June 22, 2024


Food & Travel Enthusiast

12 top Indonesia food items tourists ought to try out

Editor’s Note — This CNN Travel sequence is, or was, sponsored by the region it highlights. CNN retains full editorial regulate in excess of topic issue, reporting and frequency of the content articles and video clips in the sponsorship, in compliance with our plan.

(CNN) — As the world’s major archipelagic country, Indonesia is crammed with various cultures and influences distribute out over 1,904,569 square kilometers (735,358 square miles).

This makes it a huge obstacle to try to summarize the flavors of the country in just a number of paragraphs.

“Indonesian food culture is based mostly on regional cooking among 17,500 islands, 38 provinces and 700 dialects,” states Indonesian cookbook creator William Wongso.

“Flavors of Indonesia are incredibly diverse. From Aceh (the westernmost province of Indonesia) to West Sumatra (also a western province), it really is only about a 1.5-hour flight, still their food and flavor profiles are fully different.”

The 75-12 months-aged author of “Flavors of Indonesia: William Wongso’s Culinary Wonders.” suggests that even though he is been traveling and eating all around Indonesia for decades, he however has not tasted every single community dish.

For instance, chefs in the Moluccas in the jap side of Indonesia, after nicknamed the “Spice Islands,” like employing clean spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Aceh, on the other hand, regularly incorporates dried spices many thanks to the influence of India, Arabia and China.

Padang (or Minangkabau) cuisine in West Sumatra works by using a lot of coconut cream, chiles, shallots and some curry spices, as effectively as ginger and galangal with fragrant herbs such as turmeric leaves, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass.

Javanese are industry experts in applying the three coloured spice pastes — red (produced of chiles, shallots and garlic), white (candle nuts, shallots and garlic) and yellow (candlenuts, shallots, garlic and turmeric).

“The flavor profile of Central Java is sweeter than Jap Java,” Wongso adds.

Completely ready to love the overpowering range of Indonesian cuisine? Listed here are a several dishes that offer you a sample of the lots of delightful flavors on supply.

Beef rendang

Beef rendang is unbelievably tender. The beef is coated with dry curry that has been stewed for hours.

Beef rendang is unbelievably tender. The beef is coated with dry curry that has been stewed for hours.

asab974/Adobe Stock

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that beef rendang is 1 of the world’s most flavorful foods.

A dry curry dish connected to the Minangkabau ethnic team, which is indigenous to West Sumatra, rendang is a wonderful way to protect meat — critical for the Minangkabau individuals for the duration of their travels.

There is no a person recipe for rendang. “In West Sumatra, there are about 900 districts and just about every has their personal design of rendang,” claims Wongso.

But a person of the most popular meats to seem in rendang is beef. It is really stewed in coconut milks and spices such as lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chiles for hours until the meat is unbelievably tender and the curry mixture is reduced to a comparatively dry coating about the meat.


A mounting star in plant-centered diet programs all-around the planet, tempeh has in actuality been a frequent in Javanese lifestyle for much more than 4 generations.

The very low-extra fat, significant-protein meat substitute is produced of soybeans fermented in banana leaves — and from time to time, other leaves — for two to three days prior to it turns into a white moldy and chunky block.

Its flavor is typically described as nutty and mushroom-y with a slight sweet soy scent.

It can be cooked the identical way as any meat — baked, fried, grilled or boiled into diverse dishes. In Indonesia, it truly is generally deep-fried and served as a tasty snack.


A staple at Southeast Asian dining places all around the planet, satay — or sate in the neighborhood tongue — is stated to have originated in Java.

Preparation of these skewers may differ from location to region, normally showcasing various meats or vegetables, spices, sauces and marinades.

One particular of the most loved variations in Indonesia is satay hen served with a sweet peanut sauce that has just a hint of spice.

Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng: So much more than just fried rice.

Nasi goreng: So substantially more than just fried rice.

Jairson/Adobe Stock

If you will find 1 staple that signifies Indonesia’s multi-faceted lifestyle, it is nasi goreng — virtually translated as fried rice.

Just about every domestic has a diverse recipe built with many ingredients and sides, but the use of terasi (shrimp paste) and kecap manis (a sweet and thick Indonesian soy sauce) unite most — if not all — variations.

These condiments create Indonesian fried rice’s exceptional flavor.

Topped with a ideal sunny-facet-up egg and a facet of crunchy shrimp crackers (or kerupuk), nasi goreng is a flexible food consumed all through the day.

A dish motivated by Chinese cooking, nasi goreng is as preferred in Singapore and Malaysia as it is in Indonesia.


When prawn crackers are normally found in various countries’ diet plans — particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia — it was thanks to Indonesia that the snack was introduced to the Dutch and then brought to Europe.

Arguably the finest sidekick to any dish, a piece of kerupuk can also provide as an edible spoon to scope up further sauce or sambal.

