Have you ever felt homesick for food that isn’t even from your home country? That’s exactly how Indonesian food makes you feel.
Rich in spices and fresh flavors, traditional Indonesian food is the ultimate comfort food.
If you plan to go to Bali, or any other area in Indonesia, don’t get caught up in the Western faves, try some of the most amazing tastes you will ever discover. Get ready to drool!
Must Try Indonesian Foods!
When you are exploring, make sure you sample these INCREDIBLE Indonesian foods!
Beef rendang is considered one of the most delicious foods in the world!
From West Sumatra, the meat is tenderly slow cooked for hours, with coconut milk and spices (lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger), and served with rice and extra side dishes.
The beef is incredibly tender and full of flavor.
Rendang is most commonly found at nasi Padang spots, but you will find more and more restaurants serving their own take on the traditional Indonesian dish.
Chicken, mutton, beef, fish, tofu, tempeh and green mussels, almost anything can be made into sate (satay)!
You will find sate of all kinds from the street carts to the top restaurants.
Seasoned meat is grilled over open charcoal while being manually fanned, and served with peanut sauce (YUM).
With rice or lontong (rice cake), it is a perfect combination of flavors and textures.
Fish sate is prepared a little differently. The fish is mixed with spices, and wrapped around lemongrass stalks to be grilled.
Try your sate out with sambal for an extra kick!
Rice is the main food prepared and eaten in Indonesia – morning, day and night. It is the base for many of the best Indonesian dishes including nasi goreng!
It is a simple dish with rice sautéed in cooking oil or butter over high heat, along with a basic seasonings (garlic and shallots), mixed with vegetables, eggs and a filling of your choice.
Everyone will have their own favorite way to prepare and serve nasi goreng. From the street food spots to restaurants, it is a must-try.
Exploring Indonesia on a budget? Indomie is going to be your best friend.
One of the famous Indonesian foods, it is a tasty snack or full meal. For those who don’t know, it’s basically just instant noodles.
It’s cheap, easy to cook and delicious to enjoy with additional extras. Try it out with eggs, chicken, vegetables or even dry when you don’t have time!
Rawon is beef soup that’s black in color – perhaps not the most appealing, but wait!
The black color comes from kluwak seasoning, which is mashed together with seasoning for the soup.
The meat is boiled in the broth until tender, and mixed with the sautéed spices.
Rawon is one of the most famous soupy foods in Indonesia, usually served with rice, young sprouts and chili sauce.
Add some extras like boiled salted eggs, crackers, perkedel (egg-fried potato cakes) and tempeh.
Nasi campur (or nasi rames) is rice mixed with a whole lot of vegetables and side dishes like fried noodles, eggs, tempeh, serundeng (sautéed grated coconut mixed with spice), and empal meat (beef boiled until brown with spices and then fried).
In Bali, nasi campur is easily found all over the island and is one of the most affordable things to eat.
Nasi uduk is coconut rice, or rice cooked with coconut milk, and a variety of spices like lemongrass, pandan leaves, coriander seeds, bay leaves and cardamom, cooked together.
The simple varieties are usually served with fried or grilled chicken and sambals, but you can always add extra side options 😉
Betutu is a side dish made from a whole chicken or duck filled with spices, then roasted in a husk fire.
It is a super popular dish in Bali and Lombok with entire restaurants centered around it.
It is delicious and spicy, with the tastes seeped into the flesh and bones. The texture of the meat is slightly fibrous as it is often free-range chicken or ayam kampong.
There are lots of spots to eat Betutu Chicken in Bali with the most famous being Ayam Betutu Khas Gilimanuk in Denpasar, Ayam Betutu Men Tempeh in Jembrana, and Ayam Betutu Pak Man in Kuta.
There are no specific rules on what to have with your nasi padang order. It’s all about your preferences.
As the name suggests, it is a traditional Indonesian food from Padang – with the previously mentioned rendang.
With a base of white rice, you can choose whatever you wish from the vast selection – meat, fish, vegetables, little extras and sambal.
Traditionally all of the dishes are placed in the center of the table and you pile up your plate as you wish, however in Bali most nasi padang spots will have traditional touch screen technology – i.e. point at what you want.
Gado-gado is a veggie or vegan dream!
