Indonesian cuisine

Indonesian cuisine
Example of Indonesian Sundanese meal; roasted fish, nasi timbel (rice wrapped in banana leaf), fried chicken, sambal, fried tempeh and tofu, and sayur asem; the bowl of water with lime is kobokan.
Indonesia is the home of sate; one of the country's most popular dishes, there are many variants across Indonesia.

Indonesian cuisine is diverse, in part because Indonesia is composed of approximately 6,000 populated islands.[1] Many regional cuisines exist, often based upon cultural and foreign influences.[1] Indonesian cuisine varies greatly by region and has many different influences.[1][2][3] For example, Sumatran cuisine often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables, while Javanese cuisine and Sundanese cuisine are more indigenous.[1]

Throughout its history, Indonesia has been involved in trade due to its location and natural resources. Additionally, Indonesia’s indigenous techniques and ingredients were influenced by India, the Middle East, China, and finally Europe. Spanish and Portuguese traders brought New World produce even before the Dutch came to colonize most of the archipelago. The Indonesian islands The Moluccas (Maluku), which are famed as "the Spice Islands", also contributed to the introduction of native spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, to Indonesian and global cuisine.

Some popular Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng,[4] gado-gado,[5] sate,[6] and soto[7] are ubiquitous in the country and considered as Indonesian national dishes.

Sumatran cuisine, for example, often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables such as gulai and kari, while Javanese cuisine is more indigenous. The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. Elements of Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine: items such as bakmi (noodles), bakso (meat or fish balls), and lumpia (spring rolls) have been completely assimilated.

Some popular dishes that originated in Indonesia are now common across much of Southeast Asia. Indonesian dishes such as satay, beef rendang, and sambal are also favoured in Malaysia and Singapore. Soy-based dishes, such as variations of tofu (tahu) and tempe, are also very popular. Tempe is regarded as a Javanese invention, a local adaptation of soy-based food fermentation and production. Another fermented food is oncom, similar in some ways to tempe but using a variety of bases (not only soy), created by different fungi, and particularly popular in West Java.

Indonesian meals are commonly eaten with the combination of a spoon in the right hand and fork in the left hand (to push the food onto the spoon), although in many parts of the country, such as West Java and West Sumatra, it is also common to eat with one's hands. In restaurants or households that commonly use bare hands to eat, like in seafood foodstalls, traditional Sundanese and Minangkabau restaurants, or East Javanese pecel lele (fried catfish with sambal) and ayam goreng (fried chicken) food stalls, they usually serve kobokan, a bowl of tap water with a slice of lime in it to give a fresh scent. This bowl of water should not to be consumed, however; it is used to wash one's hand before and after eating. Eating with chopsticks is generally only found in food stalls or restaurants serving Indonesian adaptations of Chinese cuisine, such as bakmie or mie ayam (chicken noodle) with pangsit (wonton), mie goreng (fried noodles), and kwetiau goreng (fried flat rice noodles).



Using water buffalo to plough rice fields in Java; Rice is a staple for all classes in contemporary; Indonesia is the world's third largest paddy rice producer and its cultivation has transformed much of Indonesia’s landscape.

Rice is a staple for all classes in contemporary Indonesia,[2][8] and it holds the central place in Indonesian culture: it shapes the landscape; is sold at markets; and is served in most meals both as a savoury and a sweet food. The importance of rice in Indonesian culture is demonstrated through the reverence of Dewi Sri, the rice goddess of ancient Java and Bali. Traditionally the agricultural cycles linked to rice cultivations were celebrated through rituals, such as Seren Taun rice harvest festival.

Rice is most often eaten as plain rice with just a few protein and vegetable dishes as side dishes. It is also served, however, as nasi uduk (rice cooked in coconut milk), nasi kuning (rice cooked with coconut milk and turmeric), ketupat (rice steamed in woven packets of coconut fronds), lontong (rice steamed in banana leaves), intip or rengginang (rice crackers), desserts, vermicelli, noodles, arak beras (rice wine), and nasi goreng (fried rice).[9] Nasi goreng is omnipresent in Indonesia and considered as national dish.[4]

