The Essence Of Indonesian Cuisine

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Indonesia comprises around 6,000 islands, which means there are many regional specialties when it comes to food. Wherever you travel in Indonesia, however, most meals involve rice. The national dish of Indonesia is nasi goreng, and it can be found everywhere in the country from street hawker carts to fine dining restaurants, with common ingredients being rice spiced with sweet soy sauce, shallots, garlic, tamarind and chilli, stir fried with egg and either chicken, prawns or salted dried fish. Another important condiment in Indonesia food are chill-based sambals, may be either freshly made or store-bought, and combine a variety of chilli peppers with different combinations of spices, fruits or vegetables. Some of the rich flavours found in Indonesian food come from very sweet or sour ingredients, including a thick, sweet soy sauce called kecap manis, tangy tamarind paste or lime juice. Indonesians also love to eat  tempeh, or fermented soybeans, and krupuk, or deep fried crackers made from prawn, seafood or vegetables. Tropical fruits, vegetables and spices including cardamom pods and cumin seeds are also found in abundance in Indonesia and featured in most meals. And finally, as with every meal, there is dessert, with a local favourite being "eis cendol" which is a complex mix of shaved ice, tropical fruit, coconut milk and pandan flavoured "worms" made from mung bean flour. If you are keen to try some Indonesian dishes on your next travels, here’s a snapshot of our top five favourites to put on your must-try list.


These tasty meat skewers, made of chicken, goat, mutton or rabbit, are cooked on hot coals and drenched in a peanut sauce. Indonesians consider it a national dish created by street vendors and popularised by Arab traders. 


This is a popular, savoury meatball noodle soup which features golf ball sized rubbery meatballs made from chicken, beef or pork, or a combination of all three. Bakso usually comes garnished with fried shallots, boiled egg and wontons.

Nasi Goreng

This is Indonesia’s take on a fried rice dish, usually made with sweet, thick soy sauce and garnished with pickled cucumber and carrots. 

Gado Gado

The term “gado-gado” is often used to describe situations that are all mixed up, but as a food it's one of Indonesia's most famous dishes. In simple terms it’s a vegetable salad dressed in peanut sauce, the salad featuring boiled long beans, spinach, potato, corn, egg and bean sprouts coupled with cucumber, tofu and tempe.


A big favourite of ours, rendang is not usually regarded as everyday food as it takes time, and skill, to make. Its secret is in the sauce, in which beef cooks for hours until super tender. 

Joanna Hall