Must-Try Indonesian Foods

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Indonesian food is known for its rich and complex flavours, with many dishes featuring spicy notes from the use of sambal, the country’s ubiquitous chilli sauce or paste. Don’t leave the country without sampling these mouthwatering foods.

Ayam/Bebek Betutu

An iconic Balinese dish where a whole chicken (ayam) or duck (bebek) is rubbed and stuffed with a mix of herbs and spices including garlic, turmeric, shallots, ginger, lemongrass, chillies, bay leaves and kaffir lime leaves, then wrapped in banana leaves and coconut husks or banana trunk bark before being traditionally slow-cooked in a pit of embers underground for seven hours or more

Ayam Goreng

Chicken marinated with a mix of herbs and spices, then deep fried

Ayam Penyet

East Javanese dish of deep-fried chicken that is flattened or smashed (“penyet”) and served with rice, sambal, cucumbers, fried beancurd and tempeh (fermented soybean cake)

Babi Guling

Whole roast suckling pig

Bakmi Goreng

Stir-fried noodles

Bakso

Meatball noodle soup

Bakso is one of Indonesia’s most popular street foods
Photo: Christian Losari

Balado Terong

Grilled purple eggplants topped with sambal belachan (chilli sauce made with chilli peppers and shrimp paste)

Beef Rendang

Spicy beef stew made with beef cubes slow cooked in a rempah (spice paste), herbs and coconut milk, tossed with kerisik (toasted grated coconut)

Es Campur

Mixed ice dessert comprising an assortment of jellies, jackfruit, coconut shavings and avocado, drizzled with syrup, condensed milk and coconut milk, topped with shaved ice

Gado-Gado

A salad made up of boiled potatoes, long beans, cabbage, spinach, cucumbers, bean sprouts, hard-boiled egg, tofu, tempeh, served with spicy peanut sauce

Gudeg

A popular dish from Yogyakarta in Central Java, this stew is made with young jackfruit (nangka), palm sugar, coconut milk, lemongrass, bay leaves, galangal and other spices, and usually eaten with rice, hard-boiled egg, fried chicken and crispy beef skin (krecek)

Ikan Bakar

Grilled or barbecued fish, usually served with a soy and chili-based sauce

Jus Alpukat

Avocado juice or shake – a blend of avocado and sweet condensed milk, drizzled with chocolate syrup and sometimes topped with whipped cream

Lumpia

Spring rolls that are usually deep fried, filled with bamboo shoots, cabbage, bean sprouts, onions, shrimp and chicken

Martabak

Fried pancake filled with sweet fillings such as chocolate sprinkles, condensed milk, cheese and peanuts, or savoury items like egg and minced meat

Sweet martabak or martabak manis is one of Indonesia’s favourite snacks
Photo: JadiBerita.com

Nasi Goreng

Regarded as Indonesia’s national dish, fried rice is usually cooked with kecap manis (thick, sweet soy sauce), meat, seafood or dried fish (ikan asin), and often served with cucumber slices, keropok (prawn crackers) and topped with a fried egg

Nasi goreng is a staple dish that can be found almost everywhere in Indonesia
Photo: C.L.

Nasi Padang

Named after its birth city in West Sumatra, this is a dish of steamed rice eaten with an assortment of side dishes – from meat and seafood dishes such as rendang and fried fish to curries and vegetable dishes

Nasi Uduk

A Betawi (Jakarta) speciality, the rice is cooked in coconut milk, lemongrass and other herbs and spices, and often served with fried chicken, omelette, fried tofu, fried tempeh, fried dried anchovies, peanuts, emping (melinjo nut) crackers, sambal and a peanut sauce

Pecel Lele

Fried catfish

Pempek (empek-empek/mpek mpek)

A speciality of Palembang in South Sumatra, this fried fish cake is made from fish and tapioca flour and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce called cuko which is made from brown sugar, vinegar, chilli, garlic and salt

Pepes Ikan

Fish rubbed with a spice/herb paste, wrapped in banana leaves, then steamed or grilled

Perkedel

Fried potato patties, made with mashed potatoes and minced meat or fish. Vegetarian versions may include corn and beancurd

Rawon

A speciality of Surabaya in East Java, this thick beef stew is made with buah keluak (black nut – Pangium edule) which has a strong, nutty flavour and gives the stew its dark colour, along with other spices. It is normally eaten with rice, baby bean sprouts, salted egg, keropok (shrimp crackers) and sambal

Satay

Char-grilled marinated meat (typically chicken, beef and lamb but there are also seafood and vegetarian versions) on skewers, served with a spicy peanut sauce, ketupat (rice cakes), and cuts of cucumber and onion

Soto

Spicy soup, typically chicken, with bean sprouts, coriander, shallots and hard-boiled egg. Soup can be either clear or coconut-based and is usually eaten with noodles or vermicelli

Sop Buntut

A classic Javanese dish, oxtail soup is made with beef tail, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and spices such as nutmeg and peppercorn

Soup buntut is traditionally served with rice, sambal, sweet soy sauce, lime wedges and emping (crackers made from belinjo nuts)
Photo: Chris Wee