Rice was only incorporated into diets, however, as either the technology to grow it or the ability to buy it from elsewhere was gained. Evidence of wild rice on the island of Sulawesi dates from 3000 BCE. Evidence for the earliest cultivation, however, comes from eighth century stone inscriptions from the central island of Java, which show kings levied taxes in rice. The images of rice cultivation, rice barn, and mouse pest investing a ricefield is evident in Karmawibhanga bas-reliefs of Borobudur. Divisions of labour between men, women, and animals that are still in place in Indonesian rice cultivation, were carved into relief friezes on the ninth century Prambanan temples in Central Java: a water buffalo attached to a plough; women planting seedlings and pounding grain; and a man carrying sheaves of rice on each end of a pole across his shoulders (pikulan). In the sixteenth century, Europeans visiting the Indonesian islands saw rice as a new prestige food served to the aristocracy during ceremonies and feasts.[8]

Rice production in Indonesian history is linked to the development of iron tools and the domestication of Wild Asian Water Buffalo as water buffalo for cultivation of fields and manure for fertilizer. Rice production requires exposure to the sun. Once covered in dense forest, much of the Indonesian landscape has been gradually cleared for permanent fields and settlements as rice cultivation developed over the last fifteen hundred years.[8]

Other staple carbohydrates

Papeda, staple food of eastern Indonesia, served with yellow soup and grilled mackerel.

Other staple foods in Indonesia include a number of starchy tubers such as; yam, sweet potato, potato, taro and cassava; also starchy fruit such as breadfruit and grains such as maize and wheat. A sago congee called Papeda is a staple food especially in Maluku and Papua. Sago is also often mixed with water and cooked as a simple pancake. Next to sago, people of eastern Indonesia also consume various kind of wild tubers as staple food.

Many types of tubers such as talas (a type of taro but larger and more bland) and breadfruit are native to Indonesia, while others are introduced from elsewhere. Wheat, the base ingredient for bread and noodles were probably introduced from India or China; yam was introduced from Africa; while maize, potato, sweet potato, cassava and maize were introduced from Americas through Spanish influence and finally reached Java in 17th century. Cassava is usually boiled, steamed, fried or processed as popular snack kripik singkong (cassava crackers). Dried cassava, locally known as tiwul, is an alternate staple food in arid areas of Java such as Gunung Kidul and Wonogiri, while other roots and tubers are eaten especially in hard times. Maize is eaten in drier regions such as Madura and islands east of the Wallace Line, such as the Lesser Sunda Islands.

Meat and fish

Indonesian protein intake is came from vegetables and beans produce such as soy products that processed into tofu and tempeh, chicken eggs and also meats. The main meat source diet mostly are poultry and fish, however meats such as beef, waterbuffalo, goat and mutton is commonly found in Indonesian marketplaces. As a country with muslim majority population, Indonesian muslim follows Islamic halal dietary law which forbid the consumption of pork. However in other parts of Indonesia where significant numbers of non-muslim resides, boar and pork is commonly consumed. Dishes made of non-halal meats can be found in provinces such as Bali, North Sumatra, North Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, West Papua, Papua, and also in Chinatowns in major Indonesian cities. Today to cater for larger muslim market, most of restaurants or eating establishments in Indonesia put halal sign that signify they do not serve pork nor use lard in their cooking.

The meat can be cooked in rich spices and coconut milk such as beef rendang, skewered, seasoned and grilled chicken or mutton as satay, barbecued meats, or sliced and cooked in rich broth soup as soto. Muttons and various offals can be use as ingredients for soto soup or gulai curry. In Hindu majority Bali, the babi guling pig roast is popular among local as well as non-muslim visitors, while the Batak people of North Sumatra have babi panggang that is a similar dish. The meat also can be processed in various ways; to be thinly sliced and dried as dendeng (jerky), or made into abon (meat floss). Dendeng celeng is Indonesian "dried, jerked" boar meat.[10]

As an archipelagic nation, seafood is abundant and commonly consumed especially by Indonesian resides in coastal area. Popular seafoods in Indonesian cuisine among other; mackerel, tuna, wahoo, milkfish, red snapper, anchovy, cuttlefish, shrimp, crab and mussel. Seafood is commonly consumed across Indonesia, but it is especially popular in Maluku islands and Minahasa (North Sulawesi) cuisine. Seafood are usually being bakar (grilled), rebus (boiled) or goreng (fried). However another method of cooking like stir fried in spices or in soup is also possible. Ikan asin (salted fish) is preserved seafood through cured in salt, it is also can be found in Indonesian market. Fresh water fisheries can be found in inland region or area with large rivers or lakes. Popular fresh water fish among others; carp, gourami, snakehead, tilapia, catfish and pangasius.

Spices and other flavorings

Sambal ulek, a common Indonesian spicy condiment.

