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Food in Indonesia – 15 Authentic Indonesian Dishes Recommended by Locals

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor March 29th, 2020 Posted in Asia Travel Blog, Restaurant and Recipes, Travel Blog No comments

Some of the best Indonesian dishes that you shouldn’t miss are listed here! These dishes are highly recommended by locals and you definitely should try them.

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
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Many people around the world aren’t familiar with a country called Indonesia, but well aware of the existence of Bali. Whereas Bali is not an independent country, but a small part of Indonesia. Starts from Sabang in Sumatera to Merauke in Papua, Indonesia has a rich abundant natural, cultural, and culinary resources.

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
Photo by Haryo Setyadi

One of Indonesian culinary pride is Rendang from West Sumatra that was claimed as the world’s most delicious food by CNN for several years repeatedly. There is also Satay which is former US President Barack Obama’s favorite food while he was in Indonesia. But here we will give you a recommendation of 15 types of Indonesian dishes that aren’t yet widely known by tourists, but very popular among locals. 

Divided into 3 parts, here is a list of the dishes that you can use as a reference if you want to explore the pleasure of Indonesian specialties.

Main Dish

1. Rawon

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
Photo by closari CC BY 2.0

Rawon is a black beef dish and has a strong taste. The black color in this stock comes from the grounded spice called kluwak. The spices used are also quite complex, consisting of onion, garlic, turmeric, chili, coriander, galangal, and others.

Rawon is usually served with bean sprouts, salted eggs, and fried onions. And if you love spicy food, there’s sambal or Indonesian Chili sauce served separately. You can add it as much as your taste preference. Locals usually enjoy rawon with a plate of white rice. You can find this dish easily in Java island, especially in Surabaya.

2. Tongseng

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
Photo by .angels. CC BY-ND 2.0

One of the most delicious Indonesian dishes is Tongseng. It is a dish made from rich coconut milk as the soup until it look-like curry. On the soup, they usually add diced meat like goat meat, mutton, or beef and vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, and green onions. It’s seasoned with minced garlic, turmeric, pepper, and soy sauce. This dish is best served while it’s hot and can be enjoyed along with a bowl of rice.

It is said that Tongseng originally came from a district in Central Java, called Boyolali. Tongseng is usually sold in the same stall as Satay. You can find it from street stalls, cafeteria, or restaurants.

3. Opor Ayam


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Still using coconut milk-based soup just like any other tropical dishes, Opor Ayam or Chicken Opor in English is a special dish in Indonesia. This dish is often served during Eid Al-Fitr’s day. Although it consists of complex spices to make an Opor Ayam, nowadays there are so many places that sell instant spices if you want to cook it by yourself. You can find it in the supermarket or even in the traditional market.

This savory dish usually uses chicken as the main ingredient, but sometimes there are also people who use other types of meat such as beef or goat. It’s usually enjoyed with a plate of rice and fried onions as a topping. Be careful to not eat it too much although it has a delicious taste because of the coconut milk that produces fat which is not too good for your health.

4. Bakso / MeatBalls

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
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A clear stock with a rich taste and protein, Bakso or  Meatballs in English is a dish that is widely loved by Indonesian. Almost everyone adores this dish. There are so many places that sell Bakso, mostly street food stall.

Meatballs made from beef or chicken. Based on the serving style, there are some types of bakso, such as:

  • Bakso Malang which originally came from Malang, a district in East Java. This bakso is served along with steamed and fried pangsit, raw tofu, and sliced cabbage;
  • Bakso Solo which originally came from Solo, a district in Central Java. This bakso is served with bean sprout and caism. They usually use glass and yellow wheat noodles as well.

Nowadays there are so many fusion types of Bakso, such as Bakso beranak whereas a small meatball is used as a filling on the bigger meatballs, giant meatball that has a huge size and mostly weighs more than 1 kg for one meatball only, bakso mercon which uses spicy sambal as the filling on the meatball, and many other types of bakso.

5. Mie Ayam

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals3
Photo by Daniel Zemans CC BY 2.0

If there is bakso, then mie ayam should be on the list as well. These two types of dishes are usually sold in the same stall. Mie means noodles, and Ayam means chicken in English. So, this dish literally means noodles with chicken topping. This dish actually had a root from Chinese food but Indonesian modified it to Mie Ayam we know now.

The variation of mie ayam is bakmi ayam, kwetiau ayam, and bihun ayam. What makes them different from each other is the noodles being used as the main ingredient. While mie ayam uses round and thick shaped noodles, bakmi uses small, thin and flat shaped noodles, kwetiau uses flat and bigger noodles than bakmi, and bihun uses glass noodles. There are two ways to served mie ayam, with or without soy sauce. If you will use soy sauce, it will be called mie ayam yamin, and if you will not use soy sauce it’s still the original mie ayam.

6. Ayam Geprek / Smashed Chicken


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Ayam geprek hype skyrocketed in the last few years. Besides, chicken is one of Indonesian’s favorite meat, the spiciness of this dish made everyone feel challenged. It is made from a fried chicken that smashed along with some chilies so it has a wrecked shaped with red chilies on top.

There are so many places that sell this dish. But the most popular one nowadays is a franchise stall called Geprek Bensu which is owned by an Indonesian comedian and entrepreneur  Ruben Onsu. If you love spicy food, don’t forget to try this one.

7. Seblak

Seblak is a new kind of food that gained fans from every Indonesian. This food was first introduced in West Java, Bandung precisely. But now you can find Seblak almost everywhere. This is another type of spicy food from Indonesia that you have to try while you’re staying in this country.

