Part of experiencing a new culture and country is to experience their food. After all, good food is definitely the way to my heart, and it provides a glimpse into the soul of a community, as well as their daily life. I love trying new flavors, and Indonesian food does not disappoint. People have asked me to explain the food in Indonesia, and it’s difficult to compare it to something else. They use a lot of soy sauce and peanuts with a hint of sweetness (called ketjap manis). Similar to Thai, but different. Of course, there’s the spicy sambal that accompanies many dishes in Indonesia. This spicy, delicious chili paste can make or break a dish. Enough talking, let’s get to the good stuff: Indonesian food.
If you make it to Indonesia and do not eat nasi goreng, then I’m not really convinced you went to Indonesia. Are you sure you didn’t end up like this girl? This dish was by far Dan’s favorite. It is a salty and slightly sweet fried rice with veggies, curry and other spices, served with prawn chips a fried egg. It is the national dish of Indonesia – definitely do not miss this one! Want to make it yourself? Check out our nasi goreng recipe!
My personal favorite, a collection of everything that Indonesia has to offer all on one plate. Spicy sambal, sweet and crunchy peanuts, several different veggie dishes, satay, curry, tempe… the flavors and side dishes can vary between regions, and every time I ordered it I was very happy.
I really had to work for this dish in Jakarta. No one spoke any english except for a lady selling soup. I didn’t want soup (the heat index was about 105F), but she was kind enough to let me know when I almost ordered duck feet meat (thanks, soup lady!). I watched plate after plate come out, and finally settled on one I thought looked good. Nasi pecel, a vegetarian dish, includes the typical Indonesian veggies, smothered in a thin peanut and ginger sauce, served with a crispy peanut and garlic cracker, fermented tempah and steamed rice. It was delicious, maybe even more so since it didn’t come easy. At 9000IDR, I should have ordered another plate.
This street food staple is a very thick moist and spongy pancake, that can be made with sweet or savory fillings. Every time we ordered martabak, it was sweet and delicious, but very heavy. It’s very unphotogenic, but I did my best. We tried it with cheese and chocolate as well as banana and chocolate. Martabak on the street in Jakarta will set you back anywhere from 15,000IDR to 25,000IDR depending on what you want in it.
Once again, it’s not pretty, but it is tasty. And the smell – oh my! Satay can be served street side, at fancy restaurants or with other dishes. Who wouldn’t love grilled marinated meat on sticks smothered in peanut sauce (unless you are allergic to peanuts)?! I’m not very adventurous when it comes to meat, so I stuck to satay ayam (chicken), but there are several other varieties as well. This plate cost 4,000IDR.
A very close second to Nasi Campur as my favorite dish in Indonesia is pepes ikan. Pieces of fish are smothered in balinese spices and tomatoes, folded into a banana leaf and cooked over a charcoal grill. Served with indonesian veggies and steamed rice.
Sticking with the theme of amazing charocoal-grilled fish is Ikan Bakar, an entire grilled fish with balinese spices. We have never ordered a whole fish before this trip, so we were excited about ordering this dish. It was served with steamed rice, balinese veggies and an amazing salsa-esque sauce of tangy marinated peppers and tomatoes.
Boiled veggies are smothered in peanut sauce, made of ground fried peanuts, palm sugar, chillies, tamarind liquid and lime juice. It is served with extra sauce (um, heck yes!) and fried fluffy tofu.
This fruit is not specific to Indonesia, but it was the first time had ever tried the notoriously stinky fruit. Once you get through the rough, spiky exterior, and the awful inexplicable smell, the fruit itself is quite nice. It’s very sweet, with a custard-like consistency. I would definitely eat it again! Check out this article on the science behind the smell of durian fruit.
We had this for breakfast several times, although it is often served for dessert as well. It is a sticky rice porridge, made out of black rice and coconut milk. A slightly sweet and salty coconut milk is poured over top which kicks this dish to whole other level.
Sometimes thin and crepe-like, sometimes thick and moist, typically stuffed with bananas and served with a side of honey or palm syrup spiked with lime juice. AMAZING. I preferred the thicker ones to tell the truth, however, I regretfully didn’t take a picture of the breakfast I had for 4 days in a row. I had ample opportunity, but was too busy stuffing my face.
You can’t go an entire vacation without trying different foods, and there were some impressive non-Indonesian restaurants that we ate at. Taco Casa, right down the road from our hotel in Ubud served amazing and fresh Mexican fare. The enchiladas were seriously great, and I don’t typically like enchiladas! Their homemade hot sauce is to die for.
One meal I have to say we were both unimpressed with was babi gulung at Ibu Oka in Ubud (supposedly THE place to get this famous Balinese dish).
It’s a whole pig, roasted for hours while being doused in coconut water and balinese spices. It sounds amazing… but it just wasn’t. The meat was kinda tough and chewy, and there wasn’t much flavor. Our dish was 45,000IDR (a little on the expensive side for Indonesia), and was mostly rice. I would try it again at another place – word on the street is that Ibu Oka isn’t what it once was.
What’s your favorite dish you’ve tried while traveling?