"Rempah" is Indonesian word for spice, while "bumbu" is the Indonesian word for spices mixture or seasoning, and it commonly appears in the names of certain spice mixtures, sauces and seasoning pastes.[11] Known throughout the world as the "Spice Islands", the Indonesian islands of Maluku contributed to the introduction of its native spices to world cuisine. Spices such as pala (nutmeg/mace), cengkeh (clove), and laos (galangal) are native to Indonesia. It is likely that lada hitam (black pepper), kunyit (turmeric), sereh (lemongrass), bawang merah (shallot), kayu manis (cinnamon), kemiri (candlenut), ketumbar (coriander), and asam jawa (tamarind) were introduced from India, while jahe (ginger), daun bawang (green onions) and bawang putih (garlic) were introduced from China. Those spices from mainland Asia were introduced early, in ancient times, thus they became integral ingredients in Indonesian cuisine.

In ancient times, the kingdom of Sunda and the later sultanate of Banten were well known as the world's major producers of black pepper. The maritime empires of Srivijaya and Majapahit also benefited from the lucrative spice trade between the spice islands with China and India. Later the Dutch East India Company controlled the spice trade between Indonesia and the world. The Indonesian fondness for hot and spicy food was enriched when the Spanish introduced cabai chili pepper from the New World to the region in 16th century. After that hot and spicy sambals have become an important part of Indonesian cuisine.[12] Sambal evolved into many variants across Indonesia, ones of the most popular is sambal terasi (sambal belacan) and sambal mangga muda (young mango sambal). Dabu-dabu is North Sulawesi style of sambal with chopped fresh tomato, chili, and lime juice. Traditionally prepared laboriously ground upon stone mortar, today sambals is also available as industrial processed products in bottles or jars.

Soy sauce is also an important flavorings in Indonesian cuisine. Kecap asin (salty or common soy sauce) was adopted from Chinese cuisine, however Indonesian developed their own kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) with generous addition of palm sugar into soy sauce. Sweet soy sauce is an important marinade for barbecued meat and fish, such as satay and grilled fishes. Sweet soy sauce is also an important ingredient for semur, Indonesian stew.

Peanut sauce

Peanut sauce is important part of gado-gado.

One of the main characteristics of Indonesian cuisine is the wide application of peanuts in many Indonesian signature dishes, such as satay, gado-gado, karedok, ketoprak, and pecel. Gado-gado and Sate for example have been considered as Indonesian national dishes.[5][6] Introduced from Mexico by Portuguese and Spanish merchants in 16th century, peanuts assumed a place within Indonesian cuisine as a key ingredient. Peanuts thrived in the tropical environment of Southeast Asia, and today they can be found, roasted and chopped finely, in many recipes. Whole, halved, or crushed peanuts are used to garnish a variety of dishes, and used in marinades and dipping sauces such as sambal kacang (a mixture of ground chilies and fried peanuts) for otak-otak or ketan. Peanut oil, extracted from peanuts, is one of the most commonly used cooking oils in Indonesia.

Bumbu kacang or peanut sauce represents a sophisticated, earthy seasoning rather than a sweet, gloppy sauce.[13] It should have a delicate balance of savoury, sweet, sour, and spicy flavours, acquired from various ingredients, such as fried peanuts, gula jawa (coconut sugar), garlic, shallots, ginger, tamarind, lemon juice, lemongrass, salt, chilli, peppercorns, sweet soy sauce, ground together and mixed with water to form the right consistency. The secret to good peanut sauce is “not too thick and not too watery.” Indonesian peanut sauce tends to be less sweet than the Thai version, which is a hybrid adaptation. Gado-gado is a popular dish particularly associated with bumbu kacang, and is eaten across Indonesia.

Coconut milk

Shredding coconut flesh to make coconut milk.
Rendang kambing, a dish cooked with coconut milk

Coconuts are abundant in tropical Indonesia, and since ancient times Indonesians developed many and various uses for this plant. The broad use of coconut milk in dishes throughout the archipelago is another common characteristic of Indonesian cuisine. It is used in recipes ranging from savoury dishes - such as rendang, soto, sayur lodeh, gudeg, and opor ayam - to desserts - such as es cendol and es doger. Soto is ubiquitous in Indonesia and considered as one of Indonesia's national dishes.[7]

The use of coconut milk is not exclusive to Indonesian cuisine. It can also be found in Indian, Samoan, Thai, Malaysian, Filipino, and Brazilian cuisines. Nonetheless, the use of coconut milk is quite extensive in Indonesia, especially in Minangkabau cuisine, although in Minahasan (North Sulawesi) cuisine, coconut milk is generally absent, except in Minahasan cakes and desserts such as klappertart.

