February 23, 2024

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12 top Indonesia foods travelers should try

12 top Indonesia foods travelers should try
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(CNN) — As the world’s premier archipelagic country, Indonesia is loaded with unique cultures and influences distribute out more than 1,904,569 square kilometers (735,358 sq. miles).

This would make it a large obstacle to consider to summarize the flavors of the state in just a few paragraphs.

“Indonesian foodstuff lifestyle is centered on regional cooking amid 17,500 islands, 38 provinces and 700 dialects,” says Indonesian cookbook author William Wongso.

“Flavors of Indonesia are extremely diverse. From Aceh (the westernmost province of Indonesia) to West Sumatra (also a western province), it is really only about a 1.5-hour flight, still their food and taste profiles are thoroughly different.”

The 75-12 months-previous writer of “Flavors of Indonesia: William Wongso’s Culinary Wonders.” says that even although he is been touring and having all-around Indonesia for a long time, he however hasn’t tasted every community dish.

For instance, cooks in the Moluccas in the eastern aspect of Indonesia, when nicknamed the “Spice Islands,” favor utilizing new spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Aceh, on the other hand, commonly incorporates dried spices many thanks to the affect of India, Arabia and China.

Padang (or Minangkabau) cuisine in West Sumatra makes use of heaps of coconut cream, chiles, shallots and some curry spices, as properly as ginger and galangal with fragrant herbs this sort of as turmeric leaves, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass.

Javanese are gurus in applying the a few coloured spice pastes — pink (created of chiles, shallots and garlic), white (candle nuts, shallots and garlic) and yellow (candlenuts, shallots, garlic and turmeric).

“The taste profile of Central Java is sweeter than Eastern Java,” Wongso provides.

Completely ready to enjoy the overwhelming range of Indonesian cuisine? Here are a couple of dishes that offer you a sample of the numerous delightful flavors on give.

Beef rendang

Beef rendang is unbelievably tender. The beef is coated with dry curry that has been stewed for hours.

Beef rendang is unbelievably tender. The beef is coated with dry curry that has been stewed for several hours.

asab974/Adobe Stock

It is not an exaggeration to say that beef rendang is just one of the world’s most flavorful foodstuff.

A dry curry dish linked to the Minangkabau ethnic team, which is indigenous to West Sumatra, rendang is a wonderful way to maintain meat — necessary for the Minangkabau men and women throughout their travels.

There is no 1 recipe for rendang. “In West Sumatra, there are about 900 districts and just about every has their own design of rendang,” says Wongso.

But a person of the most typical meats to surface in rendang is beef. It really is stewed in coconut milks and spices like lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chiles for hrs until the meat is unbelievably tender and the curry mixture is lessened to a comparatively dry coating around the meat.


A rising star in plant-based diet plans about the planet, tempeh has in actuality been a consistent in Javanese tradition for a lot more than 4 generations.

The very low-excess fat, superior-protein meat substitute is created of soybeans fermented in banana leaves — and at times, other leaves — for two to 3 times ahead of it turns into a white moldy and chunky block.

Its taste is usually described as nutty and mushroom-y with a slight sweet soy scent.

It can be cooked the same way as any meat — baked, fried, grilled or boiled into different dishes. In Indonesia, it can be often deep-fried and served as a tasty snack.


A staple at Southeast Asian places to eat all over the planet, satay — or sate in the area tongue — is stated to have originated in Java.

Preparing of these skewers may differ from location to area, usually showcasing different meats or vegetables, spices, sauces and marinades.

A single of the most cherished variations in Indonesia is satay chicken served with a sweet peanut sauce that has just a hint of spice.

Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng: So much more than just fried rice.

Nasi goreng: So much more than just fried rice.

Jairson/Adobe Inventory

If there’s 1 staple that represents Indonesia’s multi-faceted tradition, it is really nasi goreng — literally translated as fried rice.

Each household has a distinctive recipe designed with many ingredients and sides, but the use of terasi (shrimp paste) and kecap manis (a sweet and thick Indonesian soy sauce) unite most — if not all — versions.

These condiments develop Indonesian fried rice’s unique flavor.

Topped with a excellent sunny-aspect-up egg and a side of crunchy shrimp crackers (or kerupuk), nasi goreng is a multipurpose food consumed through the day.

A dish influenced by Chinese cooking, nasi goreng is as popular in Singapore and Malaysia as it is in Indonesia.


Whilst prawn crackers are usually uncovered in several countries’ diets — particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia — it was many thanks to Indonesia that the snack was introduced to the Dutch and then brought to Europe.

Arguably the greatest sidekick to any dish, a piece of kerupuk can also serve as an edible spoon to scope up additional sauce or sambal.

