Home to a variety of herbs and spices, Indonesia has so many delicious foods to offer. The rich ethnicities and the tradition of passing down signature recipes from generation to generation have blessed this country with an unlimited amount of dishes that range from traditional to popular, to easy-to-make. You can find all the ingredients for these dishes at your nearest shops. While at home in self-quarantine, you can make good use of your cooking skills and “travel” to Indonesia by recreating these 5 popular Indonesian dishes. In case, you can’t find an ingredient at your nearest store, you can replace it with a substitute and give the recipe your own twist.
Put these dishes on your Indonesia bucket list; you won’t have trouble finding them when you’re finally able to travel tomorrow.
A highly-versatile dish, Nasi Goreng (literally translated as ‘fried rice’) is an Indonesian dish that has its roots in Southern Chinese culture. It mainly consists of seasoned rice stir-fried with pieces of meat and vegetables. This dish originated from people’s concern about ways to use leftover rice. It is not clear exactly when the Indonesians adopted the recipe of Chinese fried rice and put their own traditional ‘twist’ on Nasi Goreng, but some say it happened around the 10th century, during Sriwijaya’s reign when the trade between Indonesia and China flourished.
Nowadays, almost every region in Indonesia had its own signature recipe of Nasi Goreng (such as Nasi Goreng Jawa, Nasi Goreng Aceh, Nasi Goreng Padang, etc.) and you can find it in almost every corner of every street.
As mentioned before, this dish is very versatile, which means if you are having trouble finding one or two ingredients, you can always twist the recipe by using alternative ingredients that suit your taste and are easily available.
300 g of long-grain rice, cooked and then cooled overnight
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon of sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
A pinch of salt
Pieces of finely-chopped proteins, like chicken breast, meat, shrimps, or anything you prefer
200 g finely-cut shallots
20 g finely-chopped garlic
20 g of finely-chopped spring onions (or you can substitute it with leek or chives)
3 red chilies, finely chopped
Stir-fry all the spices in vegetable oil until fragrant. Then add the beaten eggs and a pinch of salt, and stir well. Before the eggs get cooked, quickly add the proteins and the rice that was cooled overnight. Stir again for a while. When the flavors start to combine with each other, add the soy sauce and sweet soy sauce, and stir well. Nasi Goreng is ready to be served.
Originating from the land of Minang in West Sumatra, Rendang has gained popularity worldwide because of its distinctive savory flavor. This dish is basically made of slow-cooked, braised pieces of beef that are caramelized in coconut milk and a rich mixture of spices. Rendang is traditionally served by Indonesians to honor guests at festive occasions such as wedding celebrations and Eid-al-Fitr. The tradition still exists, but now you can find Rendang at almost every Minang restaurant in Indonesia.
A little patience and diligence is required to cook this dish, but you can find all the ingredients at your nearest Asian markets. This one-of-a-kind dish will put your skills to a test.
1 kg of beef
3 cups of coconut milk
3 stalks of lemongrass
4 kaffir lime leaves
200 grams of galangal, cut into small pieces
4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
100 grams of shallot, finely chopped
100 grams of red chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder
2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger
Two pinches of salt
1 tablespoon of coconut sugar
Two tablespoons of coconut oil
Prepare all the ingredients. Cut the beef into 4-cm squares that are about ½ cm thick. Blend all the curry paste ingredients together until smooth. Sauté the curry paste with coconut oil until fragrant and then pour coconut milk into the wok. Bash the lemongrass stalks and add to the wok. Stir well and then add the beef. Cook over medium heat and bring the coconut milk to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Add a little water every once in a while whenever the stew is about to dry. Cook until the meat is tender and the color turns dark brown (estimated time: 3 hours). Rendang is ready to be served.
Essential comfort food that you can find almost everywhere in Indonesia, from street-vendors to five-star hotels and high-class restaurants, Bakso is brothy meatballs that are usually served with noodles, chili paste, and spring onions. Is that all? No. It’s as versatile as Nasi Goreng. There are many ways to prepare Bakso, but all the variations include meatballs and broth. Originating from the Hokkien word bak-so (肉酥, Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bah-so·), which means "fluffy meat" or "minced meat", this dish has its root in Chinese cuisine. Like Nasi Goreng, there is no exact history of when the Indonesians adopted this Chinese recipe of meatball soup as their own.
