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The Essence Of Indonesian Cuisine

Joanna Hall

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. 


FOREWORD MINISTRY OF TOURISM AND CREATIVE ECONOMY REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA Indonesia, Culinary Heaven Indonesia culinary is bestowed with a very unique profile and covers a wide spectrum. There is no other country in the world with such culinary resplendence. From Sabang to Merauke, from Talaud to Rote Island, Indonesian culinary is innumerable. Judging from its vast variety, it would be unfitting to claim any dish as purely Indonesian. True Indonesian culinary is marked by cuisines of Aceh, Melayu, Palembang, Java and dozens of other "originating cuisines". Just as Indonesia recognizes a wide variey of local dialects, so too the originating cuisines lend a hand to its many derivatives. For instance, Pariaman cuisine is known to have different characters from Kotogadang cuisine, and nothing in commong with Kapau cuisine -- even though they all belong to the genre of Minang cuisine. The visionary Empu Tantular, a 14th century poet sage of Majapahit Empire, wrote the sacred phrase which then became Indonesian national motto: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. Unity in Diversity! Whereas Bhinneka Tunggal Ika originated from the principle tenet of gotong royong (working together towards a common goal), Indonesian culinary stems from the traditional of communal eating. One dish for all. In the past, the Dutch discovered this principle and created the rijsttafel tradition. We now bring you closer to the onset of the tradition: Tumpeng Nusantara. With cone-shaped rice in the middle, Rendang Padang sits in state with Ayam Goreng Lengkuas from Bandung, Urap Sayuran from Yogyakarta and Sate Lilit from Bali. Tumpeng Nusantara is proof that elements Indonesian culinary can meet together beautifully in a state of harmony. The 30 INDONESIAN TRADITIONAL CULINARY ICONS featured in this book is an important first step toward a thorough compilation of the richness and variety of Indonesian culinary. It is a duty we owe Motherland. Bon appetit, my brothers and sisters! Enjoy the sumptuous taste of Indonesian culinary.

    The 30 INDONES...

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