Indonesian food is well-known for its diversed and strong flavors, derived generously from locally available extras and spices. That guarantees to both surprise and satisfy your tastebuds. The culinary journey throughout the country brings the experience of a true exploration. The basics, such as rice, chilli and soy beans are transformed into colorful compositions, overwhelming all the senses with the richness of exotic smells, unique textures and beautiful colours. And, what is important in the world we live, it is a very healthy cuisine, basing on a great range of fresh, rich in vitamins and nutrient, ingredients like vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, legumes, seafood and fish. The list of great dishes is truly endless here, so we pick for you some of the most delicious and popular ones, definitely worth to try!
1. Sambal (chilli sauce).
This, technically speaking condiment, is a real king of the Indonesian cuisine. It's hard to imagine a meal without sambal provided on the table, even if it is... a pizza! It's made of spicy peppers, shallots, garlic, shrimp/fish paste, lime juice with a bit of salt and sugar mashed together. There are also types of sambal, that include grated mango (yumi!), tomatoes or sweet soy sauce.
2. Soto (chicken soup).
The soup is composed of broth (clear or with a bit of coconut milk), chicken meat and vegetables. Toppings vary a bit, depending on the region, but usually soto goes with boiled eggs, rice or noodles (or both ;), tomatoes and crispy shallots. Sambal it's obvious, right?
3. Nasi Goreng (fried rice).
If sambal is the king of the local cuisine, nasi goreng became its kingdom, as chilli is a strongly dominant flavor here. Fried rice is popular as a street food - easy in preparing and able to satisfy every hunger. It consists of pre-cooked rice, fried later with oil, garlic, shallots and sweet soy sauce (kecap manis). In the basic version, it's served with pickled cucumbers and eggs. More expensive options, include chicken or sea food pieces.
4. Gado-Gado (mixed food).
Literally: mix-mix, it's a kind of vegetable salad, served with specially prepared sweet peanut sauce and crackers. The main ingredients are: rice cooked in a coconut milk, tofu, boiled eggs, potatoes and long beans, fresh cucumber and crispy onion. The essence of the flavor is hidden in the peanut sauce, that's why the cook's recipe is usually a well-kept secret.
5. Bakmie Goreng (fried noodles).
Often called Mie Goreng, this Chinese origin dish is composed of a wheat based noodles fried together with egg, meat pieces and green vegetables. It's usually sold by street vendors in warungs (traditional food stalls). A solid portion of a soy sauce is a must to make the dish complete.
6. Rawon (beef stew).
It comes as a soup, popular mostly in East Java. The most characteristic thing is its deep, dark color derived from local black nuts (keluak nuts) cooked for a long time, together with meat. The soup base mingles with garlic, shallots, ginger and red chilli, to give it a proper intensity of flavors. Rawon is served with cooked rice, optionally.
7. Martabak (stuffed egg pancake).
It's another flagship representant of a street food. It's basically a multi-layered savoury pancake. The filling is made from eggs, some meat (chicken or beef), spring onion and regular onion. Later on, the mixture is 'enveloped' inside a thin layer of pastry and all that is being fried in a deep oil, until it becomes golden. Yes, it's definitely not healthy, but the final result, meaning delicious creamy and soft inside, together with super crispy skin are worth a sin. At least from time to time. ;)
8. Ikan Bakar / Ayam Bakar (grilled fish or grilled chicken).
The greatness of this dish lies in its perfect simplicity. All it needs, is to take a fresh fish / chicken (normally caught the same day), clean it, cover with a gravy made of butter and sweet soy sauce and grill until it becomes completely tender and nice. There is a wide range of delicious fishes available, so everybody can find something, that will satisfy him, that's for sure. Ikan / Ayam bakar is served usually together with cooked rice, sambal and some green vegetables.
9. Lontong Sayur (vegetable coconut soup).
Lontong is a specially prepared, sticky rice, cooked in banana leaves and later served cut in a small and round pieces. In lontong sayur, rice i's being added to the creamy coconut base cooked together with young jackfruit, eggplant, long beans and sometimes enriched with chicken or beef. This soup has a very mild flavor and it's served also with boiled eggs and a bit of tofu.
10. Sate Ayam/Kambing (grilled chicken, goat or other).
Marinated and grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, diced or sliced chicken/goat, or other type of meat, served with various spicy seasonings and a peanut sauce. Originating from Jawa, sate is an Indonesian national dish (available also in other South-East Asia countries, mainly Malaysia) and can be found in many local variations. This delicious meal, accompanied with white rice or lontong, can be obtained from a mobile sate vendor, from a street-side tent-restaurant (warung or kaki lima), in an classy restaurant, or during traditional celebration feasts.
As all over the world, dining out in Indonesia is a great way to get together with family, friends or business colleagues for a fun time. Enjoy and explore the culinary diversity of the Archipelago!
PS. Remember, that not everywhere you can get a fork or a spoon. Be prepared and carry an antibacterial gel in your pocket.