Food in Indonesia

Why there are not many Indonesian restaurants all over the world is a great mystery to me, as Indonesia is one of my favorite countries in the world for eating, hands down. From the lesehan of Java to the numerous Padang-style rumah makan, delicious food is always steps away in Indonesia, dirt cheap and full of flavor. In this post, just a few Indo-staples, along with a couple regional dishes from our trip.

There are three “dishes” that I would consider the holy trinity of quick and dirty eating in Indonesia: nasi campur, nasi goreng and mie goreng.

Nasi campur, which means “mixed rice,” isn’t really a dish per se, but a sort of table d’hote–white rice served with whatever dishes are on offer that day. A nasi campur often includes some vegetables, fried tempe (a sort of meat substitute made of grains and pulses), flavored boiled egg, chicken curry or fried chicken and sambal. Nasi campur is the absolute most basic food that is available anywhere–since you are just served what is available–and cheap (around USD 1). It is, along with its Malaysian cousin nasi lemak, one of the tastiest, cheapest meals known to man.

At a restaurant in Lombok. Fried scallions are a common seasoning.

If you’re in the mood for something hotter/more freshly prepared, a good step sideways is Indonesian fried rice, or nasi goreng (literally, “fried rice”). Nasi goreng packs a bit more flavor than Chinese-style fried rice and almost always comes with a fried egg for extra protein.

Served on a leaf

Somewhat more simple and less tasty is mie goreng (“fried noodles”). Mie goreng is essentially a sort of dry instant noodle, often very salty but always appetizing.

A fourth typical dish, and Indonesia’s most common and unique vegetable plate, is gado gado, a plate of blanched vegetables served with peanut sauce and usually a shrimp chip or two. To be honest I don’t like it too much, but Derek does, comparing it to Chinese cold sesame noodles.

Some more localized specialties:

Seafood is common in Indonesia, with fish often baked in banana leaves. This dish was from Flores.

From Lombok, a spicy chicken dish, flavored in part with kaffir lime leaves

From Tana Toraja in Sulawesi, pa’piong, pork and chicken cooked in bamboo

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