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Top Ten Indonesian Food to Try

Indonesia is an archipelago country that consists of more than 17,000 islands. Imagine if each island has its specialty dishes. The Indonesian cuisine has many offerings and is varied! However, there are at least ten dishes on my list that I always love to eat when visiting Indonesia and I recommend to try one of these dishes when visiting Indonesia or perhaps make it yourselves?.

Here is my list in alphabetical order:

Ayam Betutu (Balinese Betutu Chicken)

This is a popular dish from Bali Island. It is steamed and roasted chicken. Sometimes they use duck (called Betutu Bebek), but I don’t like eating duck meat. The cooking process could last for 24 to 40 hours! The bones are usually very soft and can be eaten as well. Not to mention the tasty flavor of the meat after being cook for so long! This meal is a must try when you are in Bali or Jakarta.

Bakso (Indonesian Meatball Soup) and Bakmi Ayam-Jamur (Chicken Mushroom Noodle)

Every time I arrive in Jakarta, my brother is always kind enough to pick me up at the airport and knows where to bring me – to one of the Bakmi Gajah Mada Restaurants where we eat its Bakmi with Bakso! Bakso and Bakmi Ayam are favorite dishes for many Indonesians so you can find the menu offered in many restaurants all around Indonesia. Sometimes we add fried pangsit (sort of dumplings) to replace emping/kerupuk.

Would you like to make your own? Please visit this recipe: Bakso and Bakmi Ayam

Indonesian Beef Rendang

Rendang is a spicy meat dish from the Minangkabau ethnic group (Sumatera Island). It is a slow cooked beef with coconut milk. Dentist Chef explains the dish and recipe in very detail – Indonesian Beef Rendang Recipe. Dutchie loves this dish so much and cooks it twice a month. Lucky me, I am not a good cook.

The rendang dish is extremely popular in Indonesia; the menu is available in many restaurants across Indonesia. The easiest way to find rendang is in “Restaurant Padang,” it is sort of a restaurant that specializes in serving Padang and Minangkabau cuisine. Indonesian Beef Rendang is ranked number one in CNN’s World’s 50 Best Food.

Beef Rendang by Aaron Shumaker

Beef Rendang by Aaron Shumaker

Kue Tete/Kue Ape (Tete Cake/Ape Cake)

My favorite cake! This cake is usually sold by street vendors and, I often bought it after school. The cake is a perfect snack with your tea or coffee. It  looks like a pancake with a very thick part in the middle and crispy in the surrounding.  It is made from rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar. For the flavor, we can use cheese, suji leaves or Dutch Chocolate Sprinkles (like in the picture). Yummy – for me, it is the best cake ever, it always reminds me of my childhood days 😉

Martabak Telor & Martabak Manis (Egg Martabak & Martabak Manis)

Martabak Telor is originally from Yemen. It is a stuffed pancake with minced meat and eggs. In Indonesia, this is very popular food and is usually sold by street vendors.

Meanwhile, Martabak Manis is a sweet pancake, and I think it is created by Indonesians since the way its cooked it is totally different than Martabak Telor. It is baked in a pan, and the martabak is sprinkled with crushed peanuts or cheese or chocolate or mixed with all of those. Latest update, martabak manis Toblerone gained popularity in Jakarta. It is a full filling dish and is usually eaten at night as an evening snack with family.

Nasi Goreng (Stir-Fried Rice)

This menu is common in Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands, but Nasi Goreng is an Indonesian/Malay word, not Chinese. Nasi Goreng in Indonesia is usually served as breakfast or dinner. It is a fried rice mix with eggs, chicken, beef – any meat or vegetables you wish. It is easy and delicious if you know to cook it right.

How to cook Nasi Goreng in 15 minutes? Try its recipe as published in New York Times: Indonesian Fried Rice with Vegetables.

Nasi Goreng by Shankar S

Nasi Goreng by Shankar S


Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay)

I notice that Dutchie always orders Sate Ayam whenever we are in Indonesia. Yes there is Indonesian sate in the Netherlands where it mostly is fried sate and, the meat cuts are huge, nothing like Indonesian sate at all! Indonesian sate is grilled marinated meat served with peanut sauce and soy sauce. The meat is marinated multiple times during the grilling process and the meat cuts in small crunchy pieces. Anyway, it is delicious. Sate with peanut sauce is believed to originate from Java Island.

However, since it is a very popular dish, several places where the majority is non-Muslims like Bali and North Sulawesi also have sate with pork meat. It is called sate babi (Pork Satay), with similar marinade and peanut sauce.

Sate Padang (Padangnese Satay)

This is a different type of sate that comes from Padang (Sumatra Island). The meat is marinated tenderly and, the sate sauce is made from rice flour, turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander, curry powder, and galangal root. The sauce is yellow because of natural processing. Sate Padang is usually served with ketupat. This is rice that is cooked inside a woven palm leaf pouch.

Soto Betawi

Soto means traditional soup and the Indonesian culinary has plenty of soto from several regions. Soto Betawi is originally from Jakarta. The soto broth is made from lemongrass, beef broth, coconut milk with ginger and galangal. It is a perfect meal during the rainy season. We usually eat it with steamed white rice. You can find a good recipe of Soto Betawi on this website: Soto Betawi – Jakarta Beef Soup.

Nasi Rawon (Steamed White Rice with Soto Rawon)

It is originally from Surabaya (East Java). The soto uses black nuts/ Pangium Edule that gives the soto water an intense nutty flavor and dark color. The beef is cooked quite long in the bouillon water to the meat a tasty flavor. Indonesians usually eat the soto with white rice (nasi) as their lunch or dinner.

Recipe for Soto Rawon can be found on this website: Soto Rawon – East Java traditional beef soup.

Additional Information
Served with white rice, sambal and emping (yellow crackers)

Served with white rice, sambal and emping (yellow crackers)

A majority of Indonesians love spicy food. Usually we eat our meal with “sambal” (condiment), it is a chili-based sauce. We have so many different types of “sambal” to match to the dish. Additionally “emping” and “kerupuk” are always available to provide a crunchy snack to your meal. “Emping” is melinjo nut crackers (the yellow crackers on the picture), “kerupuk” is a savory crisp made from flour and prawn. Don’t be surprise if there is sambal, emping or kerupuk next to your Indonesian meal when served – that’s typical Indonesians!

Have you tried Indonesian food? What type of food do you like or dislike?


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