Many regions of Indonesia give their own twist to Bakso, for example, Bandung make ‘bakso cuanki’ (meatballs made with starch flour) and Malang make ‘bakso bakar’ (grilled meatball dish with broth). Nevertheless, it’s a very simple and versatile comforting dish that you can try to cook by yourself during this stay-at-home period.
5 pounds of beef bones
1 knob of ginger, peeled
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2-inch piece of cinnamon
3 cardamom pods, pounded
6 black peppercorns
3 cups of egg noodles, cooked
1/2 cup crisp-fried shallots
Put the bones in a pot and add some water. Bring to a boil and take off any scum that rises. Add the ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns to the broth. Simmer for at least two hours, then strain the broth and pour back into the pot without the bones and aromatics. Heat the broth and bring to a simmer, then add the meatballs. Divide the noodles among three bowls. When everything is ready, pour the hot broth and meatballs directly into the bowls. Top each bowl of meatballs with crisp-fried shallots. Bakso is ready to be served.
Martabak are savory light bites that originated from a Middle-Eastern recipe of the same name. It is basically a spicy omelet pancake stuffed with bits of vegetables and minced meat and can be bought from almost any street vendor in Indonesia after sunset. Palembang, with Martabak HAR, and Aceh, with Martabak Aceh, are two of the few regions in Indonesia that have given their own twist to Martabak. There is also another general variant of Martabak called Martabak Manis (other regions, such as Malang, call it ‘Kue Terang Bulan’), which is basically a large pancake stuffed with toppings like chocolate, cheese, and peanuts. It might look complicated, but it’s actually very easy to make and the ingredients are available at many shops near you.
250 g minced beef
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 small leek, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder
salt and white pepper
100 g plain flour
25 g tapioca flour
250 ml cold water
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Filling: Sauté onion in vegetable oil for a couple of seconds. Add the meat and stir-fry until it changes color. Then put in leek and continue sautéing for 2 or 3 minutes before adding curry powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix all the spices and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Put the fillings in a bowl and add the eggs and spring onion. Mix well.
Dough: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until they blend completely without any lumps. Then pour 2-3 tablespoon of the batter into a pre-heated, non-stick frying pan. Make sure the dough covers the whole surface of the pan. Remove when it’s done.
Martabak: Put 2 teaspoons of filling onto the center of the dough, take the skin and fold in from side to side to completely cover the filling in an envelope fashion. Fry until it turns golden brown on one side and then turns it over to cook the other side. Serve warm.
The last traditional dish that is so easy to find in Indonesia is Sate Ayam, a grilled chicken skewer served with peanut sauce. It is believed that the word ‘Sate’ originated from Tamil ‘catai’, a regional variant of ‘catai’ meaning ‘flesh’, which is the indication that the dish was initially developed by Javanese street vendors as an adaptation of Indian kebabs. In West Sumatra, there is a popular variant of Sate Ayam dish called Sate Padang, a grilled beef skewer served with a distinctive spicy Minang sauce.
Sate Ayam is very easy to make and you can find all the ingredients at your local store.
1 pound of chicken thighs, finely chopped into pieces
¾ teaspoon of salt
A pinch of ground white pepper
A tablespoon of sunflower seed oil
24 wooden skewers
1 cup of water
5 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce
A tablespoon of palm sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon of salt
A tablespoon of lime juice
Mix the chicken thighs, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, white pepper, and sunflower seed oil in a large bowl, then cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Make preparations to grill and soak the wooden skewers in water so they don’t burn during cooking. Blend water, peanut butter, sweet soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir well. Remove from heat and add some lime juice. Thread the marinated chicken onto the skewers and put three pieces of meat per stick. Put the well-blended peanut sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Then brush the sauce over the chicken. Heat a grill pan or a large skillet and put the chicken skewers in batches on the pan or the skillet. Cook until the chicken meat turns brown, approximately 1 to 2 minutes per side. Serve warm.
Have you decided which dishes you want to try out while you stay at home? Don’t worry. For now, get a taste of Indonesia at home and prepare yourself to discover these delicious foods around the archipelago once things get better.
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