I can say that Indonesia is ‘heaven for food lovers’. You can find any kind of food from local to international dishes. But when you are travelling to Indonesia, don’t waste your money to taste anything except the local food. Eating Indonesian food can be an interesting experience. The diversity of the country will bring you to taste variety of foods. Each of Indonesia’s ethnic groups uses the country’s entire rich array of the spices, but each has its own combinations and tastes: spicy, sweet, hot and sour.
Padang cuisine (or Indonesian calls it Masakan Padang) is probably the most popular across the country. Padang or Minangkabau is the capital city of West Sumatra. Their local specialities are very delicious and you can find their restaurants in every region in Indonesia. Padang/Minang restaurants are easily recognizable by the neatly stacked food basins in their windows. What makes them unique is how they serve the food. When you come to the restaurant (especially the big ones), the waiter will come to you with array of dishes all deftly balanced on his left arm and will place the food on the table in a kind of Asian buffet. Then you can choose which food you would like to eat … they will bring you different kind of dishes, from stewed meats, fish, eggs, chicken and curry.
The famous-mouth-watering speciality from Padang is Rendang Sapi , a spice-encrusted dry beef dish cooked for a long time in coconut milk. But they have some other delicious meals such as Dendeng Balado – it’s a beef served with a hot chilli sauce and Gulai Daun Pakis – its fern tips cooked with coconut milk or red snapper curries. But be aware, some of Padang dishes are very spicy. To cook 300 grams of chillies to 1 kg of meat is not unusual. If you are a spicy food lover, it’s definitely for you. Otherwise you don’t need to worry, they usually serve chilli sauce, or as Indonesian calls it the ‘sambal’, separately and used as condiments or dips.
Manado, northern Sulawesi is a largely agricultural island where coffee, coconut, nutmeg and cloves are the big money-earners. Other Indonesians think that Minahasan food has to be plastered with chilli paste to taste good. Their speciality like Ayam Bakar Rica (grilled chicken) is usually very spicy. Other popular traditional dish is Bubur Manado – rice porridge with different kind of condiments and side dishes such as shredded chicken, sweet soy sauce, dried anchovies, and fried shallots and of course chopped chillies.
If you like less spicy food, some regions on Java have it. For example Jakarta’s food tastes sweet because every dish seems to include palm sugar and sweet soy sauce ( kecap manis ). Semur – Dutch inspired smothered beef with Chinese-Indonesian sweet soy sauce, nutmeg and cloves – is one of their specialities. Other speciality like fried rice ( Nasi Goreng ) and fried noodle ( Bakmi Goreng ) originated from China but then were adapted to the Indonesian tastes until they became ones of Indonesia famous specialities. Otherwise Nasi Goreng and Bakmi Goreng can be found almost in every restaurant across the country.
In Yogjakarta, Central of Java, the typical dishes are Nasi Gudeg , made of young jack-fruit and boiled eggs stewed in coconut milk with a mixture of spices, so the taste is sweet; Ayam Goreng Kalasan – local organic free-range chicken, stewed in spices (coriander, garlic candlenut and coconut water) then fried, served with sambal and raw vegetables salad.
When you travel to East Java, toward Surabaya, you will find another traditional type of food. Sate Madura , a chicken satay from Madura (an island in East Java) is one among others that is really popular. In fact it’s one of the most popular dishes across Asia. Then there are also Soto Ayam Madura – a chicken soup, Rawon – a delicious beef soup that has black colour because it’s made from Kluwak (Pangium edule) nuts, Rujak Cingur – a mixture of raw and boiled vegetable salad served with boiled beef snout (cingur) and poured with sauce made from peanuts, chilli and dried shrimp paste ( petis udang ), Lontong Balap – a healthy vegetarian dish containing compressed rice ( lontong ), fried tofu, lentho made of red soy bean, bean sprouts, and sweet soy sauce and Tahu Campur – a beef soup mixed with fresh vegetables, cassava cake, tofu and serve a mixture of dried shrimp paste ( petis udang ), chilli and garlic.
Bali as the most visited tourist place in Indonesia is filled with five stars hotels and villas all around the area, but that doesn’t mean it has only international food atmosphere. There are two Balinese specialities, Babi Guling and Bebek Betutu. Babi Guling is a grilled suckling pig with crispy skin. Most Indonesians don’t eat pork, especially Moslems. But here, pork is eaten because most of Balinese are Hindus, and they don’t eat beef. Bebek Betutu is a duck delicacy, where the fowl is marinated with many different herbs and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and then baked over a low flame. You can also try Balinese type of satay or they call it Sate Lilit , made from fish minced meat with freshly grated coconut, prawn paste, garlic, chillies, lemon leaves and salt to compose a sticky, dough-like mixture then wrapped around using spears of fresh lemongrass as skewers, and cook them over fire coming from coconut husks rather than charcoal. It is served with either mild or peppery sauce.
Travelling around Indonesia can prove to be a real challenge for your cuisine curiosity. The country is not just offering the beauty, but also will spoil your craving for delicious food. If you want to taste something different, then Indonesia is the right place. As the nation with more than 17.000 islands, Indonesia is a heaven of good food that will awake all of your senses.