Indonesian Foods


1. Soto

This traditional meat soup accommodates a broth and substances that change across the archipelago. Common side road variations are made from a simple,clear soup flavored with rooster, goat, or beef. In Jakarta, home of the
indigenous Betawi, soto Betawi garners fame with its sweet, creamy, coconut-milk base. It’s generally topped with crispy shallots and fried garlic, and as much or little sambal as your style buds can take.

2. Nasi goreng

Considered Indonesia’s nationwide dish, this take on Asian fried rice is steadily made with sweet, thick soy sauce known as kecap (pronounced ketchup) and garnished with acar, pickled cucumbers, and carrots. To add an element of amusement to the experience, diners can take a look at nasi gila (or “loopy rice”) and see what number of other forms of meat they can find buried in some of the grains — yes, those are scorching dog slices.

3. Sambal

While technically extra of a condiment, the chili-based sauce referred to as sambal is a staple in any respect Indonesian table. Dishes are not complete unless they’ve got a hearty dollop of the stuff, a mixture of chilies, sharp fermented shrimp paste, tangy lime juice, sugar and salt all pounded up with mortar and pestle. So cherished is sambal, some eating places have made it their major attraction, with choices that include younger mango, mushrooms, and durian.

4. Satay

These tasty meat skewers prepare dinner up over coals so hot they need fans to drift the smoke away. Whether it’s chicken, goat, mutton or rabbit, the scrappy morsels get marinated in turmeric, barbecued and then bathed in a healthy dose of peanut sauce. Other international locations now lay claim to sate, but Indonesians imagine it a countrywide dish conceived by side road distributors and popularized by way of Arab investors. Each dealer seeks distinction, however “sate madura” — served with rice muffins (ketupat) and diced cucumber and onion — is outstanding through its boat-shaped street carts. Sate Ragusa serves mythical satay that dates to the 1950s. Its signature spaghetti ice cream is an ideal dish to cleanse the palate after a meal.

5. Bakso

We’re no longer always sure what is in it, but we are always positive that we
will need more. President Barack Obama remembered it as one in all his favorites
right through a talk over with to Jakarta. The meatballs — springy or rubbery,
the dimensions of golfing balls or larger — are made from hen, red meat, red
meat or some amorphous mixture of them all. Sold most commonly from pushcarts
referred to as kaki lima, bakso comes garnished with fried shallots, boiled egg
and wontons.

6. Gado-gado

Literally “mix-mix,” the term gado-gado is often used to describe situations
that are all mixed up — Jakarta, for instance, is a gado-gado city. As a food,
however, it’s one of Indonesia’s best-known dishes, essentially a vegetable
salad bathed in the country’s classic peanut sauce. At its base are boiled long
beans, spinach, potato, corn, egg and bean sprouts coupled with cucumber, tofu
and tempe. Gado-gado gets sweeter as you travel eastward through Indonesia —
but Jakartans swear by the cashew sauce at Gado-Gado Boplo.

7. Nasi uduk

A perennial favorite among native Betawi, nasi uduk is rice cooked in coconut
milk and includes a pinwheel of various meat and vegetable accoutrements. It
almost always includes fried chicken, boiled eggs and tempe (soybean cake) with
anchovies and is topped with emping (melinjo nut crackers). It’s cheap, fast and
popular among lunchtime crowds. Nearly four decades old and still going strong,
Nasi Uduk Babe Saman packs in everyone

8. Nasi padang

Singaporeans may say they can’t live without it, but nasi padang, named after
its birth city in Sumatra, is 100% Indonesian. Nasi padang is a meal with
steamed rice accompanied by more than a dozen dishes — goopy curries with
floating fish heads or rubbery cow’s feet — stacked up on the table. The best
way is to chuck away the cutlery and dig in with hands then wash the spice away
with a sweet iced tea.

9. Ayam goreng

Fried chicken is the use of small village birds, whose freedom to run around the
yard makes them tastier than the big chunks of meat at KFC. Variations on that
chain have cropped up across the country — rumor has it that one of these was
founded by a polygamist, so franchisees must have multiple wives.

10. Bakmi goreng

Noodles compete with rice for carbohydrate of choice in Indonesia, ranging from
broad and flat (kwetiau) to scrawny vermicelli (bihun). The best are bakmi —
pencil-thin and, in this case, fried with egg, meat and vegetables. Vendors add
their own special spices for distinction, but the iconic Bakmi Gajah Mada
garners a cult following. More modern outlets now make noodles from spinach and

11. Gudeg

Fit for a sultan it may not be, but gudeg is certainly the signature of the
royal city of Yogyakarta. The sweet jackfruit stew is boiled for hours in
coconut milk and palm sugar, making the fruit so soft and tender it falls apart
with little chewing. Other spices are thrown into the mix but teak leaves give
it a brown coloring. Like nasi uduk, it’s served with rice, boiled egg, chicken
and crispy, fried beef skin.

12. Rawon

‘A beef stew from East Java that goes heavy on the keluak nut to give it a nutty
flavor and a deep, black color. The soup base also mingles with garlic,
shallots, ginger, turmeric and red chili to make it nice and spicy. The most
famous variant is called Rawon Setan (Devil’s soup) in Surabaya.

