With so much diversity present in Indonesia, it is no doubt that this country is home to many uniquely distinct cultures. For each spot you will travel to, you will be pleasantly surprised by the history and culture that await you. Indonesia therefore makes it a perfect destination for culinary adventurers.
You can find below a list of the most sought after food in Indonesia as suggested by the locals, and of course from our gastronomically experience as well.
1. Chili or Black Pepper Crab from Batam Island, Riau Archipelago.
As Indonesia is an Archipelago of thousands of islands there is no doubt that many Indonesian dishes contain seafood. In Batam island, situated only 40 minutes off Singapore, you can try their famous Chilli or Black Pepper Crab. You will feel like traveling back in time to an old fishing village after taking a seat in one of the authentic wooden restaurants that stretches out to the sea. Whilst enjoying the view, you may spoil yourself with some finger-licking-good spicy crab dishes and occasionally sipping into a freshly plucked coconut to ease the spice. A culinary experience that you will remember for long!
If you are in the area, also try the Yong Kee Fish Soup, so yummy!
2. Sate Ayam Lilit from Bali island.
If you are travelling around Indonesia, you must taste a Chicken Satay with the peanut sauce. This is an easy one to try when you first arrive, and it is pretty addictive that it becomes the favorite of many!
However, if you are in Bali, you must try the Sate Ayam Lilit. Instead of using wooden sticks, Satay Ayam Lilit is grilled on lemongrass leaves. This brings to the Satay a distinct and pleasant aroma that is quite difficult to resist. Even the sauce is different too, Balinese call it the mother sauce and this is made from Balinese spices such as ginger root, coriander, turmeric, candlenut, clove to quote a few.
The Satay will melt in your mouth and you can almost taste the love that Balinese put in their dishes.
3. Beef rendang and Satay Padang, from Padang, Sumatra.
Padang food is personally one of my most favorite types of food in Indonesia.
The ultimate cant-be-missed dish has to be Rendang. Rendang is a curry beef dish; the meat is slowly cooked for hours and hours in a mix of coconut milk and spices. The time and effort consuming process is the reason why the meat turns out tender and delicious, so delicious that it was ranked the no.1 most delicious food in the world by CNN in 2011!
Another very popular Padangnese food is the Satay Padang. Satay Padang has a distinct spicy yellow sauce made by mixing rice flour with herbs, spices and curry powder.
4. Sop Buntut, from Jakarta, Java Island.
The origin of Sop Buntut (Oxtail Soup) has always been a mystery. The Sop Buntut is an oxtail soup prepared with different kind of vegetables, celery, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. Besides the soup, the Indonesian sambal also plays an important role in adding to the flavor of the soup.
I reckon the most popular and delicious Sop Buntut in Indonesia is the one served at the Hotel Borobudur in Jakarta. There, you will find the dish prepared in many different ways; from soup to barbequed. Each are such a culinary experience that they became a must try in Jakarta.
5. Babi Guling, from Bali.
Bali’s most famous dish, the Babi Guling (or Suckling pig) is usually cooked during Balinese celebrations.
Before grilling, the meat is layered in a spicy paste made of chili, garlic, lime leaves, lemongrass, shrimp paste, and ginger.
If you like eating pork, this dish is a must It also has its special spicy sauce but you don’t have to add it if you don’t like spicy food.
Be careful, once you start eating Babi Guling, you cannot stop; its tender meat will melt in your mouth and its crispy skin will make you ask for more!
6. Gado-Gado, specialty from Java Island.
Gado gado is one of the healthiest dishes in Indonesia. This delightful dish consists of a rich mixture of vegetables, boiled eggs, potato, and peanut sauce. Should you want to add a little more crunches to your servings, ask your friendly waiter for some Kerupuk (Prawn Crackers); the texture and taste of the Kerupuk blend perfectly with the peanut sauce. Gado-gado is also rich in protein, which can be made for a perfectly delicious post workout or surfing snack.
Despite its Javanese origin, Gado-Gado has become a commonly loved dish throughout the whole of Indonesia. A flavorsome mixture that is not harmful on the waist, what’s there not to love?
7. Nasi Goreng, from Yogyakarta, Java Island.
Nasi Goreng is one of the most popular dish in Indonesia and became for many Indonesians their national dish. One of my recent goals while travelling around Indonesia was to track down the best Nasi Goreng, I found it in Malioboro street in Yogyakarta. Malioboro is an area rich in culture and history in the evening, the street become the home of Batik shops and small warungs where you can eat while sitting on carpets. Local musicians come and play music for you while you are enjoying your best Nasi Goreng.
For your information, Nasi means rice and goreng means fried. Usually, the dish is mixed with vegetables and a fried egg on top, and some other secret ingredients that make the flavor so divine. Do take note that Indonesians like to eat very spicy, so if you can’t, please ask them to reduce the spiciness.
8. Ayam Taliwang, from Lombok Island.
Ayam Taliwang is a very famous dish in Lombok and owes its name to a village called Taliwang. The chicken is first marinated in oil and chobe, after which it is coated with its legendary sambal sauce made from garlic, shrimp paste and red chili. Finally the chicken is ready to be grilled to perfection.
Your may find this dish pretty spicy as Lombok people are known to have highest spice tolerance in Indonesia. The taste, however, is appealing to all; the chicken is both juicy and crunchy.
The rice comes also with the Buyir soup made of black beans; the first of its kind I saw in Lombok. If you like Indonesian food, this is a must-try in Lombok!
9. Mie aceh, from Aceh, Sumatra.
Aceh is located at the Northern top of Sumatra. The foods you’ll find there are heavily influenced by the Indian and Malay cultures, which means that a lot of spices are used in their food. The most popular dish is Mie Aceh (Aceh noodle). The noodle comes in a spicy sauce with a choice of meat or seafood. The distinct taste in its spice infused soup is what makes it such a popular dish in both Aceh and throughout the whole Indonesia. If you are not a fan of noodles however, another popular option is the Ayam Tangkap. Similar to the noodle, Ayam Tangkap is prepared with lots of spices, with the addition of curry leaves and herbs that brings to the chicken a very distinct taste. I can assure you, Ayam Tangkap tastes like no other chicken dishes you’ve ever tried. Once your stomach is filled, enjoy the popular Aceh coffee. Satisfaction guaranteed!
10. Putu Ayu, Traditional Indonesian cake.
Now, this is time to release Indonesian spices from your mouth. I invite you to a sweet dessert Putu ayu is a cake made from brown sugar and coconut steam. It tastes sweet and is perfect after a spicy meal. Its conception is pretty original the cake is placed inside a bamboo tube and then steamed. When it is ready, the bamboo tube will emit a distinct whistle. Not only does the whistle notifies the baker that it is ready, it also sounds like an invitation to the passersby around. Typical colors of the cake is green and white, you can find it everywhere in Indonesia, but mostly in Java.
Selamat makan, Bon appetit!