In Indonesian cuisine, two types of coconut milk are found, thin coconut milk and thick coconut milk. The difference depends on the water and oil content. Thin coconut milk is usually used for soups such as sayur lodeh and soto, while the thicker variety is used for rendang and desserts. It can be made from freshly shredded coconut meat in traditional markets, or can be found processed in cartons at the supermarket.

After the milk has been extracted from the shredded coconut flesh to make coconut milk, the ampas kelapa (leftover coconut flesh) can still be used in urap, seasoned and spiced shredded coconut meat mixed together with vegetables. Leftover shredded coconut can also be cooked, sauteed and seasoned to make serundeng, almost powdery sweet and spicy finely shredded coconut. Kerisik paste, added to thicken rendang, is another use of coconut flesh. To acquire a rich taste, some households insist on using freshly shredded coconut, instead of leftover, for urap and serundeng. Serundeng can be mixed with meat in dishes such as serundeng daging (beef serundeng) or sprinkled on top of other dishes such as soto or ketan (sticky rice). An example of the heavy use of coconut is Buras from Makassar, rice wrapped in banana leaf cooked with coconut milk and sprinkled with powdered coconut similar to serundeng.

Regional dishes

Examples of Sundanese cuisine
Various Javanese cuisine in lesehan (seat on the mat) style
Array of Minangkabau dishes on display
Nasi Campur in Balinese cuisine
West Java

A textural specialty of Sunda (West Java) is karedok, a fresh salad made with long beans, bean sprouts, and cucumber with a spicy sauce. Other Sundanese dishes include mie kocok which is a beef and egg noodle soup, and soto Bandung, a beef and vegetable soup with daikon and lemon grass. A hawker favourite is kupat tahu (pressed rice, bean sprouts, and tofu with soy and peanut sauce). Colenak (roasted cassava with sweet coconut sauce) and ulen (roasted brick of sticky rice with peanut sauce) are dishes usually eaten warm.

Central Java

The food of Central Java is renowned for its sweetness, and the dish of gudeg, a curry made from jackfruit, is a particularly sweet. The city of Yogyakarta is renowned for its ayam goreng (fried chicken) and kelepon (green rice-flour balls with palm sugar filling). Surakarta's (Solo) specialities include Nasi liwet (rice with coconut milk, unripe papaya, garlic and shallots, served with chicken or egg) and serabi (coconut milk pancakes topped with chocolate, banana or jackfruit). Other Central Javanese specialities pecel (peanut sauce with spinach and bean sprouts), lotek (peanut sauce with vegetable and pressed rice), opor ayam (braised chicken in coconut sauce), and rawon (dark beef stew).

East Java

The food of East Java is similar to that of Central Java. East Java foods tend to be less sweet and spicier compare to the Central Java ones. Fish and fish/seafood products are quite extensive to be used such as terasi (dried shrimp paste) and petis udang (shrimp paste). Some of the popular foods are Lontong Kupang (Tiny Clams Soup with Rice Cakes), Lontong Balap (Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Rice Cakes), Sate Klopo (Coconut Beef Satay), Semanggi Surabaya (Marsilea Leaves with Spicy Sweet Potato Sauce), 'Pecel Lele (deep fried catfish served with rice and sambal). Food from Malang includes bakwan Malang (meatball soup with won ton and noodles) and arem aream (pressed rice, tempe, sprouts, soy sauce, coconut, and peanuts.


Madura is an island on the northeastern coast of Java and administered as part of the East Java province. Like the East Java foods which use petis udang, Madura foods add petis ikan which is made from fish instead of shrimp. The Madura style satay is probably the most popular satay variants in Indonesia. Some of its popular dishes areSate Ayam Madura (Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce), Soto Madura (Beef Soup). Madura dishes are often saltier than other East Java foods.


Balinese dishes include lawar (chopped coconut, garlic, chilli, with pork or chicken meat and blood). Bebek betutu is duck stuffed with spices, wrapped in banana leaves and coconut husks cooked in a pit of embers. Balinese sate, known as sate lilit, is made from spiced mince pressed onto skewers which are often lemon grass sticks. Babi guling is a spit-roasted pig stuffed with chilli, tumeric, garlic and ginger.

