What to eat in Indonesia

Indonesia Food
A Vagabond Life

A Guide To The Best Indonesian Food

Top Dishes to Eat in Indonesia: A Culinary Journey

Indonesia is a culinary paradise, with a rich and diverse food culture that reflects its history, geography, and the various ethnic groups that call this archipelago home. From spicy street snacks to elaborate ceremonial dishes, Indonesian cuisine is a vibrant tapestry of flavors and textures. Here are some of the top dishes you must try when visiting Indonesia.

1. Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)

Nasi Goreng is perhaps Indonesia’s most iconic dish, a fragrant fried rice often served with a fried egg on top. It’s made with leftover rice stir-fried with sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), garlic, shallots, tamarind, and chili, then mixed with vegetables and meat such as chicken, prawns, or beef. The dish is garnished with pickled cucumbers and carrots, krupuk (crackers), and a side of sambal (chili paste). Nasi Goreng is a staple at street food stalls and high-end restaurants alike.

2. Satay (Skewered Meat)

Satay consists of skewered and grilled meat served with a rich peanut sauce. It’s typically made with chicken, beef, or lamb, marinated in a mixture of spices including turmeric, coriander, and lemongrass. The skewers are then grilled over an open flame, giving them a smoky, charred flavor. Satay is usually accompanied by lontong (rice cakes) and a side of fresh cucumbers and onions. This dish is enjoyed as both a street food snack and a main course in Indonesian households.

3. Gado-Gado (Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce)

Gado-Gado is a traditional Indonesian salad made with a variety of blanched and raw vegetables such as cabbage, bean sprouts, spinach, and green beans, along with tofu and tempeh. The salad is drizzled with a savory peanut sauce and topped with hard-boiled eggs, fried shallots, and krupuk. Gado-Gado is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as a main course or a side dish, offering a healthy and satisfying meal that’s bursting with flavor.

4. Rendang (Slow-Cooked Beef)

Originating from the Minangkabau ethnic group of West Sumatra, Rendang is a rich and tender beef dish slow-cooked in coconut milk and a complex blend of spices, including ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, and chilies. The cooking process takes several hours, allowing the meat to absorb the intense flavors and become tender. Rendang is often served during special occasions and ceremonies and is considered one of the world’s most delicious dishes.

5. Soto (Traditional Soup)

Soto is a traditional Indonesian soup with many regional variations. The most common type is Soto Ayam, made with chicken broth, vermicelli noodles, and shredded chicken, flavored with turmeric, lemongrass, and lime leaves. The soup is garnished with boiled eggs, fried shallots, and fresh herbs, and often served with rice or lontong. Soto is a comforting and flavorful dish, perfect for breakfast or as a hearty meal at any time of day.

6. Nasi Padang (Sumatran Rice Dish)

Nasi Padang refers to a style of serving rice with a variety of pre-cooked dishes originating from West Sumatra. The dishes include rendang, sambal (spicy sauce), gulai (curry), and various vegetables and meat. The food is displayed in a glass case, and customers choose from the array of dishes to accompany their rice. Nasi Padang restaurants are ubiquitous in Indonesia, offering a feast of flavors and textures that showcase the rich culinary traditions of Sumatra.

7. Bakso (Meatball Soup)

Bakso is a popular Indonesian street food consisting of meatballs made from beef, chicken, or a mixture of both. The meatballs are served in a clear broth with noodles, tofu, and vegetables, and garnished with fried shallots and celery. Bakso is often enjoyed with a side of sweet soy sauce, chili sauce, and vinegar. This comforting dish is widely available from street vendors and small eateries, making it a favorite quick meal for locals and tourists alike.

8. Sambal (Chili Paste)

No Indonesian meal is complete without sambal, a spicy chili paste that accompanies almost every dish. There are countless variations of sambal, each with its unique flavor and heat level. Common ingredients include chili peppers, garlic, shallots, and lime juice, with some versions incorporating shrimp paste or tomatoes. Sambal adds a fiery kick to dishes and is a testament to Indonesia’s love for bold and spicy flavors.

9. Sate Lilit (Balinese Minced Seafood Satay)

Sate Lilit is a Balinese specialty made with minced fish or seafood mixed with grated coconut, lime leaves, lemongrass, and a blend of spices. The mixture is wrapped around bamboo sticks or lemongrass stalks and grilled over an open flame. This dish is known for its aromatic and succulent flavor, often served with a side of sambal matah (raw shallot and lemongrass relish) and steamed rice.

10. Martabak (Stuffed Pancake)

Martabak is a popular street food snack with both sweet and savory versions. Martabak Manis is a thick, sweet pancake filled with chocolate, cheese, peanuts, and condensed milk. Martabak Telur, on the other hand, is a savory stuffed pancake filled with eggs, minced meat, and spices, then fried until crispy. Both versions are beloved by Indonesians and make for a delicious treat any time of day.


Indonesian cuisine is a reflection of the country’s diverse culture and rich culinary heritage. From the smoky flavors of satay to the comforting warmth of soto, each dish tells a story and offers a unique taste experience. When traveling to Indonesia, make sure to explore the local food scene and indulge in these iconic dishes that capture the essence of this vibrant nat

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