Indonesian food

Indonesian food reflects the country's diverse cultures and traditions. In general, Indonesian food is rich in spices. The indigenous cooking techniques and ingredients have benefited from trade and influences originating in places as far away as India, China, the Middle East, and Europe.

Regional dishes in Indonesia

Different regions in Indonesia offer different dishes. The Minangkabau region for instance, in West Sumatra, is represented all over the world for it's Padang style food (Padang is the capital city of West Sumatra). Padang style food is pretty spicy and in local restaurants it is being served by waiters who will put all of the earlier prepared dishes on your table and you only pay for the ones you have touched.

The rice table (rijsttafel)

Indonesia is well known for its cuisine. Especially the rice table, that was actually an invention of the Dutch, back in colonial times, is very well known. It consists of a lot of different dishes, a bit like a buffet. Most of you know fried rice (nasi goreng), satay (or sateh in bahasa Indonesia) and maybe some of the Indonesian soups (soto). But ofcourse there is a lot more to the Indonesian cuisine. Please check out our recipe section that will frequently be updated.


The famous and mouth watering Indonesian rice table (rijsttafel)

Rice is the staple Indonesian food

Rice is a staple food for the majority of Indonesians. It holds an important place in the country's culture. It shapes the landscape, is served in most meals, and drives the economy. Plain rice is known as nasi putih. Often, it is accompanied by a few protein and vegetable side dishes. Rice is also served as ketupat (rice steamed in woven packets of coconut leaves), brem (rice wine), and nasi goreng (fried rice).

Staple foods in other regions

In the eastern part of Indonesia, however, corn, sago, cassava, and sweet potatoes are more common. Sago is a powdery starch made from processed pith, the soft and spongy cells found inside the trunk of the Sago Palm (Metroxylon sago). Sago is usually cooked as pancake and eaten with fish and vegetable side dishes.

Check out our section on Indonesian recipes to try some lovely dishes on your own


As its endless coastlines are strategically located between two oceans, the country enjoys an abundance of salt-water fish and seafood. Its many lakes and rivers too provide fresh-water fish. Not surprisingly, fish is major source of protein for the people of Indonesia. Fish is usually smoked, grilled, baked, or cooked.


Next to meat and fish, Indonesia's other main source of protein is soy. Soy-based dishes such as tahu (tofu) and tempe are very popular in Indonesia. In fact, tempe is an adaptation of tofu to the tropical climate of Indonesia. It is uniquely Indonesian. Tempe is made through a controlled fermentation process that binds soybean into a cake form. The fermented soybean holds more protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins than regular tofu. Tempe is usually prepared by cutting it into small pieces, soaking it in a salty sauce and then frying it to a golden brown. Cooked tempe can be eaten alone or accompanied with chili.


Perhaps the most famous Indonesian condiment is called sambal. It is made from various spices including chili, shallots, garlic, and trasi (shrimp paste). It can be served either as a side dish or as a substitute for fresh chili. Sambal is often cooked with fish, vegetables, and meat. Some popular Indonesian sambal include sambal kacang, sambal bajak, sambal balado, sambal belacan, and sambal tomat.


Fruit is also an important part of the Indonesian diet. Fruit is usually served fresh, made into dessert, jelly, or rujak (fruits mixed with savory sauce). Tropical fruits such as banana, papaya, coconut, pineapple, jackfruit, salak, and others are widely available throughout the islands. Seasonal fruits such as water melon, mangosteen, rambutan and durian are also available. Traditionally, the main meal is served at midday. Food that was cooked in the morning is set out all at once for the rest of the day. Members of the family then help themselves, serving with a spoon and eating with their right hands. Today, meals are eaten using modern utensils, usually a fork and a spoon. A soup or vegetable dish may be included in a meal. Sambal is often served with the food.

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