North Sumatra

Arab, Persian, and Indian traders influenced food in Aceh although flavours have changed to be little like their original form. Amongst these are curry dishes known as kare or gulai, which are rich, coconut-based dishes traditionally made with beef, goat, fish or poultry, but are now also made with tofu, vegetables, and jackfruit. The popular Aceh food such as roti cane and mie aceh. Batak people use either pork or even dog to make sangsang. Another Batak pork specialty is babi panggang in which the meat is boiled in vinegar and pig blood before being roasted. Another batak dish, Ayam namargota, is chicken cooked in spices and blood. Another notable Batak dish is arsik, the carp fish cooked with spices and herbs. Lada rimba is strong pepper used by Bataks.

West Sumatra

Buffaloes are a symbol of West Sumatra and are used in rendang, a rich and spicy buffalo meat or beef dish. Padang food comes from West Sumatra. The Padang food restaurant chains can be found throughout Indonesia and neighboring countries, thus render it as probably the most popular regional dish in Indonesia. Dishes from the region include nasi kapau which is similar to Padang food but uses more vegetables. Ampiang dadiah (buffalo yogurt with palm sugar syrup, coconut flesh and rice) and bubur kampiun (Mung bean porridge with banana and rice yogurt) are other west Sumatran specialties.

South Sumatra

The city of Palembang is the culinary centre of South Sumatra and is renowned for its pempek, a deep fried fish and sago dumpling that is also known as empek-empek. Also pempek derivatives dishes such as tekwan soup of pempek dumpling, mushroom, vegetables, and shrimp; lenggang, pempek slices in ommelette. Mie celor is a noodle dish with egg in coconut milk and dried shrimp is also Palembang specialties. South Sumatra is also home to pindang, a spicy fish soup with soy and tamarind. Ikan brengkes is fish in a spicy durian-based sauce. Tempoyak is a sauce of shrimp paste, lime juice, chilli and fermented durian, and sambal buah is a chilli sauce made from fruit.

North Sulawesi

Minahasan cuisine from North Sulawesi features heavy use of meat such as pork, fowl, and seafood. "Woku" is a type of seafood dish with generous use of spices, often making up half the dish. Ingredients of woku include lemongrass, lime leaves, chili peppers, spring onion, shallots, either sautéed with meat, or wrapped around fish and grilled covered in banana leaves. Other ingredients such as turmeric and ginger are often added to create a version of woku.
Foreign colonial influence also played a role in shaping Minahasan cuisine. Brenebon (from Dutch "Bruin" (brown) and "Boon" (bean)) is a pork shank bean stew spiced with nutmeg and clove. Roast pork similar to lechon in the Philippines or pig roast in Hawaii are served in special occasions, especially weddings. Other unusual and exotic meats such as dog, bat, and forest rat are also regularly served in North Sulawesi region. Paniki is the bat dish of Minahasa.

South Sulawesi

Makassar is one the culinary center in Indonesia. Home of some Bugis and Makassar delicacies such as Coto, Konro, Pallubasa and Mie Kering. As a big fish market center, Makassar is also famous for its seafood. Sop Sodara from Pangkep and Kapurung from Palopo are also famous dishes of South Sulawesi.

Nusa Tenggara

With a drier climate, there is less rice a more sago, corn, cassava, and taro compared to central and western Indonesia. Fish is popular including sepat, which is shredded fish in coconut and young-mango sauce. Lombok's sasak people enjoy spicy food such as ayam taliwang which is roasted chicken served with peanut, tomato chilli and lime dip. Pelecing is a spicy sauce used in many dishes made with chilli, shrimp paste, and tomato. Sares is made from chilli, coconut juice and banana palm pith and is sometimes mixed with meat. Non meat dishes include kelor (hot soup with vegetables), serebuk (vegetables mixed with coconut), and timun urap (cucumber with coconut, onion and garlic).

Maluku and Papua

The Maluku islands cuisine is rich with seafoods, while the native Papuan food usually consist of boar with tubers such as sweet potato. The staple food of Maluku and Papua is Papeda, usually eaten with yellow soup made from tuna, red snapper or other fishes spiced with turmeric, lime, and other spices.

Foreign influences

Mi goreng, popular Indonesian Chinese influenced dish.
Selat solo (solo salad), an adaptation of European cuisine into Javanese taste.
Indian influenced

Indian influences is observable in Indonesia as early as 4th century. Even later after the adoption of Islam by majority Indonesian, muslim Indian influences as well as Arab influences has made their way into Indonesian cuisine. The example is Indian kari (curry) that influenced Sumatran cuisines of Aceh, Minangkabau, and Malay; and also Betawi and coastal Javanese. Some of Aceh and Minangkabau dishes such as roti cane, nasi biryani, nasi kebuli, and gulai kambing can trace its origin to Indian influences.