Indonesian kerupuk is also employed as a topping for soto — a sort of Indonesian soup. (See underneath)

Soto Ayam

Identical to lots of other dishes in Indonesia, soto, or soup, preferences various based on which section of the archipelago you are in.

A person of the most frequently showcased soto on Indonesian menus is the comforting soto ayam (chicken soup) — but that way too, comes in many variations.

Among the all the hen sotos, the kinds from East Java — this sort of as soto ayam Madura or Ambengan — are some of the most well-liked. They have a crystal clear broth and include a generous sum of garlic, shallots, turmeric and chunks of hen meat.

Koya powder, a unique mix of grounded prawn crackers and fried garlic, is often extra to give the already-loaded soup — this kind of as soto ayam Lamongan — an extra umami enhance.

Gado gado

A classic gado gado is served with chopped vegetables, an egg and sometimes, slices of tofu or tempeh. It is often dressed with roasted peanut sauce.

A basic gado gado is served with chopped greens, an egg and at times, slices of tofu or tempeh. It is typically dressed with roasted peanut sauce.

galitskaya/Adobe Stock

Chop up blanched vegetables, tough-boiled eggs and add a ladle of peanut sauce and you have the humble but tasty Indonesian national salad — gado gado.

A vintage Indonesian peanut sauce for gado gado is built with floor roasted peanuts, chiles, shrimp paste, tamarind pulp or juice and some sugar and salt.

Translated as combine blend, this ubiquitous salad dish occasionally contains slices of fried tofu or tempeh as well as deep fried fish cakes.


Sambal could not be a single of Indonesia’s 5 official nationwide dishes — together with nasi goreng, rendang, soto, sate and gado gado — but no food is full without it for many Indonesians.

It is a relish designed by mixing chile peppers with a host of different ingredients these types of as shrimp paste, sugar, salt and lime juice.

These days, you can obtain it in a lot of renowned Indonesian dishes — from nasi goreng to gado gado.

Legend has it that Portuguese and Spanish sailors brought a variant of chile peppers to Indonesia — but it was in Java that they were being first pounded into sambals.

It truly is believed there are additional than 100 models of sambal served across Indonesia. Just one of the most common is sambal terasi, which is manufactured with chile peppers, garlic, tomatoes, shrimp paste, limes, salt and sugar.


Not technically a dish but it could just be the country’s most famed meals model.

Wowing the current market since 1972, Indomie’s flavorful and effortless packaged noodles have amassed a huge subsequent around the world.

If you’re an Indomie novice, get started with a packet of Indomie mi goreng (barbecue hen) and you are going to likely be transformed as effectively.


Jamu is a concentrated herbal drink made with ginger and turmeric.

Jamu is a concentrated herbal consume made with ginger and turmeric.

galitskaya/iStockphoto/Getty Photos

When Indonesian President Joko Widodo was questioned about the mystery to his great health through the Covid-19 pandemic, he cited jamu.

A standard Indonesian herbal drink created from several mixtures of crops and spices — ginger and turmeric are two common substances — jamu is thought to improve one’s immune program.

There are lots of approaches to make jamu.

The vegetation and spices are blended into a concentrated juice and it is normally served warm.

The president also claimed that he has been consuming it every day for the final two a long time and boosted his each day jamu consumption to 3 moments per day throughout the pandemic.

In recent decades, jamu-motivated juice makes have been popping up all around the environment.

Babi guling

There are a few matters that make us desire of Bali — the pristine beaches, the limitless rice fields and, for some, babi guling, the getaway island’s famed roasted suckling pig.

The animal is rubbed with turmeric and stuffed with a spice paste created up of coriander seeds, lemongrass, Asian lime and salam leaves, chilies, black pepper, garlic, crimson shallots, ginger and kencur. Then, it can be roasted on a spit.

Just about every element of the pig — meat for satay, juicy pork slices, crispy crackling as nicely as the richly flavored intestines — will be loved.

It can be mainly served with rice, spicy soup and a sequence of condiments.

The dish is almost never observed in the rest of Indonesia, where a the greater part of the population is Muslim and considers pork usage haram, or forbidden. On Bali, most folks recognize as Hindu.


And and finally, a single cannot neglect about rijsttafel, or rice desk, in Dutch.

It is really an elaborate unfold of compact Indonesian plates showcasing diverse tastes and stages of spiciness in 1 meal.

Rijsttafel is technically not component of classic Indonesian foods lifestyle. It was very first introduced for the duration of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia, when the Europeans would provide tiny plates of luxurious Indonesian dishes — from sweet to spicy — to their readers.

It is still a frequent giving at Indonesia eating places in the Netherlands as nicely as in its place of origin.

In accordance to Wongso, rijsttafel tradition is a person of the reasons many regular Indonesian dishes grew popular outdoors of Asia.