Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia. It’s the 4th most populous country in the world, with over 250 million people. Indonesia is made up of 6,000 inhabited islands and 300 ethnic groups that speak more than 700 different languages.
The food varies greatly across regions but there are some commonalities throughout all parts of the country- rice as well as fish and other seafood are staples of their diet.
Indonesian food is very diverse and rich in flavors, textures, and spices. The country has a tropical climate that makes it perfect for growing many types of fruits and vegetables. Indonesian cuisine is a diverse mix of flavors. It borrows influences from China, India, and the Middle East.
What are the popular Indonesian foods? The most popular foods in Indonesia are Fried rice, Noodles, Soto, and Satay, and many more.
The list of 15 popular Indonesian foods below will leave you feeling hungry and wanting to try some of these dishes.
Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)
Nasi goreng is a fried rice dish. It’s the most well-known and popular Indonesian food in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Southern Thailand. The dish was originally Chinese-Indonesian fusion cuisine but over time it has become an established part of Indonesian cuisine. Nasi Goreng may be served with chicken or beef satay (skewered grilled meat).
Nasi goreng is made by frying thin rice grains in oil until golden brown. Typical ingredients include garlic, shallot, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper to taste; other ingredients are added according to regional variations.
Sate Ayam (Satay)
Satay are skewered seasoned meat which are traditionally grilled over charcoal fire. They are usually dipped into peanut sauce or other spicy-sweet condiments before eating.
Chicken, beef and goat meat are popular meats for making satay. Other types of meats include lamb, pork, duck and fish.
Satay is usually served with ketupat (rice dumplings), rice or bread as a staple food. It is quite popular in Indonesia; especially those from the island of Java where it has been considered as one of their traditions since at least the early 20th century.
Nasi Kuning (Yellow Rice)
Nasi kuning is a dish made from steamed rice that has been cooked with coconut milk and turmeric giving it its yellow color. This Indonesian yellow rice dish may be mixed with lontong (rice cake), vegetables, chicken, shrimp or beef according to your preference.
The dish is popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. Nasi kuning can be served with various other dishes including sambal (chili pepper).
Indonesians are known to be fans of instant noodles. My favourite instant noodle is Indomie Mi Goreng (fried noodles). It’s spicy and tastes so good! The chicken-flavoured one is my other favourite. Instant noodles are usually paired with vegetables, eggs or meat.
The way you eat Indomie goreng (fried noodles) is by frying it in a pan with cooking oil until the noodles are crispy and golden brown. It’s usually paired with vegetables or scrambled eggs but if you’re feeling adventurous- try mixing it up with your favourite topping!
Rujak (Spicy Fruit Salad)
Rujak is a spicy fruit salad in Indonesia that has been made using fresh fruits like pineapple, cucumber, jicama and tomatoes. The ingredients are mixed with palm sugar, tamarind juice, chili pepper, salt and peanuts or cashews.
The dish can also be found in Malaysia where it’s known as rujak buah; sometimes they use pomelo for the dish instead of pineapple. There are many variations of rujuk based on region and taste preference including rujak madiun (with unripe mangoes) and rujak bojong (water convolvulus).
Soto Ayam (Chicken Soup)
Soto ayam is a traditional chicken soup made from boiling pieces of chicken along with other ingredients like rice, noodles, vegetables and spices. It has been considered as one of the must-try dishes when visiting Indonesia because it’s not only tasty but also nutritious.
The meat used to make this thick clear broth could be either dark or white meat; the bone is usually broken into bite-sized pieces before cooking.
The taste may vary according to regions that you visit in Indonesia; for example some areas prefer adding coconut milk to their soto ayam making it creamier than other places where they don’t use any type of dairy products during preparation.
Nasi Padang (Padang Rice)
Nasi Padang is a traditional Indonesian dish that was first created by Minangkabau people; it’s one of the dishes you should definitely try when visiting Indonesia.
This rice and meat dish is cooked with various spices and contains beef, goat or chicken. The generous servings usually consist of 4-5 dishes like soto, vegetables, fried beef and ayam goreng (fried chicken).
Rawon (Black Beef Soup)
This famous black beef soup from East Java has been prepared using coconut milk, kluwek (fermented soy bean cake), keluak (nuts from Pangium edule or Black Ledu fruit tree) as well as spices including garlic shallot, candlenut and lemon grass. Rawon usually has a thick consistency and tastes savory yet a bit spicy.
