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Indonesian Food: 14 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Indonesia

Indonesian Food: 14 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Indonesia

Indonesia consists of sprawling islands put together like a patchwork quilt. With over 300 ethnicities, it is easy to see why this beautiful archipelago has such a diverse range of flavors and tastes. 

Signature flavors include hits of chili, subtly smooth notes of coconut, citrus zings, and hints of nutty goodness. Meals in Indonesia are often multifaceted.

Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng is the national dish of Indonesia; a super simple sticky fried rice dish, typically served with meat, vegetables and a fried egg on top. It is outstandingly delicious, with everything you could ever want from a fried rice dish. 

The secret ingredient that makes this dish shine is the addition of Indonesia’s signature Kecap manis. The sauce stains the rice a gorgeous caramel color. The dish is served with fresh sliced tomatoes and a sunny side up fried egg, and julienne cucumbers.

Nasi Uduk

Nasi Uduk
Photo Credit: Sakurai Midori

Nasi uduk is a dish made of coconut rice which originates in Jakarta. The dish is an intricate and popular version of regular steamed rice and translates to “Mixed rice”. The rice is soaked in a mixture of coconut milk, cloves, cassia bark, and lemongrass. 

Nasi Uduk has an indulgent texture and is typically served with fried shallots. Other dishes can accompany Nasi Uduk, such as Tempe orek, eggs, and Krecek. No matter what you serve with Nasi Uduk, it truly shines.

Ayam Goreng

Ayam Goreng
Photo Credit: Midori

Ayam Goreng literally means “fried chicken” and is the Asian answer to southern fried chicken. Coated in with rich spices and deep-fried, this meal has flavors of shallot, garlic, galangal, and lemongrass, among other herbs. After marination, the chicken is warmed to ensure the spices are locked in. 

The chicken is deep-fried to perfection, and served like most Indonesian cuisine meals, with steamed rice, sambal, and a sambal kecap sweet soy sauce. Some eateries serve Ayam Goreng with fried tempeh and tofu.

Babi Guling

Indonesian Food: 14 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Indonesia 1

If you love a good pork roast, Babi Guling is the Indonesian version you cannot skip out on. The pork is rubbed with turmeric, and stuffed with basa gede spice mix which includes; coriander, lemongrass, shallots, galangal, chili’s, shrimp paste and garlic. 

The pork is roasted over an open fire. It is served with a piece of crispy skin, a slice of succulent meat, some stuffing on top of a bed of traditional steamed white rice with sambals and vegetables. It is usually reserved for special occasions. However, you will find it in traditional Indonesian eateries called warungs.

Mie Ayam

Mie Ayam
Photo Credit: Orangescale Studio

There is a universal love for the combination of chicken and noodles and Mie Ayam perfectly pairs succulent pieces of chicken with slurpy noodles.

The wheat noodles are served al dente, with a bit of oil, soy sauce, and garlic. The chicken meat is cooked in soy sauce and traditional Indonesian spices. 

Some recipes call for mushrooms and spring onions, and Mie Ayam is traditionally served with healthy portions of chicken broth and sometimes a crispy fried wonton. This chicken and noodle dish is truly one of the best street food meals you can treat your taste buds to!

Gado Gado

Gado Gado
Photo Credit: Banej

When we think of salads, images of leafy greens come to mind, while in Indonesia the salads are a little more filling and earthy! Flavourful, filling, and oh so good!

Gado Gado is just that, a filling and tasty salad made with lightly boiled veggies, hard-boiled egg, potatoes, fried tofu, and traditional rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves (called Lontongs) drenched in a peanut sauce. It is no wonder it is considered one of six national dishes.

Rawon

Rawon
Photo Credit: Christian Losari

Rawon is an East Java beef soup has a heavy nutty flavor from keluak nuts. As with most Indonesian cuisine, the signature flavors are notably present. This nutty soup is seasoned with kaffir lime and bay leaves, galangal, lemongrass, and sugar. 

Served with steamed rice, salted and preserved egg, fried tolo beans, and fried shallots. In Bali, Rawon is made with pork instead of beef, as the population is predominantly Hindu.

Gudeg

Gudeg
Photo Credit: Riza Nugraha

Gudeg is a traditional Javanese dish that is made from unripe jackfruit and has been stewed for hours in a mixture of palm sugar and coconut milk.

Gudeg is naturally a vegetarian meal. However, it is known to be served with egg or chicken and white rice. 

The meat of the jackfruit has stained a reddish-brown from teak leaves added to the traditional Indonesian spices. You will be able to find Gudeg in warungs throughout Indonesian cities.

Otak-Otak

Otak-Otak
Photo Credit: Lord Mountbatten

Otak-Otak is an Indonesian grilled fish cake that is famous throughout Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The cake is made by mixing a fish paste with spices and is served fresh wrapped in Banana leaves.

Most commonly used fish include mackerel and wahoo. More expensive Otak-Otak is made with ikan belida, the featherback fish.

The mixture is seasoned with garlic, shallots, coconut milk, and pepper, combined with tapioca starch. The cakes are steamed and served as a side dish with rice at tea time.

Soto Betawi

Soto Betawi
Photo Credit: Gunawan Kartapranata

This delicious beef and coconut soup is fragrant and genuinely unforgettable. Soto is a term used to talk about different soups from across the archipelago of Indonesia. Soto Betawi originates in Jakarta. 

The milky soup dish has succulent chunks of beef and luscious servings of lime and lemongrass flavors.

Bubur Ayam

Bubur Ayam
Photo Credit: Gunawan Kartapranata

Bubur Ayam is a silky smooth chicken and rice dish that is the definition of comfort food, and a staple in Indonesian cuisine.

Easy to digest and suited to any palate (it isn’t spicy), it can be dressed up with things like chopped green onion, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and any number of yummy toppings.

Tahu Goreng

Tahu Goreng
Photo Credit: JAGO

Tahu Goreng is a sweet and spicy Indonesian favorite that is made with everything from beef and chicken to pressed tofu. It is served with a sweet soy sauce called Kecap Manis and is likely to be just a little different in each region of Indonesia. 

Durian Fruit

Durian Fruit

Eaten throughout Southeast Asia, Durian is a prickly tropical fruit known for its pungent odor. However, it is commonly eaten raw as well as used to add flavor to many other dishes, including Malay candy, ice kacang, dodol, lempuk, rose biscuits, ice cream, milkshakes, mooncakes, Yule logs and cappuccino. It is also commonly eaten with rice.

Teh Tarik

Teh Tarik

Teh Tarik is a hot milk tea beverage prepared using a strong brew of black tea blended with condensed milk. Other ingredients can be added for additional flavor which include cardamom, cloves and ginger.

Although considered to be the national drink of Malaysia, it is also popular in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

There is no doubt that when it comes to Indonesian cuisine, you are spoiled for choice. If the beautiful views and diverse culture aren’t enough to get you hooked the food most certainly will. From hot and spicy Rendang curry to soft and comforting Bubur Ayam, Indonesian Cuisine offers a diverse range of flavors.

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