Chinese influenced

Chinese has arrived in Indonesia since 7th century and probably earlier. The migration accelerated during colonial times, thus creating the fusion of Chinese cuisine with indigenous Indonesian style. The similar Chinese-native fusion cuisine phenomena is also observable in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore as peranakan cuisine. Some of popular Indonesian dishes can trace its origin to Chinese influences such as; bakmi, bakso, bakpau, mi goreng, tahu goreng, siomay, lumpia, nasi tim, cap cai, fu yung hai and swikee.

Dutch influenced

Through colonialism the European introduced bread, cheese, barbecued steak and pancake. Bread, butter and margarine, sandwiches filled with ham, cheese or fruit jam, poffertjes, pannekoek and Dutch cheeses are commonly consumed by colonial Dutch and Indos during colonial era. Some of native upperclass ningrat (nobles) and few educated native were exposed to European cuisine, and it was held with high esteem as the cuisine of upperclass elite of Dutch East Indies society. This lead to adoption and fusion of European cuisine into Indonesian cuisine. Some dishes which are created during the colonial era are Dutch influenced; they include roti bakar (grilled bread), roti buaya, selat solo (solo salad), bistik jawa (Javanese beef steak), semur (from dutch smoor), sayur kacang merah (brenebon) and sop buntut. Pastry, cakes and cookies also can trace its origin to Dutch influences; such as kue bolu (tart), lapis legit (spekkoek), spiku (lapis Surabaya) and kaastangel (cheese cookies). Some recipes can be considered as Dutch Indies fusion cuisine, using native ingredients and employing European pastry baking techniques; such as pandan cake and klappertaart (coconut tart). Kue cubit commonly found in front of schools and marketplaces are believed to be derived from poffertjes.

Vice versa, the Indonesian cuisine also had influenced colonial Dutch and Indo people that brought Indonesian dishes back to the Netherlands during repatriation after the independence of Indonesia. Rijsttafel invented during colonial era are the example of Indonesian feast that still popular in the Netherlands and its colonies.

Meal Times

Traditional selamatan (thanksgiving) meal in Java during colonial period.

In western and central Indonesia, the main meal is usually cooked in the late morning, and consumed around midday. In many families there is no set meal time when all members are expected to attend. For this reason, most of the dishes are made so that they can remain edible even if left on the table at room temperature for many hours. The same dishes are then re-heated for the final meal in the evening. Most meals are built around a cone-shaped pile of long-grain, highly polished rice. A meal may include a soup, salad (or more commonly vegetables sautéed with garlic), and another main dish. Whatever the meal, it is accompanied by at least one, and often several, relishes called sambals. Especially for Javanese family, on the table, it is also common to always have chips, that can be kerupuk, rempeyek, or any other chips to accompany the meal.

In eastern Indonesia, such as on the islands of Papua and Timor, where the climate is often much drier, the meals can be centered around other sources of carbohydrates such as sago and/or root vegetables and starchy tubers. Being east of the Wallace line, the ecozone, and hence the flora and fauna, are quite different from those of the islands to the west, and so the food stuffs are, as well.

Feasts: Tumpeng and Rijsttafel

Tumpeng nasi kuning, the cone shaped yellow rice is served during a feast.

Many Indonesian traditional customs and ceremonies incorporate food and feast. One of the best examples is tumpeng. Originally from Java, tumpeng is a cone shaped mound of rice surrounded by an assortment of other dishes. Traditionally featured in selamatan ceremonies, the cone of rice is made by using bamboo leaves woven into a cone-shaped container. The rice itself can be plain white steamed rice, uduk (rice cooked with coconut milk), or yellow rice (rice coloured with kunyit, i.e., turmeric). After it is shaped, the rice cone is surrounded by assorted dishes, such as urap vegetables, fried chicken, semur (beef in sweet soy sauce), teri kacang (little dried fish fried with peanuts), fried prawns, telur pindang (marblized boiled eggs), shredded omelette, tempe orek (sweet, dry fried tempeh), perkedel kentang (mashed potato fritters), perkedel jagung (corn fritters), sambal goreng ati (liver in chilli sauce), and many other dishes. Nasi tumpeng probably comes from an ancient Indonesian tradition that revers mountains as the abode of the ancestors and the gods. Rice cone is meant to symbolize the holy mountain. The feast served as some kind of thanksgiving for the abundance of harvest or any other blessings. Because of its festivities and celebratory value, even now tumpeng is sometimes used as an Indonesian counterpart to birthday cake.