Indonesian kerupuk is also utilized as a topping for soto — a kind of Indonesian soup. (See underneath)

Soto Ayam

Identical to several other dishes in Indonesia, soto, or soup, preferences different dependent on which portion of the archipelago you are in.

Just one of the most frequently featured soto on Indonesian menus is the comforting soto ayam (rooster soup) — but that also, will come in plenty of variants.

Amid all the chicken sotos, the types from East Java — these kinds of as soto ayam Madura or Ambengan — are some of the most common. They have a crystal clear broth and include a generous sum of garlic, shallots, turmeric and chunks of rooster meat.

Koya powder, a one of a kind combine of grounded prawn crackers and fried garlic, is occasionally extra to give the already-abundant soup — these as soto ayam Lamongan — an more umami enhance.

Gado gado

A classic gado gado is served with chopped vegetables, an egg and sometimes, slices of tofu or tempeh. It is often dressed with roasted peanut sauce.

A typical gado gado is served with chopped greens, an egg and occasionally, slices of tofu or tempeh. It is normally dressed with roasted peanut sauce.

galitskaya/Adobe Inventory

Chop up blanched vegetables, really hard-boiled eggs and incorporate a ladle of peanut sauce and you have the humble but delicious Indonesian countrywide salad — gado gado.

A basic Indonesian peanut sauce for gado gado is produced with ground roasted peanuts, chiles, shrimp paste, tamarind pulp or juice and some sugar and salt.

Translated as mix mix, this ubiquitous salad dish in some cases incorporates slices of fried tofu or tempeh as well as deep fried fish cakes.


Sambal may possibly not be a person of Indonesia’s five official countrywide dishes — alongside nasi goreng, rendang, soto, sate and gado gado — but no food is total without having it for lots of Indonesians.

It truly is a relish made by mixing chile peppers with a host of distinct elements these as shrimp paste, sugar, salt and lime juice.

Now, you can discover it in quite a few renowned Indonesian dishes — from nasi goreng to gado gado.

Legend has it that Portuguese and Spanish sailors introduced a variant of chile peppers to Indonesia — but it was in Java that they had been 1st pounded into sambals.

It truly is believed there are extra than 100 designs of sambal served across Indonesia. 1 of the most frequent is sambal terasi, which is manufactured with chile peppers, garlic, tomatoes, shrimp paste, limes, salt and sugar.


Not technically a dish but it may possibly just be the country’s most popular meals manufacturer.

Wowing the marketplace considering the fact that 1972, Indomie’s flavorful and convenient packaged noodles have amassed a large next globally.

If you happen to be an Indomie beginner, get started with a packet of Indomie mi goreng (barbecue rooster) and you can expect to most likely be transformed as perfectly.


Jamu is a concentrated herbal drink made with ginger and turmeric.

Jamu is a concentrated natural drink made with ginger and turmeric.

galitskaya/iStockphoto/Getty Photographs

When Indonesian President Joko Widodo was requested about the secret to his good overall health in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, he cited jamu.

A conventional Indonesian herbal consume created from different combinations of crops and spices — ginger and turmeric are two typical ingredients — jamu is considered to strengthen one’s immune system.

There are a lot of approaches to make jamu.

The vegetation and spices are blended into a concentrated juice and it is really often served warm.

The president also said that he has been ingesting it every day for the very last two decades and boosted his daily jamu usage to 3 periods for each day for the duration of the pandemic.

In new many years, jamu-impressed juice brands have been popping up all-around the earth.

Babi guling

There are a few issues that make us aspiration of Bali — the pristine shorelines, the endless rice fields and, for some, babi guling, the holiday island’s famed roasted suckling pig.

The animal is rubbed with turmeric and stuffed with a spice paste made up of coriander seeds, lemongrass, Asian lime and salam leaves, chilies, black pepper, garlic, purple shallots, ginger and kencur. Then, it really is roasted on a spit.

Just about every aspect of the pig — meat for satay, juicy pork slices, crispy crackling as nicely as the richly flavored intestines — will be loved.

It’s primarily served with rice, spicy soup and a series of condiments.

The dish is not often witnessed in the rest of Indonesia, in which a vast majority of the population is Muslim and considers pork intake haram, or forbidden. On Bali, most folks recognize as Hindu.


And finally, one can not neglect about rijsttafel, or rice desk, in Dutch.

It is an elaborate unfold of small Indonesian plates that includes different preferences and levels of spiciness in just one food.

Rijsttafel is technically not component of conventional Indonesian foodstuff culture. It was initial launched during Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia, when the Europeans would serve little plates of sumptuous Indonesian dishes — from sweet to spicy — to their site visitors.

It is nevertheless a frequent presenting at Indonesia eating places in the Netherlands as perfectly as in its state of origin.

In accordance to Wongso, rijsttafel lifestyle is a single of the factors many common Indonesian dishes grew well-liked exterior of Asia.