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Indonesian Food

There is an amazing variety of food in Indonesia. Usually rice forms the basis of every meal served with an assortment of spicy dishes. Rice may also be eaten with 'Soto', a dish which has the consistency of a broth. 'Sambal,' which is a spicy sauce made from chillies and tomatoes, is available everywhere and is eaten with main dishes and snacks alike. Food in Indonesia is influenced by Chinese cooking. Pork is not widely used, as it is not eaten by Muslims. It is, however, sometimes used in Chinese dishes. Fresh fish is easily available. There is a large variety to choose from, including eels, squid, barracuda, crab and shrimp. In some parts of Indonesia rat, bat, and dog meat is also eaten. Food from the Padang region in Sumatra is very popular all over Indonesia. It is usually served cold and consists of rice with side dishes of fish, beef, chicken or vegetable. This food is also very spicy.Some of the most common Indonesian dishes are 'Nasi goreng', 'Mie goreng', and 'Satay'. 'Goreng' literally means fried. Nasi is rice. This dish is eaten by Indonesians at any time of the day, even breakfast! 'Satay' is a very well-known Indonesian dish and you may have heard of it already. It consists of small pieces of meat, chicken, pork, or beef roasted on a skewer like kebab and served with a spicy peanut sauce. Indonesians like to snack too. They eat potatoes and other starchy roots as a snack. Some snacks you may come across in Indonesian shops are:1. 'Lemper'- made from sticky rice with some meat inside, it is wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled.2. 'Krupuk'- made from shrimp and fried to a crisp. It is like eating shrimp chips !3. 'Lumpia'- fried spring rolls.You may want to pass up roasted dragonflies, a popular Balinese snack.There is a wide variety of unusual tropical fruit available in Indonesia. One is the starfruit or 'Belimbing,' so named because of the shape of the fruit. An exotic fruit found chiefly in Indonesia is the 'Salak'. This fruit can be easily recognized because its skin resembles a snakeskin. It is brown and scaly to look at from the outside. Bananas are plentiful and are available in all sizes - from tiny ones no longer than your finger, to large specimens over a foot long. A fruit you might not want to try is the 'Durian'. This fruit has a very strong odor which many people find extremely unpleasant but it is considered choice eating by many Indonesians.Milk is not easily available in Indonesia even though excellent coffee is grown there. Indonesians don't add milk to their tea and coffee. Coffee and tea are usually served very sweet.



Indonesia has many interesting fruits. Some fruits which are most frequently offered in homes and hotels are: banana, papaya and pineapple. In Indonesia, bananas come in many different sizes and shapes. You will find that some are no larger than your thumb. This variety is called 'biu susu' or 'milk banana'. Another kind called the 'shrimp banana' has a red- colored peel. An interesting type is the 'stone banana' or 'biu batu' as this has many hard seeds inside! Indonesians put the banana tree to good use in addition to enjoying the fruit. Banana stalks are used to stir a cauldron full of dye, the banana flowers are used raw in salad, and banana leaves are used to wrap food. Papayas also come in varying sizes and shapes. Some are like elongated melons, filled with tiny black seeds. The flesh may range from yellow to a deep red. The outer skin is green in color. Indonesians eat unripe papayas as a boiled vegetable. Balinese often wrap meat in papaya leaves to tenderize it.


The Coconut, called 'kelapa', is also widely available and very popular. Indonesians often do not wait for the coconut to mature. They have it when the interior of the coconut is full of delicious coconut water, and the white flesh is thin, moist and easy to scoop out. The mature coconut (with hard, dry skin) as we know it, is used by Balinese to extract coconut oil, and coconut cream. The latter is used as the main ingredient in many curried dishes. Other uses of the coconut include weaving the fibrous outer husk into mats, and using coconut leaves as offerings. The juice of the coconut flower may be boiled to make a type of palm sugar. If this is left to ferment, it turns into a mildly alcoholic drink called 'tuak'.


The 'Durian' is one of Indonesia's most expensive fruits. This is because it is considered to be a delicacy. This fruit has such a strong odor, however, that many hotels and restaurants refuse to serve it. From the outside, the durian looks very much like a porcupine. The peel is covered with sharp spikes!