Another Indonesian feast, the Rijsttafel (from Dutch, meaning 'rice table'), demonstrates both colonial opulence and the diversity of Indonesian cuisine at the same time. The classic style rijsttafel involved serving of up to 40 different dishes by 40 male waiters, bare foot but dressed in formal white uniforms with blangkon (traditional Javanese caps) on their heads and batik cloth around their waists. In contemporary Indonesian cuisine, it has been adapted into a western style buffet. It employs a long table with a wide range of dishes, both savory and sweet, served on it. It can usually be found in wedding ceremonies or any other festivities. The layout for an Indonesian wedding ceremony buffet is usually: plates, eating utensils (spoon and fork), and paper napkins placed on one end, followed by rice (plain or fried), a series of Indonesian (and sometimes international) dishes, sambal and krupuk (shrimp crackers), and ending with glasses of water on the other end of the table.


A cup of Java, Javanese kopi tubruk

The most common and popular Indonesian drinks and beverages are teh (tea) and kopi (coffee). Indonesian households commonly serve teh manis (sweet tea) or kopi tubruk (coffee mixed with sugar and hot water and poured straight in the glass without separating out the coffee residue) to guests. Since the colonial era of Netherlands East Indies, plantations, especially in Java, were major producers of coffee, tea and sugar. Since then hot and sweet coffee and tea beverages have been enjoyed by Indonesians. Jasmine tea is the most popular tea variety drunk in Indonesia, however recent health awareness promotions have made green tea a popular choice. Usually coffee and tea are served hot, but cold iced sweet tea is also frequently drunk. Kopi Luwak is Indonesian exotic and expensive coffee beverage made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and other related civets.[14] Teh botol, bottled sweet jasmine tea, is now quite popular and locally competes favorably with international bottled soda beverages such as Coca Cola and Fanta.[15] Kopi susu (coffee with sweetened condensed milk) is an Indonesian version of Café au lait.

Indonesian dessert es teler; avocado, jackfruit and young coconut in shreded ice and condensed milk

Fruit juices (jus) are very popular. Varieties include orange (jus jeruk), guava (jus jambu), mango (jus mangga), soursop (jus sirsak) and avocado (jus alpokat), the last of these being commonly served with condensed milk and chocolate syrup as a dessert-like treat. Durian can be made into ice cream called es durian.

Many popular drinks are based on ice (es) and can also be classified as desserts. Typical examples include young coconut (es kelapa muda), grass jelly (es cincau), cendol (es cendol or es dawet), avocado, jackfruit and coconut with shreded ice and condensed milk (es teler), mixed ice (es campur), red kidney beans (es kacang merah), musk melon (es blewah) and seaweed (es rumput laut).

Hot sweet beverages can also be found, such as bajigur and bandrek which are particularly popular in West Java. Both are coconut milk or coconut sugar (gula jawa) based hot drinks, mixed with other spices. Sekoteng, a ginger based hot drink which includes peanuts, diced bread, and pacar cina, can be found in Jakarta and West Java. Wedang jahe (hot ginger drink) and wedang ronde (a hot drink with sweet potato balls) are particularly popular in Yogyakarta, Central Java, and East Java.

As a Muslim majority country, Indonesian Muslims also share Islamic dietary laws that prohibit alcoholic beverages. However since ancient times, native alcoholic beverages were already developed in archipelago. According to a Chinese source, people of ancient Java drank wine made from palm sap called tuak (palm wine). Today tuak continues to be popular in the Batak region, North Sumatra where a majority of the people are Christian. A traditional Batak bar serving tuak is called lapo tuak. In Solo, Central Java, ciu (a local adaptation of Chinese wine) is also known. Bottled brem bali (Balinese rice wine) is popular in Bali. Indonesians also developed local brands of beer, such as Bintang Beer and Anker Beer.

Snacks and street food

Bakso (meatball) seller in Bandung

In most cities, it is common to see Chinese dishes such as bakpao (steamed buns with various sweet and savoury fillings), bakmie (noodles), and bakso (meatballs) sold by street vendors and restaurants alike, often adapted to become Indonesian-Chinese cuisine. One common adaptation is that pork is rarely used since the majority of Indonesians are Muslims. Another popular Indonesian street food and snack is siomay and batagor (abbreviated from Bakso Tahu Goreng), deep fried fish cake pempek, bubur ayam (chicken congee), bubur kacang hijau (mung beans porridge), satay, nasi goreng (English: fried rice) and mie goreng (English: fried noodle), taoge goreng (mung bean sprouts and noodle salad), asinan (preserved vegetables or fruits salad), laksa, kerak telor (spicy omelette), and gorengan (Indonesian assorted fritters).

