Indonesia’s rich and plentiful natural produce, herbs, and spices give its people a certain freedom to be resourceful in creating traditional recipes. Not only delicious, but also tell stories about the culture’s customs and history. From the famed Indonesian fried rice to different soups, you should take some time to discover the food must try in Indonesia.
Tempeh mendoan is a variety of fried tempeh that hails from Purwokerto. Thin slices of tempeh—fermented soybean product—dipped in batter that enriched with ground coriander, sliced scallions, and garlic before deep-fried.
This tempeh variety is only shortly fried, creating a crispy outer layer, while the tempeh remains soft and juicy. The name of the dish stems from Banyumasan language in which mendo roughly translates as half-cooked. Best served with sambal, other types of chili-based dips, or kecap manis—Indonesian sweet soy sauce.
Tempeh as a snack or a side dish, and street vendors are the ones who prepare and sell them.
Sticks of chicken satay barbecued in the streets are a quick, cheap and very tasty Indonesian treat. This is a predominantly Muslim influenced country so they will mostly be serving chicken or beef. If you want to try pork satay, you might want to head to a Chinese restaurant.
Peanuts were first introduced to Indonesia during the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese merchants brought them over from Mexico. The plants thrived in the tropical climate so peanuts subsequently became a massive staple in many Indonesian dishes as garnishes and as the base for marinades and sauces.
You can find satay chicken (and other meats) everywhere in Indonesia, from street food stalls to fancy restaurants to local homes.
Like most dishes, Indonesian satay recipes vary widely throughout the country. In Bali the satay lilit sauce incorporates coconut milk and lemongrass while the kind served in Padang is made from a curry-like sauce.
We joined a cooking class in Ubud, Bali where we learned a recipe for a more unique type of chicken satay, cooked and served on and around lemongrass sticks. We loved the unique kick this gave to the chicken and highly recommend trying it!
Rendang is one of Indonesia’s most popular and outstanding meals, originally a treat for special ceremonies in its place of origin Minangkabau. Nowadays, you can enjoy a mouthful of the fork-tender beef coated in special gravy sauce made with mixture of coconut and herbs at Padang Restaurants. Along with rice and various sauce and vegetables such as jackfruit or cassava leaves, accompanied by the famed green chilli condiment.
Boiled and mashed cassava is the main ingredients for this versatile Indonesian dessert. The sweentened cassava base and often enriched with coconut and natural or food colorings in order to create decorative sweets. The rustic version combines mashed cassava and dark palm sugar (gula melaka), which imparts the dish with a typical brown color.
Modern varieties (getuk lindri) are often finely ground with the help of a meat processor. They are usually in vibrant colors and shaped into visually appealing cakes that then cut into smaller pieces. Taro, bananas, or sweet potatoes could be other ingredients to prepare getuk. This typical street food has a strong association with Java.
Indonesian sayur urap is a blanched vegetable-based salad with a shredded coconut dressing. Sayur means vegetable, so sayur urap means mixing any blanched vegetables with spices and grated coconut until well blended. It serves as a main or as a side salad.
Sayur urap originates from Java island with different variations all over the country. It is usually made up of green beans, beaten eggs, vegetable oil, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, palm sugar, freshly grated coconut, and fried shallots, which are then all stir-fried in coconut oil.
In Bali, sayur urap is known as lawar and is often made with meat or animal Ᏸlooɖ, particularly from pork, giving it the name – lawar babi. A vegetarian-friendly alternative to lawar babi is using jackfruit instead.
You can also make a vegetarian version of lawar with ingredients like jackfruit.
Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, so pork can be hard to come by. However, this spit-roast pork dish is a large staple in Bali’s cuisine (Bali is a largely Hindu island). Before roasting, the pork is soaked in coconut water and rubbed down with spices like chilli and ginger, giving this dish a truly unique flavour. It would be difficult to find babi guling outside of Bali, so enjoy it while you’re there! Often served with some steamed rice, a meat and veggie salad called lawar, and even some crispy pig skin and fried innards.
Try this mouthwatering dish on a Total Bali Food Tour that will take you from the rice terraces to street foods packed with flavors. Short on time but still want to eat like a local? The Bali Local Eat Street Tour will be perfect for you.
Tinutuan is Indonesian rice porridge that originated in North Sumatra in the city of Manado. The anecdote about the invention of tinutuan says that when North Sumatra was colonized, the living conditions were hard, and in order to feed their families, people had to become creative with food available at the time.
Vegetables and rice were abundant, and it is only natural that they tried cooking it together. Eventually, the dish became a traditional staple in this region. The most common vegetables used in tinutuan include spinach, pumpkin, cassava, and corn, but other vegetables can also be used.
Due to its liquid consistency, it is served in a bowl, together with salted fish and a spoonful of sambal on top. This savory porridge is originally vegetarian, but meat would appear in the dish on special occasions. It is usually for breakfast, and people usually flock to the stalls in the early morning to get this nutritious breakfast.
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