Some other interesting fruits you will not find in the supermarket at home are 'rambutan', 'salak' and 'sapodilla'. 'Rambutan' comes from the word 'rambut' which literally means hair. The rind of this fruit is bright red and hairy in appearance. The flesh inside is usually white and firm, with one large seed. The skin of the 'salak' is brown in color with scales which resemble a snake skin. This peels off easily to reveal off-white flesh inside which crisp though not juicy. Each fruit has one large seed which Balinese children frequently use as a toy. The 'Sapodilla' looks like a small potato from the outside. It is a rich brown color and is extremely sweet and sugary (like honey). The flesh has a slightly grainy texture to it.


The 'starfruit' or 'belimbing' is aptly named. If you look at a cross-section of the fruit, you will see why. It looks exactly like a five-pointed star! It has a very thin green skin which is edible and the flesh is crisp and juicy. Indonesians sometimes use starfruit juice to polish the blade of the keris. 


Other interesting fruit are the 'Mangosteen' called the 'Queen of fruits', and the 'Langsat' which is a small light yellow fruit with mottled brown skin. The flesh of this fruit has the consistency of stiff gelatin. The Javanese use langsat fruitshells to drive away mosquitos. When burnt, they give off an aromatic smell which functions as a repellant.





  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced 
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup boneless chicken, sliced 
  • 1/2 cup shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 1/2 cup meatballs (optional)
  • 3 cups cooked rice 
  • oil for frying 
  • salt to taste
  • pepper 
  • sweet soy sauce 
  • 2 eggs 

Directions:1. Whisk the eggs. Fry them in 1 tsb of oil and cut them in small pieces. Set aside.2. Fry chopped garlic in 2 tsb of oil. Add shallots and cook until color turns golden brown. Add chilli peppers and stir fry for one minute or less. (Just enough to let the color change). Next, put in the shrimp and stir until color turns opaque. If you like, you can add a little lemon or lime juice at this point. Now add the chicken. Stir-fry the chicken well, then add the meatballs. When all ingredients are cooked, add the cooked rice.3. Mix the rice well with the meat ingredients. Add sweet soy sauce to the mixture. Add just enough to turn the color of the rice brown. Next, add white pepper, and salt to taste. Finally, add the cut-up fried eggs. You could use this as a garnish on top of the rice, or mix it in with the rest of the ingredients.Note: You can substitute vegetables like bell peppers, celery, and carrots for the meat ingredients.





  • 2 ts curry powder
  • 2 ts sugar
  • 1/4 ts coriander powder
  • 1/4 ts cumin powder
  • 3 tb lemon juice
  • 2 tb soy sauce
  • 2 tb oil
  • 1 garlic clove; minced


  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken-breasts or thighs, cut into small pieces
  • 24 (6-inch) bamboo skewers

Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/3 c creamy peanut butter
  • 1 small garlic clove; minced
  • 1 tb brown sugar
  • 1/8 ts crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 ts soy sauce
  • 3/4 ts lemon juice

Directions:1. In a medium bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken pieces. Mix well. Refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours. (It's better to marinate the chicken overnight if you want it very tender.) Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. 2. In a medium saucepan, combine water, peanut butter and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in remaining peanut sauce ingredients. Serve the sauce at room temperature.3. Heat the grill. When ready to barbecue, take chicken pieces, reserving the marinade. Thread 4 to 6 pieces of chicken on each skewer. Place the skewers on the gas grill over low heat or on a charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from the coals. Cook for 8 to 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, turning occasionally and brushing with reserved marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. Serve chicken pieces with peanut sauce. Makes 16 to 20 appetizers.



  • 2 tb dark soya sauce
  • 1 tb sugar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon or 1 lime
  • 1 tsp chili powder or any hot chili
  • 2 shallots, sliced very thin
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
  • 1 tb boiled water

'Kecap' is the Indonesian equivalent of ketchup.This is a very simple sambal, quick and easy to make. It is ideal for adding just a little piquancy to any sate (especially if you don't like peanut butter), and Nasi Goreng.Mix all the ingredients together well, just before serving.