The Food Of Indonesia


Indonesian cuisine is one of the most exotic and colourful in the world, full of intense and vibrant flavours. There are many different food regions in Indonesia, sixteen in total! Some include Jakarta, Java, Madura, Bali, Aceh, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, Maluku and Papua. 

The Food Of Indonesia

Indonesian food has gained influence from Middle Eastern & Indian cuisines, creating dishes like flavoured rice, curried meat and vegetables. The Chinese brought over noodles, spring rolls as well as other stir-fried dishes. Eastern Indonesian flavours are heavily influenced by Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. Hot and spicy food evolved in Indonesia when the Spanish introduced chilli peppers. 

The food of Indonesia is complex with rich flavours, perfectly balancing sweet, salt, sour and bitter. Hot and spicy food like sambal and chilli sauce with shrimp paste are a staple condiments. The main Indonesian cooking methods involve frying, boiling, grilling, roasting, sautéing and steaming.


  • Indonesians have snacks and a variety of small dishes throughout the day, plus their main meals.
  • Charcoal cooking and meats on skewers are a very popular street food.
  • Indonesia has a diverse range of sambal accompaniments. The most iconic being sambal belacan and unripe mango sambal.
  • Sambal is a paste made by pounding a combination of chillies, fermented shrimp paste, tangy lime juice, sugar and salt.
  • Many Indonesians are not strict vegetarians, however small numbers of practicing Buddhists will consume a mostly plant-based diet.
  • With such a large amount of the population being Muslim, pork or alcohol is rarely seen in any Indonesian recipes (with the exceptions of Balinese cuisine).


  • Rice is served as an accompaniment to main meals and can be cooked in coconut milk, turmeric or (simply) plain water. Rice dishes can also be steamed in woven packets of coconut fronds or banana leaves and even used in desserts!
  • Nasi Goreng is considered the national dish of Indonesia. This spicy stir-fried rice is often eaten for breakfast and served with eggs, dried anchovies, sambal, sliced tomato and cucumber.
  • Wheat flour is used in making noodles, roti and other breads.
  • Common tuber vegetables used include yams, sweet potato, potato, taro and cassava. Popular starchy fruits are Jackfruit and breadfruit.
  • Sago flour or pearls can be a staple ingredient for congee or mixed with water to make pancakes or steamed buns. 
  • Green leafy vegetables like kangkong or spinach are often merely cooked with garlic and a little oil.
  • Gado-gado is a famous salad using cooked vegetables dressed with a spicy peanut sauce.
  • "Rempah" is the Indonesian word for spice and "bumbu" indicates a spice mixture or seasoning. Both words are interchangeable when used to describe what we know as curry paste.
  • Indonesia is known as “The Spice Islands", with many native spices: nutmeg, mace, clove, pandan leaves and galangal.
  • Introduced aromatics used commonly are black pepper, turmeric, lemongrass, shallot, cinnamon, coriander and tamarind, ginger, scallions and garlic.
  • Tempeh, a fermented soy product is widely used in vegetarian cuisine or as a meat replacement.
  • The umami rich shrimp paste is essential in Indonesian cooking and provides a flavour kick to many spice blends, stir-fries and braises.
  • Soy sauce and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) are another two essential Indonesian ingredients. They are used to marinate barbecued meat or fish, provide colour and flavour to stews, dress salads or used as part of dipping sauces.
  • Coconut water, milk, flesh (fresh or dried) and cream are used for both sweet and savoury meals and snacks.
  • Peanuts and candlenuts are popular in Indonesian cookery. If you find it difficult to source candlenuts, macadamias are an excellent substitute.


  • Popular Indonesian drinks are tea and coffee.
  • Common fruit juices and smoothies include orange, guava, mango, soursop, durian and avocado.
  • Durian can also be made into ice cream or sorbets called es durian.
  • Many drinks are served with crushed ice and are also classified as desserts. 
  • Primarily an Islamic country, Indonesian Muslims are not permitted to consume alcoholic beverages.