Indonesian food is highly underrated compared to its other Southeast Asian counterparts. Unknown to many, Indonesian food is some of the most flavorful and rich cuisines out there (yes, there are more things apart from the usual fried rice and noodles!) Their use of spice, coconut milk, and other unique flavors is enough to make me hop on a flight back to Indonesia just to have a bit of a few of my favorite dishes again. So if you just got to Indonesia and feeling unsure on what to order, heres our list on what to eat in Indonesia and the dishes that you need to try.
Satays are usually meat skewers which are grilled then topped with a delicious peanut sauce. Sounds odd? Give it a go and I promise you will begin wondering where this peanut sauce has been all your life. This is a national dish and is sold almost anywhere from street vendors to fine dining restaurants. This dish is best eaten with rice cakes (ketupat) and a diced cucumber and onion salad. Usually, they make their satays with chicken, mutton, or goat- best to ask if you’re particular about what type of meat you eat.
Another national dish in Indonesia, Nasi Goreng is your traditional fried rice made with kecap (a thick soy sauce) which is then topped with basically anything you want. The often serve this with a fried egg, some crispy fish crackers and a small side salad. In obscure places, or when our stomachs weren’t feeling too well (#balibelly), this was our go to dish!
This salad has to be one of my favorite dishes in Indonesia. The word Gado Gado literally translates to “mix-mix” which is suiting enough as it essentially a mixed vegetable salad drizzled with the ever so delicious peanut sauce dressing that Indonesia is known for. You can have a variety of boiled vegetables, boiled egg, and sometimes, even some fried tofu. Definitely a must try for veggie lovers!
If you like Indian food, rendang is a dish you NEED to try! It’s essentially a dry curry/stew that is just overloading in goodness. Originating from Padang in Sumatra, rendang is a mixture of coconut milk cooked in with lots of spices, giving it that rich and spicy flavor. It is often made with beef but you also have other variations such as chicken, mutton, or goat. I can’t even begin describing the uniqueness of the flavors in this dish-so it’s definitely a dish you will just have to try yourself! This was even named by CNN Travel’s World’s Most Delicious Food.
Ayam Goreng is one of my favorite Indonesian dishes due to its simplicity. You see, Ayam Goreng is fried chicken but it’s not like any other run in the mill fried chicken. We once ventured out almost 40 minutes out of our way when we were in Yogyakarta city just to have a taste of the famed Ayam Goreng and boy did was it worth it! The chicken is tender and juicy, fried to a crisp then topped with crunchy fried crumbles. It’s hard to explain but this dish is simply a must try when in Indonesia!
If Nasi Goreng is a popular favorite, it also has a noodle counterpart called Mie Goreng. This noodle dish is made up of thin yellow egg noodles stirfried with a variety of vegetables. You can have it with chicken, pork or tofu-it’s really up to you. Similar to Nasi Goreng, you can get this dish almost everywhere from cheap warungs (family run restaurants) all the way to posh restaurants which tend to add a western fusion to it.
Nasi Uduk is a complete meal composed of rice cooked in coconut milk, a variety of veggies and usually fried chicken. They often include a boiled egg along with some tempe, anchovies and some crispy prawn crackers. Naturally, this dish is often eaten with lots and lots of sambal, a chilli paste dish often eaten with everything in Indonesia. We once got invited to the home of this local policeman in Berestagi, Sumatra who served us a plate of rice and sambal for dinner. I didn’t want to say no so I ate the entire plate despite the fact that my entire mouth was burning. So yes, if you’re not big on the spice, go easy on the sambal. You can thank me later.
This popular meatball noodle soup dish can be found virtually everywhere in Indonesia. The meatballs are made from chicken, beef, pork, fish, (or sometimes a combination of all of them) and is served with thin vermicelli noodles, eggs, and tofu. They often serve it with a variety of vegetables. The broth is light and is surprisingly nice even on a hot day.
This fried duck dish is exactly like the fried chicken but the meat tends to be a little bit more flavorful and tasty. This classic Balinese ceremonial dish is very common during celebrations and festivals. Topped with the same crispy bits that they use for Ayam Goreng then topped with a spicy sambal sauce and some kecap (pronounced as ketchup). Delicious!
Despite the fact that Muslims don’t eat pork, Indonesia serves up one of the most flavorful pork dishes ever- babi guling. This roasted suckling pig is bathed in coconut water then is rubbed with chili, turmeric, garlic and ginger before roasting. The insides are stuffed with shallots, lemongrass, galangal and a whole lot of spices and herbs. Similar to the popular dish in the Philippines called lechon, babi guling is like the more aromatic and flavorful version. If you are in Ubud, try eating at Ibu Oka, a well known spot for this flavorful dish.
Looking for more guides for Indonesia? Check out these other articles for inspiration:
- Things to do in Indonesia
- 10 Best Surf Spots in Bali
- The Top 5 Adventures in Indonesia
- Experience Mount Bromo Sunrise Without a Tour
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