13. Pecel lele

The sight of fried catfish may surprise first-time diners since it looks almost
the same as it does living. Served with rice and red and green sambal, this is
simple street fare that fills the belly, which may be why it’s a standout across

14. Opor ayam

Small diners, called warungs, now sell this traditional dish of braised chicken
in coconut milk on a daily basis. Still, it remains a staple on tables around
the end of Ramadan, when it’s served with packed rice cakes (ketupat). A little
like a mild, slightly chalky curry with less prep time required, it’s filled
with Indonesia’s signature spices — garlic, ginger, cumin and coriander.

15. Mie ayam

For this dish, bakmie is boiled in stock and topped with succulent slices of
gravy- braised chicken. Chives and sambal add extra flavor — but if it’s done
right little else is needed. Unlike most Indonesian cuisine, where the secret is
in the sauce, the clue to a good mie ayam is the perfect al dente noodle. Bakmi
Orpha, a hole in the wall in west Jakarta, draws Ferrari-owning clientele for
its deceivingly tasty mie and wontons.

16. Babi guling

Pork is uncommon in this Muslim majority nation, but we had to include roast
suckling pig given the near hysteria it generates on the Hindu island of Bali.
The Balinese respect their food and lavish attention on its preparation. Before
spit-roasting the pig they bath it in coconut water and rub it with chili,
turmeric, garlic and ginger to ensure succulence. Babi guling fans fly from
Jakarta to scarf the crispy skinned pork at Warung Ibu Oka — but be sure to get
there before 3 p.m.

17. Gulai

Gulai is the common name for curry dishes, namely those from north Sumatra.
Indonesian curries have regional variations that depend on the types of meat and
fish available — though gulai almost always incorporates cinnamon. Opor and
rendang can be considered gulais, but better to try out the rainbow of other
options. Pagi-Sore is a national franchise serves a tangy fish-head curry.

18. Bubur ayam

From blue-collar workers to government ministers, almost everyone starts their
day with this rice gruel, a savory porridge served with soy sauce, fried
shallots, shredded chicken, beans and crackers. Outside Java variations can
include corn, cassava and fish, while a sweeter version — for those who prefer
not to start their day with a blast of chili — is made with mung beans.

19. Bakpao

Jakarta gridlock may be a blessing for the bakpao market. Vendors often line
busy roads during rush hour to offer these fluffy meat-filled buns to hungry
passersby in need of a snack. Sweet offerings include chocolate and green bean,
indicated by a colored dot on top. No need to go in search of them, they’ll find

20. Cah kangkung

Otherwise known as water spinach, a common river weed, kangkung gets stir fried
with sweet soybean sauce, huge slices of garlic, bird’s-eye chili and shrimp
paste to take it from a poor man’s food to something with a kick. Because it
grows well in any kind of soil, it is a common ingredient in dishes throughout
Asia. Here the cah indicates its Chinese origins.

21. Pepes ikan

You can get your tuna out of a can — or you can eat it the right way. Pepes
signifies the steaming of food in banana leaves, which gives it an earthy flavor
that works well with the rich Manadonese spices (woku) it’s coupled with. When
matched with tuna the result is a dense, fiery dish that holds its distinct
flavors, but should be eaten gingerly.

22. Asinan sayur

When palates crave the opposite of Javanese sweetness, this pickled vegetable
salad offers reprieve. The secret is in the dressing, a thin peanut sauce
swirled with palm sugar to offset the salty snap of preserved mustard leaf,
carrot, cabbage and cucumber. The krupuk cracker crunch comes from a yellow disc
made with egg noodles. Yaya has been serving up bowls of Asinan for 22 years
outside the iconic Ragusa Ice Cream shop. He also makes a mean dried-squid salad
called juhi.

23. Pempek

According to lore, the name pempek refers to the old Chinese man who first
produced these fish and tapioca cakes from Palembang in South Sumatra. Now a
Palembang specialty, pempek or empek-empek comes in a variety of shapes and
sizes. The most famed, kapal selam, or translated as submarine, contains a
chicken egg and is rumored to be the most nutritious form of the spongy dough
balls, which are sprinkled with shrimp powder and served withcuka, a dark
dipping sauce made from vinegar, chili and sugar.

24. Perkadel

So simple it’s often overlooked, Perkadel’s unassuming appearance belies its
flavorful punch. A distant relative of Dutch minced-meat frikandel, these
croquettes are either potato based and filled with beef or made from corn (perkadel
jagung). In Bandung, crowds line up late night in seedy alleyways to snack on
potato fritters made soft from frying in hot oil.

25. Martabak

Think of a spongy, thick crepe made with 10 times the lard, and you’ll be
somewhat close to imaging martabak. The sweet version looks more like a pancake
filled with gooey chocolate, peanuts or cheese, while the savory one is made
from crispy pulled pastry like filo that is flattened in a wok as egg and minced
meats are rapidly folded in. Served with pickled cucumber and a sweet and sour

26. Sayur asem

This clear, refreshing soup derived from tamarind pairs well with fried food
since it’s stocked with vegetables and some of Indonesia’s most interesting
ingredients: melinjo, bilimbi, chayote. A very close relative called sayur lodeh
is made with coconut milk and has a sweeter flavor.

