12 top Indonesia foods tourists should really consider

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(CNN) — As the world’s largest archipelagic country, Indonesia is loaded with distinct cultures and influences unfold out more than 1,904,569 sq. kilometers (735,358 sq. miles).

This makes it a large challenge to test to summarize the flavors of the place in just a number of paragraphs.

“Indonesian food tradition is based on regional cooking amid 17,500 islands, 38 provinces and 700 dialects,” says Indonesian cookbook writer William Wongso.

“Flavors of Indonesia are very diverse. From Aceh (the westernmost province of Indonesia) to West Sumatra (also a western province), it is only about a 1.5-hour flight, still their meals and flavor profiles are thoroughly distinct.”

The 75-12 months-aged writer of “Flavors of Indonesia: William Wongso’s Culinary Miracles.” says that even nevertheless he is been traveling and consuming about Indonesia for a long time, he continue to has not tasted each area dish.

For instance, cooks in the Moluccas in the jap aspect of Indonesia, the moment nicknamed the “Spice Islands,” choose using clean spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Aceh, on the other hand, routinely incorporates dried spices many thanks to the influence of India, Arabia and China.

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

Javanese are experts in employing the a few coloured spice pastes — crimson (manufactured 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 Japanese Java,” Wongso provides.

All set to delight in the mind-boggling range of Indonesian cuisine? In this article are a number of dishes that supply a sample of the many delightful flavors on offer.

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.

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It just isn’t an exaggeration to say that beef rendang is a person of the world’s most flavorful foodstuff.

A dry curry dish connected to the Minangkabau ethnic team, which is indigenous to West Sumatra, rendang is a wonderful way to maintain meat — important for the Minangkabau people today in the course of their travels.

There is no a person recipe for rendang. “In West Sumatra, there are about 900 districts and each has their individual model of rendang,” suggests Wongso.

But a person of the most typical meats to show up in rendang is beef. It’s stewed in coconut milks and spices including lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chiles for hours till the meat is unbelievably tender and the curry combination is diminished to a relatively dry coating all around the meat.


A growing star in plant-based mostly diet programs around the world, tempeh has in actuality been a frequent in Javanese tradition for far more than 4 centuries.

The low-body fat, superior-protein meat substitute is built of soybeans fermented in banana leaves — and often, other leaves — for two to three times in advance of it turns into a white moldy and chunky block.

Its flavor is frequently explained as nutty and mushroom-y with a slight sweet soy scent.

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


A staple at Southeast Asian dining establishments all-around the entire world, satay — or sate in the local tongue — is stated to have originated in Java.

Planning of these skewers may differ from area to region, typically showcasing unique meats or greens, spices, sauces and marinades.

One particular of the most loved versions in Indonesia is satay hen 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 substantially far more than just fried rice.

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If there is certainly a single staple that signifies Indonesia’s multi-faceted culture, it’s nasi goreng — basically translated as fried rice.

Each home has a diverse recipe designed with numerous components 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 build Indonesian fried rice’s exclusive taste.

Topped with a fantastic sunny-facet-up egg and a side of crunchy shrimp crackers (or kerupuk), nasi goreng is a versatile food eaten all over the day.

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


While prawn crackers are commonly observed in several countries’ diets — especially in Indonesia and Malaysia — it was many thanks to Indonesia that the snack was launched to the Dutch and then introduced to Europe.

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

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

Soto Ayam

Very similar to a lot of other dishes in Indonesia, soto, or soup, tastes diverse dependent on which portion of the archipelago you are in.

A person of the most generally highlighted soto on Indonesian menus is the comforting soto ayam (hen soup) — but that also, will come in many versions.

Amid all the hen sotos, the ones from East Java — these types of as soto ayam Madura or Ambengan — are some of the most preferred. They have a obvious broth and include things like a generous quantity of garlic, shallots, turmeric and chunks of chicken meat.

Koya powder, a one of a kind mix of grounded prawn crackers and fried garlic, is often additional to give the by now-wealthy soup — such as soto ayam Lamongan — an added umami improve.

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 vintage gado gado is served with chopped veggies, an egg and from time to time, slices of tofu or tempeh. It is typically dressed with roasted peanut sauce.

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Chop up blanched vegetables, tricky-boiled eggs and include 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 ground roasted peanuts, chiles, shrimp paste, tamarind pulp or juice and some sugar and salt.

Translated as mix blend, this ubiquitous salad dish sometimes features slices of fried tofu or tempeh as effectively as deep fried fish cakes.


Sambal may well not be a person of Indonesia’s 5 formal nationwide dishes — along with nasi goreng, rendang, soto, sate and gado gado — but no food is complete without it for numerous Indonesians.

It really is a relish manufactured by mixing chile peppers with a host of various ingredients this kind of as shrimp paste, sugar, salt and lime juice.

Now, you can locate it in lots of renowned Indonesian dishes — from nasi goreng to gado gado.

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

It is really considered there are extra than 100 designs of sambal served throughout Indonesia. A person of the most prevalent is sambal terasi, which is built with chile peppers, garlic, tomatoes, shrimp paste, limes, salt and sugar.


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

Wowing the market place since 1972, Indomie’s flavorful and effortless packaged noodles have amassed a huge adhering to globally.

If you might be an Indomie beginner, start out with a packet of Indomie mi goreng (barbecue hen) and you will most likely be transformed as nicely.


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

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

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

A conventional Indonesian organic drink built from various combinations of crops and spices — ginger and turmeric are two frequent elements — jamu is thought to strengthen one’s immune process.

There are numerous techniques to make jamu.

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

The president also said that he has been consuming it day by day for the very last two decades and boosted his daily jamu intake to a few occasions for every day for the duration of the pandemic.

In new several years, jamu-inspired juice models have been popping up around the entire world.

Babi guling

There are a number of things that make us aspiration of Bali — the pristine shorelines, the infinite rice fields and, for some, babi guling, the holiday vacation 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, pink shallots, ginger and kencur. Then, it is roasted on a spit.

Every element of the pig — meat for satay, juicy pork slices, crispy crackling as perfectly as the richly flavored intestines — will be enjoyed.

It can be mostly served with rice, spicy soup and a series of condiments.

The dish is not often observed in the relaxation of Indonesia, exactly where a bulk of the populace is Muslim and considers pork intake haram, or forbidden. On Bali, most men and women recognize as Hindu.


And and lastly, one are unable to fail to remember about rijsttafel, or rice desk, in Dutch.

It is an elaborate spread of smaller Indonesian plates featuring different preferences and amounts of spiciness in just one food.

Rijsttafel is technically not aspect of standard Indonesian food stuff culture. It was 1st released all through Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia, when the Europeans would provide little plates of sumptuous Indonesian dishes — from sweet to spicy — to their website visitors.

It can be continue to a frequent offering at Indonesia eating places in the Netherlands as properly as in its state of origin.

According to Wongso, rijsttafel lifestyle is one of the explanations several common Indonesian dishes grew well-liked exterior of Asia.