This dish is made from marinated crackers and spices. They usually add noodles, vegetables, meat, sausages, meatballs, or chicken feet. Seblak has a spicy taste, even in some places, they provide seblak with a crazy level of spiciness. If you don’t like spicy food, you can ask the vendor not to use chili in seblak seasoning. But it will produce a different sensation with the spicy one.

Dessert and Snack

8. Martabak


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Some of the best Indonesian dishes include desserts and snacks. There are two types of martabak that are usually found in street stalls, it is called martabak manis and martabak telor.

Martabak Manis or often referred to as terang-bulan is made from flour, eggs, and sugar. These snacks have a variety of toppings, according to customer’s requests. Generally in the form of chocolate, peanuts, and cheese. But now there are many Martabak manis that use other toppings, such as Nutella, green tea, oreo, sweets, and others. If a standard martabak manis is priced around Rp.20,000 – Rp.35,000, martabak with more modern toppings can get up to Rp.100,000 per pan.

Martabak telor or eggs martabak has a more savory taste. The flour dough is flattened until it becomes very thin, then fried and filled with chicken or duck eggs, meat, leeks, and spices. Martabak telor on the roadside is usually priced around Rp. 30,000 – Rp. 50,000.

9. Es Campur

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
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This dessert has many fans because of its sweet and savory taste. Es meaning Ice, and campur means mixed in Indonesian. The soup is made from brown sugar or syrup mixed with coconut milk. Once mixed, this soup is then poured into other ingredients such as avocados, jackfruit, fro, jelly, etc.

10. Es Pisang Ijo


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The name of es pisang ijo comes from the filling that is used in this dish. Pisang means banana, and ijo means green. However, this cannot be interpreted as a green banana because the green color of the bananas is made after the banana is wrapped in a flour mixture that is color green.

This dish originally came from South Sulawesi. It’s using the same soup as used in es campur. But the contents used are very different. Es pisang ijo uses rice flour porridge, bananas wrapped in green flour, and sometimes they also add jelly granules made from sago flour.

Es pisang ijo can be found starting from the roadside to classy restaurants with prices that are not too expensive.

11. Pempek

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
Photo by Vivera Siregar CC BY 2.0

Pempek, mpek-mpek, or empek-empek is how Indonesians say the name, but the most precise way to call it is Pempek. This dish is fishcake and has a savory and delicate taste. Pempek is usually served with kuah cuko or sour sauce made from soy sauce and vinegar so it has a sweet and sour taste. Although it originally came from South Sumatra, nowadays you can find it in other regions as well, especially in the street food vendors.

12. Gorengan / Fries

15 Indonesian Authentic Dishes Recommended by Locals
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Gorengan or fries in Indonesia have very diverse types. There are fried cassava, fried sweet potato, fried bananas, fried tofu filled with vegetables, and so many others. But the type of gorengan that has the most fans is Bakwan. Bakwan itself is an authentic Indonesian dish that is influenced by Chinese dishes.

Bakwan is made from flour mixture mixed with carrots, cabbage, and sometimes sweet corn is added which is then fried in a round shape. It has a savory taste and is usually enjoyed along with whole cayenne pepper.

You can find fried foods anywhere from the roadside to a starred restaurant, generally sold at night.

Drinks and Beverage

13. Bajigur


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If you’re staying in West Java, you have to try its Bajigur. This is a drink that believes to have an efficacy of warming your body when the weather is cold. It is usually served while it is warm or hot and it has a sweet taste. Bajigur is made from coconut milk and Aren sugar. Aren is a palm and its juice is used to make sugar with the traditional process.

What makes it warming the body is by adding a small amount of ginger and salt on the Bajigur. It depends on the availability of the ingredient. 

14. Bir Pletok


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This is a refreshing drink that originally came from Betawi ethnic, the Jakarta natives. This drink has efficacy to unleash blood circulation. 

It is made from ginger, pandan leaves, and lemongrass. To add a color to this drink, sappan wood is added so it has a beautiful red color.

Locals consume it at night to warm their bodies. But since the Jakarta weather is quite hot whether it is day or night, bir pletok is not consumed widely anymore. There are only some places that served this drink on their menus.

15. Secang


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If you want to try a king style drink, try this wedang secang which comes from the sultanate of Yogyakarta. Indonesians do not make a drink without any reason, this drink also has efficacy to improve the stamina, overcoming the flatulence and many others.

The ingredients of this drink are sappan wood, lemongrass, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. These spices are boiled until it produces a great scent. Then strain and take the extract to be served together with rock sugar whose amount can be adjusted to your taste.

Those were some of the Indonesian dishes that are not widely popular among tourists yet but worth a try. It will give you an unforgettable experience and might make you want to go back to Indonesia. 

Note: If you’re a pork and alcohol lover, you might have a difficult time looking for these food. That’s because Indonesia’s population is a majority of Muslims. And it prohibits consuming pork and alcoholic drinks. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t find pork and alcohol, a place like Bali, North Sumatera, Papua, North Sulawesi, and Maluku has a majority of non-muslim natives and that means that finding pork dishes are easier. Alcohol is forbidden by the government, so you can only find it in a place that has permission to sell it, such as in a bar or if you’re in Bali, the minimarket also sells canned alcohol.

With a lot of mouthwatering Indonesian dishes, this list is absolutely not enough. However, when you decide to visit this country, you now have a reference that you can use. So, which one of these Indonesian dishes that you eagerly want to try? Tell us your opinion!

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Written by Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor

Two Monkeys Travel Group – Community Travel Blog is a travel blog and website. We quickly grew into a valuable source of inspiring travel stories, advice, itineraries and travel guides, with the aim of demonstrating how to live a sustainable life of travel, whilst living your own definition of success. If you'd like to contribute and write a guest post, contact us at [email protected]