It’s basically a salad, with either raw or boiled vegetables, fried tempeh and tofu, boiled eggs topped with peanut sauce and a sprinkling of fried onions and crackers.
There are many different versions of gado-gado from the simple street stalls to the more fancy and chic vegan restaurants.
Indonesia’s take on meatballs is Bakso.
It is finely ground beef and spices, molded into balls by hand and boiled in a broth.
They are best served hot, topped with fried tofu, noodles and a sprinkling of fried onions and greens.
Soy sauce, vinegar and chilli sauce are optional, as are crackers, boiled egg and even more veg.
Bakso is best eaten on a rainy day. You will find many local stalls pushed along the streets by men who will wait around for you to finish your dish.
Among the range of traditional Indonesian food, soto has a different version in each region.
It is a soup with broth and chicken or beef. Most commonly it is served with vermicelli noodles, rice or lontong, fried onions, thinly sliced fried potatoes, chopped cabbage and chili sauce.
It is Indonesian’s favorite comfort food for when they are feeling sick.
In Jakarta, there is a version of soto with coconut milk known as soto betawi with beef. It is thicker with a bigger variety of spices compared to the OG soto.
Found in most nasi campur spots, sayur asem is a vegetable soup boiled with tamarind and red ground spices.
It contains various vegetables such as corn, long beans, peanuts, bean sprouts and cinnamon.
Local people usually eat sayur asem with a plate of rice, fried salted fish and sambal.
If you like Thai food, sayur asem will have a similar taste.
You will often find an influence of Chinese cuisine in some Indonesian foods.
One of those influences is chicken porridge, or bubur ayam.
The rice is cooked until thick and hearty, and served with an assortment of toppings such as shredded chicken, fried peanuts, cakwe (fried salty bread), boiled eggs, broth and crackers.
Bubur ayam is a very common street food dish, which is also a local favorite breakfast dish.
Babi guling is the most iconic dish in Bali.
A suckling pig is stuffed with spices and vegetables, then grilled and rolled above a charcoal fire.
Hindus in Bali often use babi guling as an offering during ceremonies. It is an important part of the cultural heritage of Bali.
There are many spots around the island famed for their babi guling, head to a restaurant or go local and order from a local warung.
Young jackfruit is boiled with spices and herbs, coconut milk and palm sugar for several hours until tender, creating the crunchy snack gudeg.
It is most commonly served with chicken and sambal krecek (dried cow skin).
The taste of gudeg tends to be sweet and savory. It’s delicious when served with sambal!
Tempe is a vegan fave all over the world, however in Indonesia everyone eats tempe!
It is incredibly easy to cook, super affordable, easy to add into other dishes and a simple snack.
You will always find fried or grilled tempe on menus and in warungs around Bali.
Indonesians loooove to snack!
There is a unique Indonesian food that is often snacked on made from fish.
The fish is processed with sago flour and special spices, and served with a spicy vinegar sauce, called pempek.
Pempek is usually sold in several forms with their own names – for example pempek with egg filling is called pempek kapal selam, or an oval shape called lenjer. There is also one mixed with eggs, wrapped in banana leaves called pempek lenggang.
For those with a sweet tooth, you MUST try martabak manis.
There are all kinds of fillings for these pancake-style treats like cheese, nuts, fruit jam, nutella, cream cheese and anything sweet you can imagine!
Usually, martabak is sold on carts as street food.
Be ready for a sugar rush as these are packed with tasty, and super sweet, ingredients.
Jaje are traditional Balinese cakes found in the local markets and warungs.
There are many different kinds of jaje. Mostly made from rice flour with grated coconut and extra toppings.
Laklak have a splash of brown sugar, and pisang rai are made with bananas.
If you want something like porridge, try batun bedil which is made from glutinous rice flour and shaped into round or flat shapes then boiled.
Sambal is an essential part of Indonesian food. There are hundreds of different types of sambals!
The most popular is sambal bawang (onion chili), sambal terasi (shrimp paste chili), sambal matah (raw chili without grinding). Each have their own intensity, taste and perfect accompaniment.
If you are brave enough, try out all the different types of sambal. Be prepared for some serious heat!
There are so many more unique Indonesian foods you should try out, but these will get your started on your journey.
The main key is to be adventurous with your food, try something different and be pleasantly surprised!
Featured image: Balineses Dishes