Krupuks in vacuum tin cans.
Various Indonesian snacks; such as tahu isi, pisang goreng, risoles, timpan, lemper, and kue pisang

Various traditional crackers is called krupuk, and usually consumed as snack or to accompany main meals. There are wide variations of krupuk available across Indonesia. The most popular ones would be krupuk udang (prawn cracker) and krupuk kampung or krupuk putih (cassava cracker). Another popular types include krupuk kulit (skin cracker), emping melinjo (gnetum gnemon cracker), an also various of kripik (chips or crisps), such as kripik pisang (banana chips) and keripik singkong (Cassava chips).

Indonesian street snacks also include iced and sweet beverages, such as es cendol or es dawet, es teler, es cincau, es doger, es campur, es potong, and es puter. Indonesian cakes and cookies are often called as jajanan pasar (market munchies). Indonesia has a rich collection of snacks called kue (cakes and pastry), both savory and sweet. Popular ones include risoles, pastel, lumpia, lemper, lontong, tahu isi, getuk, bakpia, Bika Ambon, kue pandan, lupis, lemang, kue pisang, kue cubit, klepon, onde-onde, nagasari, lapis legit, soes, poffertjes and bolu kukus.

Street and street-side vendors are common, in addition to hawkers peddling their goods on bicycles or carts. These carts are known as pedagang kaki lima - (named after the 5-foot (1.5 m) wide footpaths in Indonesia, however some people say they are named 'five feet' after the three feet of the cart and two feet of the vendor!). These food hawkers on cart or bicycle might be travelling on streets; approaching potential buyers through residential areas while announcing their presence, or stationed themselves on a strategic and busy street side; setting simple seatings under small tent, and waiting for customers to come. Many of these have their own distinctive call or songs to announce their wares. For example, the bakso seller will hit the side of a soup bowl, whereas mie ayam is announced by hitting a wood block.


Rambutan for sale at a market in Jakarta.
Fruit rujak.

Indonesian markets abound with many types of tropical fruit. These are an important part of the Indonesian diet, either eaten freshly, or made into juices (such as jus alpukat), desserts (such as es buah and es teler), processed in savoury and spicy dishes like rujak, fried like pisang goreng (fried banana), cooked into cakes (such as kue pisang or bika ambon), sweetened and preserved such as sale pisang and manisan buah, or processed into kripik (crispy chips) as snacks like jackfruit or banana chips.

Many of these fruits such as mangosteen, rambutan, jackfruit, durian, and banana, are indigenous to Indonesian archipelago; while others have been imported from other tropical countries, although the origin of many of these fruits might be disputed. Today, Indonesian markets is also enrichen with selections of home-grown non-tropical fruits that is not native to Indonesia. Strawberry, melon, apple and dragonfruit are introduced and grown in cooler Indonesian highlands such as Malang and Lembang near Bandung, to mimic their native subtropics habitat.

In the last few years, fruit chips has been more and more various. In the old times, banana and jackfruit chips is the most common, but now Indonesian fruit chips also made from strawberry, apple, dragon fruit, pepino, watermelon, melon, and a lot more. Malang, a city in East Java is the center of fruit chips production aside from tempe chips. Banana and Coconut are particularly important, not only to Indonesian cuisine, but also in other uses, such as timber, bedding, roofing, oil, plates and packaging, etc.

See also

Foods.jpg Food portal


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  3. ^ "Indonesian Cuisine". Diner's Digest. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  4. ^ a b "Nasi Goreng: Indonesia's mouthwatering national dish". Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  5. ^ a b "National Dish of Indonesia Gado Gado". Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  6. ^ a b "Indonesian food recipes: Satay". Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  7. ^ a b "A Soto Crawl". Eating Asia. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  8. ^ a b c Taylor, Jean Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 8–9. ISBN 0-300-10518-5. 
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  11. ^ "Curries and Bumbus". Verstegen. 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  12. ^ Elliott, Petty (2011). "Food Talk: Spice Up Your Prawns With Sambal". Jakarta Globe, Indonesian Embassy in Athens. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  13. ^ James Oseland, Cradle Of Flavor (W.W. Norton & Co., 2006)
  14. ^ "Most Expensive Coffee". 20. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  15. ^ "The Sinar Sosro Group: The Market Leader for Traditional Drinks". The Free Library. 1999. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 

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