Trying out Indonesian Food are some of the most delicious way to explore Indonesian culture. This island archipelago boasts a wide variety of local dishes and unique flavors, and plenty of them are worth checking out. These are some of the most popular Indonesian Food for you to try.
INDONESIAN SATAY / SATE
Satay (or Sate) are meat skewers that are barbequed over charcoal. These juicy meat skewers are usually served with rice cakes (Ketupat or Lontong) and tangy peanut sauce, and is a popular dish in most international cities all around the world. Satay has been influenced by Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai cuisine but its origin has been widely agreed to be the Indonesian island of Java. The street vendors in Java was inspired by the Indian kebab, which itself has its roots in the Mughal Empire and ancient Persian culture and cuisine.
Even in Indonesia, there are numerous local varieties of satay, and each with their own distinct and unique take on these tasty skewers. The traditional Indonesian Chicken Satay (Sate Ayam) are made from chicken marinated in a mixture containing common Indonesian spices and sweet soy sauce (called kecap manis), and served with a dipping sauce made from fried peanuts, sweet soy sauce and other spices.
The Sate Padang variety features is made from beef cut into small pieces with a thick yellow sauce glazed on top. This is a specialty satay from the Minangkabau cuisine, and can be found in most Padang restaurants all over Indonesia. There is also the Lamb or Sweet Pork Satay (Sate Babi Manis) variety, which features dipping sauce made from sweet soy sauce, shallot and onions. Finally two other popular variety is Sate Taichan and Sate Lilit Bali, all of which comes with their own distinct flavours and unique taste.
Rendang dishes are jam-packed with flavour and spices, like this Beef Rendang dish from Bon Bon.
Rendang is a Minang dish originating from the Minangkabau region in West Suamatra, Indonesia. It is a beloved dish that has spread across the Indonesian archipelago and into neighbouring Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines, each with their own unique take and characteristics.
The original Rendang from Padang is a meat dish that is tender, moist and juicy. It requires a good amount of preparation and cooking time, as the meat (most commonly beef) is cooked twice. First, it is slow-cooked in a pressure cooker to tenderize the meat. And then, it is braised in a coconut milk broth and seasoned with herbs and spices over a long period, until the liquids are all evaporated and the meat turns dark brown, becoming caramelized and infused with rich flavors.
In Minangkabau culinary tradition, there are three recognised stages in cooking meat in spicy coconut milk. The dish which results is categorised according to the liquid content of the cooked coconut milk, which ranges from the most wet and soupy to the most dry: Gulai — Kalio – Rendang.
Traditionally, Rendang is served at ceremonial occasions to honour guests during festive events in Minangkabau culture – such as wedding feasts, Lebaran and Hari Raya celebrations.
Rendang is officially recognized as one of Indonesia’s national dishes, with six different types of rendang preparations having been designated as intangible cultural heritage by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture.
SOP BUNTUT / OXTAIL SOUP
Simply put, the Sop Buntut is a soup with slices of beef tail as its main ingredients. The dish is believed to have originated from 17th century London, inspired by French Huguenot and Flemish immigrants. Different versions of oxtail soup exists, from Korea, Chinese, and Indonesia as well, each with its slight changes and tweaks in characteristics and taste.
The Indonesian version of Oxtail Soup is called Sop Buntut – it uses slices of fried or barbecued oxtail, served with vegetables in a rich but clear beef broth. It usually contains boiled potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, leek, celery, fried shallots and dried black mushroom. The beef broth is given additional wallop of flavour, from seasonings of herbs and spices.
Sop Buntut is a beloved dish in Indonesia, with numerous restaurants offering their version of this popular dish. A relatively new variant is called the Sop Buntut Goreng (Fried Oxtail Soul), where the oxtail is seasoned, fried and served dry – with the soup served in a separate bowl. Some restaurants specializes in oxtail soup as its main dish and have attained legendary status, such as the famous Bogor Cafe in the Hotel Borobudur in Central Jakarta.
Nasi Rames Panorama from Mie Kocok Bandung.
Nasi Rames Padang from Dapur Bu Alya.
NASI CAMPUR / NASI RAMES
This aromatic dish is one of the most popular dish in Indonesia, something like an Indonesian style bento, where a mixture of side dishes are served with rice and sauces. There are wide varieties of Nasi Campur and Nasi Rames from all over Indonesia, and you can also find varieties of these in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.
The rice on offer is usually nasi uduk, rice that is cooked in coconut milk, giving it a unique hearthy flavour. Side dishes vary from vendor to vendor, but usually includes fried eggs, one type of meat – fried chicken, beef rendang or seafood variations; and a variety of vegetables – tempe (soybean cake), peanuts. Sometimes you will also get one or two skewers of grilled meat. There are also vendors where you can pick and choose from the variety of dishes on offer, which are then packed together into a rice dish for your consumption.
Overtime, several popular variations emerges, such as the Nasi Campur Bali (Balinese Mix Rice) and Nasi Campur Hainam (Hainam Mix Rice). The Balinese version of nasi campur is probably the most internationally well-known version, mostly due to the “Bali factor”. The taste is distinctly local, with a typical Balinese spice mix and served with lawar (pork ears) and babi guling (barbecued pork) in their Nasi Campur, making in distinctly non-halal. There is also a halal version, featuring Ayam Betutu (Balinese Chicken), Sate Lilit (Balinese Satay) and eggs. There are also variations that are closer to Nasi Lemak from Malaysia.
The Hainam Mix Rice (Nasi Campur Hainam), is another popular alternative that are widely available in major cities with significat Chinese population area. The reason being that this is a distinctly non-halal variation of Nasi Campur, with an assortment of different types of pork meat – char siew (barbecued pork meat), crispy roast pork, sweet pork sausage and pork satay. A halal version is also available, called Hainam Chicken Rice (Nasi Ayam Hainam), featuring barbecued or steamed chicken. The Hainam Mix Rice is no longer considered an Indonesian dish, but imported from its Chinese diaspora from neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.
Delicious Martabak Manis with grated cheese chocolate sprinkles from Joyo Pastry.
Finally, we have the Martabak Manis, a popular dessert in Indonesia. This is the Indonesian version of folded pancake, also known by the name Terang Bulan or Martabak Bangka. Despite sharing the same name as Martabak Telur (Egg Martabak), the Martabak Manis is wholly different dish. The cooking method, dough and ingredients are different from egg martabak, giving it a consistency more like a crumpet.
While it is baked on a pan, the Martabak Manis is spread with butter or margarine, sugar, crushed peanuts, chocolate sprinkles, cheese or other toppings. Before serving, the martabak is folded in half so the toppings get in the middle of the martabak. There are newer varieties with a wide range of toppings from green tea powder, cream cheese, Oreo, Toblerone, Nutella, Kit Kat and even Durian. There are also different flavors for the dough base to choose from. Another recent variety is also having the martabak served without folding, like a pizza, so you can add your own personal toppings on top before serving.