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What to Try in Indonesia: Traditional Food and More

17 April 2021

Throughout history, distant lands attracted people with a promise of discoveries and treasures. Much like the past explorers, tourists and travellers of today in search of new experiences also want to see the foreign lands. There is one place on the map that continuously mesmerises and draws countless visitors to — Indonesia.

The wondrous archipelago of 17 508 islands, Indonesia is a land of stunning natural beauty, rich and fascinating culture and fantastic cuisine. Located in South Asia, the Indonesian archipelago is among the most attractive and fascinating places for globetrotters worldwide! These tropical islands with ancient mountains, lush rainforests and pristine beaches have something for everyone!

Traditional Food in Indonesia

Indonesian Culture 

We cannot describe the culture of Indonesia in any other way than by saying: there is no common culture in Indonesia. With more than 300 ethnicities living across the islands, Indonesia is a multicultural country of friendly and welcoming people. And with a multitude of cultures also come many beliefs, each having its influence on the daily lives of Indonesian people. 

One of the most apparent and enjoyable manifestations of this rich cultural landscape is Indonesian cuisine. Historically, different tribes and ethnicities had their unique recipes and special dishes for various occasions. Nowadays, the intermixed culinary wonderland of Indonesia is here for everyone to enjoy. Each meal you eat has a history to it. With so much to offer, Indonesian cuisine is a treasure trove waiting to be opened. 

Indonesian Culture

Indonesian Dishes for Everyone

Prepare yourself for something special food-wise when visiting Indonesia. We have selected some of the best dishes depending on where and how to enjoy them. Be it on the ever-abundant street markets or sold in restaurants, Indonesian cuisine is destined to impress! 

Indonesian Dishes

For Gastro Tourists

First time to Indonesia? Well, you are in for a welcoming treat of amazing traditional Indonesian food made with the utmost fresh and flavorful local ingredients! No one can honestly say they’ve been to Indonesia without trying them! 

  • Nasi Goreng.

Rice is a staple crop nowadays, right? But do not discard Nasi Goreng as just another fried rice dish! Food in Indonesia is famous for its many rice dishes that play a pivotal role in the national cuisine. Cooked with the local ingredients, including rice, palm sweet soy, and almost anything else that comes to one’s mind, this dish revolutionizes our understanding of fried rice! With its savoury, spicy, and sweet taste, Nasi Goreng is anything but an ordinary rice dish! This popular Indonesian rice dish is available virtually anywhere you go!

Nasi Goreng - food in Indonesia

  • Rendang.

 Initially reserved for special occasions and ceremonies, this beef dish is trendy across the country. Coated in a flavorful gravy sauce made with herbs and coconut, Rendang can be enjoyed across all Padang restaurants. The beef is usually served with cassava leaves, green chillies, and jackfruits. 

Rendang - beef dish

  • Bakso.

These juicy Indonesian meatballs can be an excellent choice for those willing to experience a new take on a well-known dish. Bouncy balls of Bakso are made of minced meat and tapioca. Bakso is served with noodles, vegetables, and fritters, with the addition of savoury broth. Of course, you can spice up the dish even more with sauces and chilli condiment. 

Bakso - juicy Indonesian meatballs

  • Satay.

The variations of Satay are plenty! Indonesians use all kinds of meat and fish for cooking this skewered dish. You can find a Satay made of beef, mutton, chicken, and anything else that can be grilled. The meat is marinated in spicy sauces before being grilled on red hot charcoal to preserve the juiciness. Soy and peanut sauces go well with Satay!

Satay - cooking Indonesian dish

  • Siomay.

This local revamp of the dish from China, Siomay, is a shrimp or fish dumpling assortment. The ready dish is served with slices of potatoes, tofu, boiled eggs and vegetables. Peanut or soy sauce will go well with it. 

Siomay - a shrimp or fish dumpling assortment

For Street Food Advocates 

Indonesia is a paradise for ardent foodies; with many fancy eateries, tourists are never short of options. Of course, we should never overlook the fantastic Indonesian food sold on the streets almost anywhere you go! 