Gado-gado (Vegetables Salad)
Gado Gado is an Indonesian salad dish consisting of boiled vegetables along with fried tofu, tempeh and egg which are then mixed with peanut sauce dressing.
This dish became so popular during the colonial period where it was introduced by Indo people from Betawi, Jakarta to other regions in Indonesia until it reached West Java where raw vegetables started being used instead of boiled ones.
Babi Panggang (Roasted Pork)
Babi panggang is a popular dish in Indonesia and can be found in many areas throughout the country. This roasted pork recipe is cooked with other ingredients like eggs, potatoes, shallots, garlic cloves and various spices including coriander seeds, bay leaves, cumin seeds and pepper.
The pork used for this dish may have been marinated before it’s roasted or just seasoned to taste while cooking. It usually comes with sambal sauce so diners can add more spice if they feel it needs it.
Bakso is another popular dish in Indonesia that can be found practically anywhere due to its wide spread popularity.
The minced beef or chicken meat is mixed with various seasonings, rolled into balls and then cooked with broth. Noodles are usually added during the cooking process so the meatballs will have something to hold onto while they’re boiled.
Gulai (Meat Stews)
There are many stews that you can find throughout Indonesia but two most popular ones include gulai kambing and gulai ayam; both of which use goat and chicken respectively as their main ingredients.
The secret behind making great gulai dishes requires slow boiling and simmering to get rid of any gamey taste in the meat.
Rendang (Spicy Beef Stew)
Rendang is a traditional spicy beef stew from West Sumatra and it’s now become one of Indonesia’s most popular dishes, especially in the western parts where eating spicy food has been part of their culture.
Some regions that you visit may put more or less chili into rendang, but the basic idea remains; spices used for this dish includes garlic, cumin seeds and pepper along with coconut milk to create aroma and thickness.
Pecel Lele (Deep Fried Catfish)
Pecel lele is a popular dish from Central Java which can be found in many restaurants all over the country. The main ingredients of this fried catfish salad consists of green beans, peanuts and chilies with a sweet yet savory taste.
This dish was actually created by Chinese people who have emigrated to Central Java, yet it has now become a staple among Javanese people.
Bubur Ayam (Chicken Congee)
Bubur ayam is another dish that you just can’t miss when visiting Indonesia during breakfast time. This savory congee is most popular in the northern parts of the country where chicken stock is used instead of water for extra flavor.
The main ingredients include rice, shallots, garlic cloves and assorted vegetables with bits of soft boiled egg on top. Some regions also prefer to use salted fish or shredded chicken meat so diners can choose how they want their bubur ayam prepared.
Bonus (Indonesian Drinks)
1. Sop Buah (Fruit Juice)
Sop buah is an Indonesian dessert drink that consists mainly of fruit pulp blended together with water or coconut milk to give it its sweetness along with other ingredients like sugar or honey for more flavor.
Various fruits can be used as their main ingredient including durian, avocado, jackfruit and mangosteen just to name a few common ones you can find throughout Indonesia.
2. Es Teler (Fresh Fruit Shake)
One cold drink that you should definitely try when visiting Indonesia is es teler; it’s basically mixed fresh fruit juice blended with crushed ice and syrup which makes it sweet yet slightly tart at the same time.
The ingredients usually consist of Durian, jackfruit, banana or mango with Grenadine syrup.
3. Es Campur (Fruit Shake)
Es campur is similar to es teler but it usually contains various fruit flavors like durian, avocado, jack fruit and even passion fruit paired with crushed ice instead of syrup. You can also add milk if you want a richer flavor for this cold drink.
4. Bajigur (Mungbean Drink)
Bajigur is a traditional Indonesian drink which has been prepared for many centuries now. It’s made from mung bean, milk, rice flour, brown sugar, coconut milk and ginger water that is then boiled together until you get a smooth paste that can be poured into cups or bowls to serve the drink.
The ingredients are also often mixed with pieces of young coconut flesh as well as pieces of young coconut flesh as well as pieces of ripe banana.
In this article 15 Popular Indonesian Foods was discussed to introduce the typical cuisine from Indonesia. This is part of our series of articles about food from different countries.
With 15 dishes to choose from, the next time you visit Indonesia try picking a few of these local items as they’re all great representations of traditional Indonesian cuisine. Now that you know what foods to look for when visiting Indonesia, go ahead and have a taste of each one so you can experience the country’s authentic side.
Thank you for reading and please leave a comment below if you have anything on your mind!