Indonesia has some really tasty food, but you’ll have to break away from the restaurants and cafes and sit on the plastic chairs at a warung or street stall to get some cheap, authentic eats. Here are some of the different foods I ate while in Indonesia and that you’ll likely see in most places you’ll visit here:
Nasi Goreng: this is a dish you’ll find everywhere in Indonesia and it’s a staple for their diet – they eat it for breakfast! Nasi means rice and goreng means fried, so that’s all it is… fried rice. Vegetables, chicken, kerupak (shrimp crackers) and a fried egg top the rice and make for a really cheap, tasty meal (especially when you add hot sauce!).
Gado-gado: a salad of boiled vegetables (cabbage, carrots, green beans, potato, bean sprouts), sometimes tofu and tempe and covered in peanut sauce! It sometimes comes with rice and is delicious and reasonably healthy.
Curry: combines coconut milk, ginger, garlic, chillies, tumeric and other spices to make a bright yellow curry that normally has a soup-like consistency. You can have it vegetarian with carrot, potato, green bean & onion (curry sayur) or with chicken (curry ayam, sometimes with veggies though sometimes not!) and it usually (but not always) comes with rice that thickens it up a bit.
Sate: you’ll see sate stalls everywhere, where they chop up meat and slide it onto a skewer and cook it over hot coals. The skewers are really cheap but they don’t waste any of the chicken so you might find a bit of gristle/other bits on there. The skewers are served with peanut sauce (pecel).
Rendang: a delicious dish where meat is slow cooked in a coconut gravy and a variety of spices that make it sweet but savoury. It is served with rice and usually has potato in it as well. My favourite was tempe rendang and Glen liked the beef rendang… yum!
Gudeg: a special dish from Yogyakarta that takes young jackfruit (a big, spiky fruit) and cooks it down to a stew-like consistency. It is served with rice, a hardboiled egg, veggies and chicken usually. It is really tasty and a must-try if you’re in Yogya!
Bakso: meatball soup that is sold by men on bikes or pushing carts. You’ll notice them right away by the big metal pot, bowls, sauces and accompaniments on their carts. I’m not sure what kind of meat is in the meatball, but the hot broth with meatballs is poured over noodles and cabbage/other veggies and topped with green onion. Add sambal at your own risk (it’s super spicy!). Bakso sellers seem to be everywhere and it’s an extremely cheap snack/meal.
Babi Guling: a specialty dish from Bali, a pig is slowly roasted and is served with other piggy bits. I had no idea what I was eating, but it was spicy and tasty.
Soto Ayam: soto = soup and ayam = chicken, so this is just chicken soup but is quite tasty. The hot chicken broth is poured over noodles and can be served with chunks of chicken.
Gorengans: a stall selling deep fried things is called a gorengan, and you can get everything from fried chicken (ayam goreng) to friend bananas (pisang goreng), fried bread and fried spring roll type things (lumpia).
Ikan: being so close to the sea, fish is on every menu in Indonesia. Try it fried, steamed or barbecued – you won’t get a filet like back home, instead they’ll cook the whole fish and you’ll just have to avoid the bones but it’s always delicious and fresh!
Padang Food: we had this while in Sumatra – a variety of dishes come out on small plates and you only pay for what you eat.
Tempe: I never really knew anything about tempe other than you can buy tempe burgers in Canada, but tempe was a staple in my diet while in Indonesia! Is essentially is soybeans that have been compressed into a block then fried. Add great texture to meals and is a really good meat alternative.
Indonesian Veggies: the main veggies we found in most our meals were cabbage, water spinach and green long beans. Water spinach and green long beans were favourites.
Fruits: Indonesia has a lot of fruits I’d never seen before, such as snakefruit, durian, jackfruit, rambutans and mangosteens. They also have tons of papaya, watermelon, bananas, pineapple and oranges. They don’t grow apples in Indonesia so they’re expensive.
Juices: “Juice” really means “smoothie” in Indonesia, and almost all warungs and restaurants sell them. Ice, fruit and normally sugar (ask for no sugar “tidak gula”) are piled into a blender and served in a tall glass. So goood….
Kolak Pisang: an Indonesian dessert made with coconut milk and palm sugar with bananas. Can also have sweet potato in there too and is served hot or cold. Really good!
Kopi & Teh: coffee (kopi) in Indonesia typically consists of really fine coffee grounds with hot water and loads of sugar stirred around until the grounds settle on the bottom. It takes a bit of getting used to, but is actually really tasty! Tea (teh) is offered everywhere along with iced teas.