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  4. Local cuisine of Indonesia: what you should definitely try

Indonesia's cuisine is as diverse as the culture and people inhabiting the archipelago. With over 17,000 islands, it's no surprise that the flavors and ingredients of Indonesia's many regions come together to create a unique, vibrant cuisine that combines elements of Indonesian, Chinese, Arabic, Indian and European dishes.

Choose and book hotels in Indonesia.

The basis of Indonesian cuisine is rice, noodles, fish and seafood, chicken, fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes, also known as sweet potatoes, and coconut milk. At the same time, meat dishes have some restrictions in certain regions.

Spices such as galangal, ginger and lemongrass, as well as chili pepper, are actively used to flavor dishes.

As for insects, unlike some other Asian countries, they are not widely consumed in Indonesia, but if desired, they can be enjoyed in some areas as snacks or ground as spices.


Regional cuisines of Indonesia

There are many regional cuisines in Indonesia, which, despite some similarities, also have a number of differences. Let's tell you more about some of them.

Javanese cuisine

In Javanese culture, food is an integral part of traditional ceremonies. For example, the selametan ceremony, symbolizing the unity and equality of all who gather at the common table. Traditionally, Javanese cuisine combines sweet and savory ingredients. Moreover, while Jakarta may be more characterized by sweet notes, in other regions salty and spicy dishes may dominate.

The staple food in Java is boiled or steamed rice. Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and taro, noodles, vegetables, fish and chicken are also widely consumed. But pork is consumed much less frequently, since the majority of the island’s population is Muslim.


Padang cuisine

This cuisine took its name from the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra, and became widespread not only in Indonesia, but also in Malaysia and Singapore.

Padang cuisine is meat dishes, primarily beef, as well as rice. Characterized by an abundance of spices and herbs, in particular garlic, shallots, red pepper, and ginger. When preparing some dishes, locals can use about 15 types of spices and additives. In addition, Padang cuisine is characterized by the widespread use of coconut milk, especially when stewing dishes.

Another feature of local culinary traditions is a very unusual style of serving dishes - “hidang”, which often surprises an unprepared tourist who decides to visit local restaurants or eateries. Hidang style serving means that the table is filled with plates of a variety of dishes, and the customer only pays for what he eats. The remaining dishes that have not been touched by customers can later be served to other guests of the establishment.

According to tradition, Indonesians usually eat rice with their hands, so water is often provided on the tables so that diners can rinse their hands.


Balinese cuisine

The basis of this cuisine is rice, meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables. The majority of the island's population are Hindus, so pork is preferred here, and beef is rarely consumed. Since Bali is a popular tourist region, European cuisine is widely represented in local restaurants.


5 Official National Dishes of Indonesia

In 2018, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism identified the country's five national dishes. The list of honors included:

  1. Soto - a traditional soup consisting of broth, meat and vegetables. There are many variations in the preparation of this dish. Among the most popular (depending on the main ingredient) it is worth highlighting soto ayam based on chicken meat and noodles, soto babi based on pork and soto ceker of chicken legs.
  2. Nasi Goreng - fried rice with pieces of meat and vegetables added. There are more than 100 variations of this dish in Indonesia.
  3. Satay - miniature skewers of meat, fish or tofu.
  4. Gado-gado - a popular salad whose name translates as “mix”. It contains eggs, boiled potatoes, steamed beans and other ingredients, topped with peanut sauce.
  5. Rendang is a group of dishes united by a common method of cooking - long-term stewing in a hot, spicy sauce based on coconut milk. As a rule, it is prepared from a single product, but sometimes it can include two or more main ingredients. They can be prepared from a wide variety of products, including all types of meat, fish, chicken, as well as some types of vegetables and fruits. Particularly popular is meat Rendang, in particular beef, which is simmered over fire for several hours.


Other popular dishes in Indonesia

The most common Indonesian dishes include:

  • Nasi padang is a popular dish consisting of steamed rice, which is served in combination with other dishes such as Rendang and vegetables. Often accompanied by sambal sauce, made from a mixture of various chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as shallots, shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, cane or palm sugar, lime and others. There are 212 varieties of this sauce in Indonesia, most of which originate from Java.
  • Mie goreng - fried noodles with spices, onions, eggs, and meat or seafood.
  • Lawar - a mixture consisting of minced meat and vegetables, with the addition of grated coconut and other ingredients fried in coconut oil. Typically served with rice. There are several varieties of this dish.
  • Babi guling - spit-roasted suckling pig, usually served with rice and vegetables.
  • Tempe - fermented soybean meal snacks.
  • Bebek betutu - roast duck stuffed with spices and wrapped in banana leaves.
  • Gudeg - jackfruit cooked in coconut milk with lots of spices.


Indonesian cuisine also features many sweet treats. Eg:

  • Cue lapis - a multi-layer cake (pudding) made from rice flour, coconut milk, sugar with the addition of food coloring.
  • Jajan pasar - a variety of sweet snacks (small cakes) sold mainly in the markets of Java.
  • Klepon - one of the varieties of jajan pasar, which are rice balls filled with jaggery and covered with grated coconut.
  • Laklak - pancakes made from rice flour with grated coconut and palm sugar.
  • Martabak manis - sweet pastries filled with chocolate, nuts and cheese


Choose and book hotels in Indonesia.

Overall, Indonesian cuisine is a colorful mix of flavors and textures, and it's no surprise that it is one of the most popular in Southeast Asia. From traditional dishes like rendang and soto to more modern creations like martabak and bakso, Indonesian cuisine is full of delicious flavors and a variety of ingredients that are definitely worth exploring.


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