Indonesia is the third largest producer of rice in the world, growing up to 50 million tons per year in the last decade. The average Indonesian consumes 441 pounds annually. But if rice is the star of most of this country’s meals, its various side dishes play delicious supporting roles. And what a cast … with 6,000 populated islands, Indonesia’s cuisine is hugely diverse. What’s more, the archipelago’s Spice-Islands reputation keeps today’s meals flavorful.
Ayam Penyet means “flattened chicken,” and it could be the tastiest bird you’ll ever eat. Preparation is simple: after marinating the pounded chicken in spices, it is fried to crispy, golden perfection. It is often served with plain steamed rice, sambal (see below), and vegetables.
Bakso is often found in street markets, a hearty meatball soup with noodles, tofu, chili, crisply onion, and sweet soy sauce. The meatballs might be made from beef, chicken, fish, or a combination of the three.
Cap Cai takes its inspiration from Chinese cuisine. The vegetable stir fry might consist of cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, onion, chili peppers, and mushrooms – all fried up with a dash of soy sauce. Some versions might include chicken or shrimp. Simple steamed rice is often served on the side.
Nasi Goring is a simple and wholesome meal of steamed rice fried with chili, shrimp paste, onion, garlic, and soy sauce. The beauty of this dish is its versatility; most anything can enhance it, from meats to eggs to cucumbers. Variations are found by region, from pale and mild to rich and spicy.
Otak Otak combines minced fish, lemongrass, kadok leaves, ginger, lime leaves, turmeric, eggs, coconut milk, and seasoning in banana leaves. That succulent package is then steamed or grilled over an open fire.
Sambal is actually a condiment, but it is on virtually every Indonesian table. Many dishes simply aren’t complete without this saucy combination of chiles, shrimp paste, lime juice, sugar, and salt.
Soto varies in its preparation by region. It is typically a mild soup of herbs, coconut milk, and either chicken or beef. Compressed cubes of rice (nasi himpit) might be served with it. Some parts of the country have spicier versions.
Tempe, though often used as an ingredient in other dishes, might be served on its own as a protein-rich substitute for meat. Its nutty flavor is enhanced when marinated in spices, lime juice, and turmeric, then fried.
Enjoy the diverse cuisine of Indonesia on our Discovery Tours’ Indonesia: Java & Bali small group tour!