Fantastic Indonesian street food

  • Martabak.

This wonderful dish comes in two varieties, sweet and sour. The savoury variant is made of dough stuffed with minced hard-boiled eggs and a meat of your choice. Before serving, the Martabak is fried till its filling is thoroughly cooked and juicy. Locals prefer to eat Martabak with chillies and spicy dip. The sweet Martabak is an Indonesian dessert that will remind you of pancakes. It comes with different toppings like coconut chips, vanilla, fresh fruits etc. 

Martabak - wonderful dish

  • Gado Gado.

It is one of the most popular vegetarian Indonesian foods. Vegetarians believe it is one of the healthiest dishes as well. Gado Gado is a potpourri of tofu and fresh greens, drizzled with a peanut sauce and garnished with prawn and onions. Boiled eggs may also be added upon request. You can have Gado Gado as a side dish or as a main dish in its own right. While served in restaurants throughout the country, enjoying it on the go is just as amazing! 

Gado Gado - popular vegetarian Indonesian foods

  • Gulai.

This savoury сurry is cooked in the Gulai Tikungan junction in Jakarta. The curry is famous for its rich, creamy texture it gains from succulent meats such as beef, chicken or prawn. The addition of dollops of hot sauce and herbs enriches  Gulai with a bust of strong fragrance that lures people in!

Gulai - a bust of strong fragrance that lures people in

  • Pisang Goreng.

Few people don’t like bananas. Even fewer tried bananas fried in batter — this staple street food Indonesian snack is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. You can have Pisang Goreng as a morning dessert or as an evening snack. 

Pisang Goreng - morning dessert or evening snack

  • Babi Guling.

This dish is a must for all the pork lovers out there! Babi Guling is a classic Bali’s pork delicacy. It includes all kinds of pork meat! Fried pork skin, pork satay, marinated pork meat, and sausages are mixed with sticky rice and Balinese spices. The reason Babi Guling stands out is the special meat roasting process that lasts for hours. Thanks to it, the roasted pork is tender and juicy!  

Babi Guling - classic Bali’s pork delicacy

For Extreme Food Lovers 

There are many bizarre and extraordinary dishes served in Indonesia. Since almost everything that can be eaten is readily cooked here, you can test your nerves and try grilled rats, dishes with fresh blood, and even insects! 

  • Paniki.

If you ever wanted to avenge Dracula — now is your chance! A dish that strikes many corners in go, Paniki is a wild bad fried with coconut milk, paper and spicy herbs to cover a potentially pungent smell. Before you rush to any conclusion, Paniki has long been a part of Indonesian cuisine, favoured by locals and gastro tourists alike. Originating from North Sulawesi, Paniki is not for the faint of heart; sure, if you have no fear — try it and enjoy it! Of course, make sure the bat is fried adequately in the first place! 

  • Belalang Goreng.

The next dish is not for people who distaste garlic! Eating insects as a good source of proteins is yet to gain traction in the West. In Indonesia, people have realized their gastronomic value long ago. Literally translated as fried grasshoppers, Belalang Goreng is commonly sold by street vendors in the Gunung Kidul region. To make the meal more tender so to say, grasshoppers legs and wings are removed before cooking. Marinating these insects with lots of garlic, kaffir leaves, and salt is also a common practice.

Belalang Goreng

  • Lawar.

This bizarre dish is a local speciality of Balinese cuisine. Lawar is made of minced meat, shredded coconut, herbs, and fresh blood. You may find Lawar with other meats in it, but the fresh blood is always there. Originally reserved only for sacred ceremonies, Lawar gained popularity and became a well-known and much thought after dish. Lawar pairs well with rice.

Lawar - bizarre dish, local speciality of Balinese cuisine

  • Sate Biawak.