27. Sop buntut

Revitalized by the chef at Hotel Borabodor in 1973 after a food and beverage
staffer saw a government minister eating a bowl on the street, oxtail soup is
loved by Indonesians from all classes. The high-end version — now the domain of
Indonesia’s diplomatic corps — uses imported Australian beef, 7,000 kilograms a
month to be precise, and comes complete with steamed rice, pickles, lime and
sambal. Its less pretentious outlet Sop Buntut Bogor Cafe is now in Pacific
Place Mall.

28. Ketoprak

Not to be confused with the theatrical drama of the same name that re-enacts
Javanese legends, this Ketoprak is made from vermicelli, tofu, packed rice cake
and bean sprouts. It rounds out the quintet of pestle-and-mortar-based dishes
that include gado-gado and pecel, and is a simple street dish that tastes mostly
of peanuts and spice but is chockfull of carbohydrates. Any street vendors

29. Balado terong

The color of this dish is enough to set taste buds going. Nothing more than
grilled purple eggplant topped with heaps of chili sauce made from dried shrimp
paste (balacan), it calls for a substantial portion of rice to even out the fire
engine flavor.

30. Lontong sayur

Boiled for hours in coconut leaf casings, the glutinous packed rice cake known
as lontong is one of the best vehicles for pairing with thick peanut sauces and
curries. It serves as the base for this savory morning favorite, a coconut-milk
curry made with young papaya, soy-braised tofu and hard-boiled eggs. Crushed up
krupuk add a little crunch to get you going.

31. Rendang

Perhaps Padang’s most famed curry, rendang is not an everyday food since it
takes time and skill to make. Its secret is in the gravy, which wraps around the
beef for hours until, ideally, it’s splendidly tender. A dried version, which
can be kept for months (like jerky) is reserved for honored guests and important

32. Tahu gejrot

These clouds of golden, fried tofu look like little packages behind the windows
of the boxes from which they are sold. Tofu is a poor man’s snack, but that also
makes it prevalent. Menteng Plaza has a version of fluffy tofu steeped in sweet
soy sauce and chili and served in a pestle and mortar.

33. Sop kambing

If Indonesia ever got cold enough to necessitate a winter stew, sop kambing
would be even more popular. A robust soup with a yellow broth full of celery,
tomato, and great chunks of goat meat, this dish could make the Campbell’s soup
man quiver. Be warned if you have high blood pressure since the dish will heat
you up. Ginger, lime leaf, candlenut and spring onion give it peppery smell that
adds to its refreshingly earthy flavor.

34. Siomay

Think of it as Indonesia’s version of dim sum — traditional steamed fish
dumplings known in China as shaomai. A complete portion comes with a steamed
potato, cabbage, egg, and bitter gourd, and is served with a boiled peanut sauce
similar to gado-gado. Perhaps Indonesia’s most ubiquitous traveling street food,
the best way to dine on siomay is from a bicycle vendor, who carts his large
steamer around on the back of his bike. For the less health-inclined, an
alternative to siomay is batagor, which is fried instead of steamed.

35. Ikan bakar

Grilled fish, plain and simple. But in a country with more than 17,000 islands,
fish is bound to feature prominently. While squid and prawns have a place in
Indonesian cuisine, ikan bakar gets a far better showing for a fleshy texture
that is great for dipping. It is usually marinated in the typical trove of
spices and served with a soy and chili- based sauce.

36. Daun pepaya

Papaya is one of the fastest growing trees in Southeast Asia, and its bitter
leaves are great for sauteing. This dish is common in Manado, but regional
variations have made it popular among the leaf-and-seed-eating crowd, a big
bunch in Indonesia.

37. Otak-otak

Another famed fish cake from Palembang, otak-otak has a more charming
appearance, since it’s wrapped in banana leaves before being grilled over
charcoal. Indigenous Sumatrans eat it with red chili mixed with fermented soy
sauce, but in Jakarta it is served with Java’s ubiquitous peanut sauce.

38. Indomie

If you had to name one food Indonesians couldn’t live without, it would have to
be one that is easy to transport, since they’re often on the go. That makes
instant noodles Indomie beloved by all. Sold at grocery stores, village mom and
pop shops and even from the basket of bicycles, Indomie calls for nothing more
than hot water and a packet of chemical-induced flavoring before it’s ready to
fill one’s tummy.

39. Bebek goreng

Ducks are common companions to rice fields around Indonesia, but they can be
difficult to prepare for consumption. Too often fried duck comes as a mass of
tiny bones and overly fried oily meat.

40. Gorengan

Simply “fried foods,” gorengan are the most prolific snacks in
all of Indonesia. Street carts typically offer crispy golden nuggets of tempe,
cassava and tofu, as well as fried bananas, sweet potatoes, vegetables fritters
made from shredded carrot, cabbage and bean sprouts and fermented soybean cakes.
Any kaki lima which serves an oil-stained news-wrapping gorengan topped with a
handful of green chili

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