Indonesia is a melting pot of different flavors. Home to over 300 ethnic groups, it offers a varied range of delicacies, many of which use herbs and spices to enhance the flavor. The mouth-watering dishes will leave you wanting more! So, feast your eyes and try not to drool over these 10 must-try savory Indonesian foods:
Rendang, an authentic Indonesian dish from Padang, is often praised as one of the world’s best foods. Its tender beef is cooked to perfection with flavorful herbs and spices. Because of its juicy texture and a perfect balance of spices, rendang is a favorite among the tourists!
Legend has it that the Minangkabau people carried this dish with them on long journeys. They required food that could be traditionally preserved and didn’t lose its taste and freshness. Hence, the Minangkabau villagers used to cook beef with traditional spices and coconut milk for about 7-8 hours, a conventional method to preserve meat while keeping the tasty flavors intact.
Pempek, an Indonesian dish from Palembang, is a traditional fish cake made from ground fish meat and tapioca. Having a crisp outer layer and a soft chewy texture, this delicious cuisine is served with a sweet and sour sauce called kuah cuko. Pempek’s usual accompaniments are sliced cucumbers and noodles.
It is said that this crispy snack originated when a villager in Palembang created a new recipe by covering grounding fish meat with tapioca and deep-frying it. When he realized how delicious it was, he cycled through his village to sell this dish. Not long after, pempek became a popular snack and is still a favorite among Indonesians. Though there are many stalls that sell this dish, a popular place to buy it is from Pempek Candy in Palembang.
Popularly sold on the streets of Jakarta, ketoprak is considered to be a tofu salad. It consists of fried tofu, hard-boiled eggs, ketupat or steamed rice cakes, rice vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, cabbage, and cucumbers. It is drizzled with tasty peanut sauce and sweet soy sauce and topped with fried shallots and krupuk. The spicy sweetness from the sauce and a hint of salt from the fried tofu completes the dish. It is a must-try when you visit Jakarta.
It is said that this dish came into existence when a man, who only had steamed rice cakes and bean sprouts to eat, decided to enjoy what he had. So he pound together some peanuts, garlic, and chili, and added water to make a sauce of thick consistency. He added this peanut sauce to his simple ingredients and created ketoprak, Indonesia’s famous street food.
Sold almost everywhere in Indonesia, siomay is a simple street snack that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. It is very popular in Bandung, West Java. Similar to the Chinese dish shaomai, siomay consists of steamed fish dumplings with a chewy texture. However, siomay is served with different ingredients, including sliced potatoes, pare, rolled cabbage, and tofu. It’s accompanied with a delicious peanut sauce to add a burst of savory goodness.
Gudeg is an iconic sweet dish of Yogyakarta. It is made from unripe jackfruit or gori combined with thick coconut milk and palm sugar. To get the authentic flavor of gudeg, people often cook it in an earthen pot over a wood or charcoal fire. This delicious treat is often served with condiments, such as chicken, hard-boiled eggs, tempeh, tofu, and sambal krecek or crispy beef skin with chili sauce. It is sold commonly on the streets of Yogyakarta, but the most famous places to buy gudeg are Wijilan and Barek.
Originating from the city of Surakarta, nasi liwet is a deliciously-seasoned rice dish cooked with coconut milk, chicken broth, bay leaves, and lemongrass. This Indonesian dish consists of soft flavorful rice with shredded chicken, omelet, chili peppers, and various vegetables. Numerous street stalls in Solo sell nasi liwet and serve it with various dishes, like tempeh or telur pindang (eggs boiled in soy sauce with chopped shallots). It is served wrapped in banana or teak leaves.
Semarang is known for its delicious food, which includes its signature dish called lumpia. This appetizer is inspired by Chinese spring rolls but modified with authentic flavors from Semarang. Lumpia offers a burst of Indonesian flavors in its filling with ingredients such as bamboo shoots, minced chicken, scrambled eggs, ebi, or dried shrimps cooked with the perfect seasonings.
Lumpia has a thin, crispy outer layer with a sweet, savory vegetable filling inside. It is served with a special sauce, the perfect condiment to go with it.
Rawon, a delicious beef stew, is a famous dish of Surabaya. Traditional herbs like lemongrass, chili, ginger, lime leaves, and kluwek or black nuts are added to the slow-braised, tender meat. Kluwek is what gives a rich flavor and a unique black color to the stew. It is said that rawon was primarily a plebeian dish in the past, but its scrumptious favor soon became popular among the Indonesian royalty!
Served with bakso and fried wontons in a delicious warm broth, bakwan Malang is an Indonesian dish that's perfect for the rainy season. Originating from Malang, this dish has been adapted from an Indonesian-Chinese tradition and is made from beef or chicken meatballs. This hearty comfort food dish sometimes includes vermicelli rice noodles, green onions, and fried shallots. Sweet soy sauce and sambal are also served to customers who want to add more flavor to their meal. A famous restaurant that serves the best bakso Malang is Bakso President Malang.
Bali is not only known for its exotic beaches but also for its mouth-watering delicacies. One dish that is sold by street vendors in Bali is satay lilit, an Indonesian street food dish made from minced meat. This dish can be created using different types of meats, but pork is the most popular form used. Herbs and spices like lemongrass, galangal, chili, and lime leaves are added to give it a fresh spicy taste. This Indonesian dish is a must-try when you get the chance to visit Bali!
Every bite of Indonesian food is bursting with Indonesia’s exotic flavors. It combines nature’s best ingredients with the stories of the local communities and offers a perfect culinary experience. Discover the amazing taste of Indonesian food and you’ll understand why it is loved by so many people. So, looking forward to try some authentic Indonesian food?
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