Does eating a grilled monitor lizard sound enticing to you? Then, this extraordinary dish is the right fit for you! Indonesians love the meat of monitor lizards for its tenderness, luscious taste when cooked just fine! Usually smothered in peanut sauce with the addition of spices, Sate Biawak can surely surprise! 

Sate Biawak - extraordinary dish

  • Ulat Sagu.

Oh, wait, we saved the best for the dessert! Ulat Sagu ― this is how locals in Papua and Maluku call huge beetle larvae usually consumed raw. People commonly scan coconut and sago trees for these nutrients-full succulent snacks. If you want to blend in with the folks, you should also consume these wiggling creatures raw. Luckily, deep-fried and grilled Ulat Sagu are also available.

Ulat Sagu - huge beetle larvae, consumed raw

For Gourmets 

Seasoned gourmets will not be disappointed with what Indonesian cuisine has in store for them. Indonesian cooking is too diverse to let you down! There are many variations of popular dishes with unique, local twists to them. You can taste rare Indonesian dishes reserved for special occasions and meals accompanied by sophisticated ceremonies!

  • Royal Rijsttafel Meal.

Not exactly a single dish, Rijsttafel is more of a ceremony dating back to the colonial period. The Dutch who wanted to celebrate the abundance of Indonesian land hosted lavish dinner parties with numerous dishes on the menu. Rijsttafel is also known as the Indonesian rice table. We encourage you to experience Rijsttafel if possible; traditional dancers and musicians accompany the celebration making this meal even more special. 

Royal Rijsttafel Meal

  • Kepiting Saus Padang.

This delicious crab dish is a speciality of some restaurants and localities in Indonesia. Meaty blue crabs are the best to go when cooking Kepiting Saus Padang. Boiled in hot water until ready, the crabs are then additionally simmered in hot sauce. The sauce includes ginger, turmeric, chilli peppers, garlic and lime leaves, among other herbs. Skipping this amazing dish would be a big mistake! 

Kepiting Saus Padang - speciality of some restaurants and localities in Indonesia

  • Soto Betawi.

There are many varieties of soup throughout Indonesia, all cooked according to local traditions and using available ingredients. Soto Betawi is a soup exclusive to Jakarta. This creamy dish is prepared with tender beef thoroughly boiled with lemongrass and aromatic bay leaves.Coconut and cow milk are often added to give Soto Betawi its creamy texture. Served in a bowl, the soup is topped with fried shallots. Rice and fried vegetables go well with it. Soto Betawi is regarded as one of the main gastronomical highlights of Jakarta’s local cuisine.

Soto Betawi - soup exclusive to Jakarta

  • Ayam Kodok.

If you travel to Indonesia at Christmas, you may be lucky enough to try this stuffed chicken. Few places and chefs cook Ayam Kodok these days, and some consider this recipe a rarity. The chicken is stuffed with minced beef or other meats, generously spiced with chillies and herbs and roasted for an extensive period of time. Served in a special box instead of a common plate, Ayam Kodok goes well with fried rice and fresh greens.

Ayam Kodok

  • Opor Ayam.

This mild and fragrant curry, most often made of chicken boiled in fresh coconut milk, is a rare culinary delicacy. Each bowl of Opor Ayam is further enriched with fresh cinnamon, lemongrass, tamarind juice, and ginger. You should definitely try it!

Opor Ayam - mild and fragrant curry

Enjoy the Food Like Never Before

You may think that to try these incredible foods, you would have to visit the country. But when you are travelling onboard Ragnar, you can enjoy fantastic dishes wherever you go! The professional in-house chefs can cook anything that comes to your mind! All the ingredients are extra fresh and can be air shipped to the yacht should you desire something specific! 

With the state-of-the-art galley, Ragnar is the superyacht that is also a five-star restaurant of the seas. Our chefs will meet and exceed your expectations with exclusive gastronomical delights. When travelling onboard Ragnar, you are always in the gastronomical capital of the world!

Ragnar - superyacht with state-of-the-art cuisine

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