but also for their ability to disguise spoiled foods, freshen breath, and remedy health problems. Though eastern Indonesia’s “Spice Islands” received most of the attention, the country’s cuisine, as a whole, developed largely as a result of spice-seeking immigrants.

Be it Nasi Goreng or delicious Rendang, each recipe in Indonesia is a manifestation of the nation’s history and culture. Here are some of the best Indonesian delicacies you must try!

Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng is Indonesia’s unique version of tangy fried rice and also the country’s national dish. You won’t find anything quite like it when visiting other countries because of its simplicity yet being utterly delicious. The steamed rice is near drowned in a thick soy sauce called keycap and is flavoured with chilli, shrimp paste, onion, garlic and tomato sauce. Some chefs may also add protein — like chicken, lamb, pork, eggs or beef — and other vegetables such as mushrooms, cabbages and cucumber. Instead of enjoying Nasi Goreng in a fine dining restaurant, we suggest you to try the street food version in Indonesia. The curious combination of savoury taste, sweetness, spiciness, and appetising greasiness is what makes this dish so unique and incredible in taste.

Nasi Goreng
Source: RecipeTin Eats

Beef Rendang

Did you know Beef rendang was once recognized as the best delicious food in the word by CNN in 2011? This West Sumatran specialty originated from Padang, is famous for its spicyness and richness in flavour. Rendang consists mainly of thick beef dices slowly cooked for several hours in a blend of coconut milk and spices. The process alternates between boiling and frying as some of the liquid evaporates until the gravy dries up and is well absorbed into the meat. It tastes best with a plate of hot coconut milk rice, also referred to as Nasi Lemak. This dish is arguably one of the most famous foods in Indonesia.

Beef Rendang
Source: Omnivore’s Cookbook

Gado Gado

If you are a vegetarian, we highly recommend Gado-Gado, the Indonesian salad. The vegetables compressed rice salad, made with peanut sauce (or cashew nut sauce) dressing, is one of the most common Indonesian street foods available. Although technically a salad or mix, gado gado, especially when it contains compressed rice cakes, is actually quite filling and can be eaten as a main dish, or a snack. This healthy food has been a favourite among the locals over the years.

Gado Gado
Source: Jamie Oliver

Satay

Sate or Satay is just one among a number of barbecue recipes. It’s probably the dish most associated with the Indonesian archipelago worldwide, and is cooked over hot coconut charcoal with spices and herbs, with special sauces for marinating. It’s basically skewered meat cooked over coal in which hot fans are used to blow away the smoke, giving them a really unique flavour. The meat can be chicken, pork, beef, mutton, and even rabbit. The variations of satay in Indonesia is as diverse and plentiful as the cultures and ethnicities within. Sate Padang is made of grilled diced beef with yellowish sauce. Meanwhile, the Balinese Sate Lilit is made of minced fish and grated coconut with a lemongrass as the skewer.

Satay
Source: Great British Chefs

Bakso

Bakso, also known as Baso, is a meatball soup dish, and is favourite street food in Indonesia amongst locals. It is served in two variations, Mie Bakso, which is the Indonesian style Bakso and Bakso Kuah, the Chinese variant. The recipe for bakso typically includes minced meat mixed with some tapioca starch – and it is the tapioca starch which gives the meatballs their serious bouncy and addictive texture. It is often served with rice vermicelli or egg noodles, tofu, boiled eggs coated in the same meatball mixture, chilli, crispy fried onion pieces and sweet soy sauce to taste. The meatballs can be of any meat, from beef, chicken to fish and even pork. Malang, the city most famous for its Bakso, has a lot of variations of this dish.

Bakso
Source: Friday Magazine

Martabak

Much famed as the King of Indonesian food, Martabak has two variants, savoury and sweet. The sweet Martabak is called Martabak Manis which is a country special stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread filled with chocolate and nuts. These sweet treats are only sold in the evening and night, so you might have to wait for your midnight snack to give this one a try. The savoury street food is a crispy dough filled with chicken’s or duck’s eggs, leek, onion, and some spices. It’s served with cucumber and chili pickles, and spicy dark sauce.

Martabak
Source: Doyan Resep

Soto

Soto is another national dish comprising of broth, shredded chicken or diced beef, and complementary ingredients such as bean sprouts and chopped celery. Different cultures in Indonesia have their own version of soto raging from from Soto Jawa, Soto Betawi, Soto Kudus to Soto Banjar. They have different appearances and flavors yet are all mouth-watering. Soto Betawi is the most popular one which is a thick creamy broth made primarily with coconut milk. Among the other ingredients are meat, shallots, lemongrass and Indonesian spices

Soto
Source: Asian Inspirations

Gudeg

Considered to be the one of the national dishes of Yogyakarta (Jogja), gudeg is young jackfruit that’s braised with palm sugar, coconut milk, bay leaves, lemongrass, and galangal, until it’s extremely tender, and blended together. This savoury requires a little bit of patience as the jackfruit that is boiled for several hours together with the above mentioned spices and ingredients, resulting in a tender and sweet flesh. The sweet Gudeg is served with additional dishes such as “telur pindang” (the dark boiled egg), fried chicken, and “sambal goreng krecek” made of buffalo skin.

Gudeg
Source: Neza transport

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