The Far East is home to plenty of unforgettable foods. From piping hot bowls of phở and ramen, to plates piled high with fried rice or pad Thai, flavors are abundant overseas. Indonesia is no exception; between family-run street stalls and high-end eateries, there’s a dizzying array of dishes to choose from. To those in search of a feast for the senses, we recommend seeking out these seven Indonesian delicacies.
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Here is some Indonesian food you have to try before you die
If you’re big on Japanese tempura, bakwan are your ideal Indonesian treat. These fritters are a staple street food, sold at marketplaces throughout the country. They consist of mixed vegetables—typically shredded cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and scallions—which are dredged in batter and deep fried to a crispy golden brown. A variant of the dish, bakwan udang, calls for the addition of whole shrimp. Bakwan are often paired with peanut sauce for dipping, or a side of fresh spicy chilies.
Making this traditional rice dish is a lengthy process. Luckily, it only requires three ingredients: glutinous rice, coconut milk, and salt. The ensuing mixture is wrapped in banana leaves to prevent stickage, then nestled inside a hollow bamboo tube and placed by an open fire. The cooking process takes upwards of five hours. Moreover, the bamboo must be rotated regularly to ensure even cooking. The result is a sticky parcel of rice, perfect for snacking or serving as a side dish.
Originally inspired by the cuisine of Arab immigrants, this mutton soup can be found across the Malay Archipelago. The recipe for sup kambing differs by region, though. The Indonesian version sticks close to its Arab roots, incorporating both the meat and bones of the goat. Sliced tomatoes, celery, and scallions are added to the mix, as well as a complex array of spices. The final elements are a light, balanced broth, and a generous garnish of lime leaves and toasted candlenut.
A Javanese favorite, gudeg is made by stewing young jackfruit with palm sugar and coconut milk. Over the course of hours, the unripe fruit becomes soft and tender. Various additives—from garlic and shallots, to candlenut and teak leaves—can lend this sweet stew a savory edge. While it is often served alongside chicken or hard-boiled eggs, gudeg itself is made without animal products, making it both vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
Laksa derives its name from an old Persian word for “noodles.” Befittingly, the dish is a spicy noodle soup which can be made in a multitude of ways. Thick wheat noodles or rice vermicelli are common, but the use of spaghetti or egg noodles is not unheard of. As for the soup, it is typically built on either sour asam, such as tamarind, or a combination of curry and coconut milk. No preparation is inherently superior, so go with whatever will satisfy your palate. Whether it’s an asam laksa with seafood, or a rich curry laksa, you’re in for a treat.
Mie goreng—literally “fried noodles” in the local tongue—is a prolific dish in Indonesia, prepared by street vendors and top-quality restaurants alike. Yellow wheat noodles, also known as “bakmi,” are fried in a wok with onions, garlic, and vegetables. Chicken and eggs are popular proteins, but beef or seafood varieties are not uncommon. Before serving, the dish is dressed with sweet soy sauce and sambal chili paste, culminating in a flavor profile equal parts sweet, spicy, and savory.
Though it has all the hallmarks of a dessert, kolak is considered more of a snack food in Indonesia. Sugar and coconut milk form the base of the dish, while pandanus leaves contribute a unique underlying flavor. A modified recipe, kolak pisang, incorporates chunks of banana. Other additives can include yam, pumpkin, cassava, and tapioca pearls. Kolak is especially popular as an iftar dish – a meal eaten to break one’s fast during the holy month of Ramadan.