7 most “Indonesian” dishes
The cuisine of the islands of Indonesia is as diverse as the people of this exotic country. On the one hand, Indonesian dishes have experienced the influence of Chinese, Indian, and other cuisines, on the other, they represent a unique mix of the cultural characteristics and climatic conditions of Indonesia.
Here is a selection of seven dishes, which are a kind of core of the cuisine of this island republic.
The basis of the Indonesian ration is rice, and nasi goreng, in translation – fried rice with vegetables and meat – is one of the most famous dishes of the islanders. It is believed that the Indonesians learned to fry rice in vegetable oil from the Chinese. The spicy part is made of chili, shallots and garlic, depending on the region; some people add turmeric root, tamarind, etc. to the nasi goreng. The vegetable base of the dish also varies – onion, paprika, sprouted soy. The main ingredients include egg, chicken, shrimp. Those Indonesians, who do not practice Islam, add pork to nasi goreng.
This dish has long been popular in Pan-Asian restaurants around the world, and in Indonesia, it’s served both by street benches and by the most expensive restaurants.
There is a popular «brother» of nasi gorenga – mi goreng, which is a similar dish, but cooked with noodles as a garnish.
A mixture of boiled or raw vegetables, ground with peanut sauce, gadgo-gado came to Indonesia's kitchen from Java. Gado-gado translates as «mish-mash», and really, there are so many kinds of this dish. Sweet potato, beans, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage, spinach and many other things in different variations are mixed in gadgo-gado. The sauce is made of crushed peanuts fried in peanut oil. Although it is an independent dish, it sometimes served with roasted meat, turned from a salad into a garnish.
Tempeh are briquettes of fermented soybeans. Like kimchi for Koreans, the tempeh is a snack that Indonesians eat with everything. It is made simply enough – the softened beans are opened, cooked a bit. Half-cooked beans mix with fermenting fungus and left to oxidize for a day. Fermented beans sold semi-finished in briquettes. Indonesian fry tempeh in oil or marinate it. Tempeh can be eaten on it’s own or added to numerous variety of dishes. It has a complex taste, with notes of nuts or mushrooms.
Juicy meat on skewers is the most popular street food all over the country; a tourist can buy it everywhere. They are made of chicken, pork, offal, seafood – this is a juicy, smokey and tasty dish. Sate became a thing in Indonesia in the early XIX century, it was very convenient for Indonesians – quickly prepared, nutritious, you can eat on the go. There are dozens of varieties of the satay, for example, Balinese love satay lilith - minced seafood meat, fried and strung on the branches of the cymbopogon – an edible plant with a refreshing taste. It's almost impossible to go to Bali without trying the satay!
This dish, unlike the previous ones, is not popular all over Indonesia and is interesting because of its cultural context. Babi guling is a suckling pig fried on a spit, is served with steamed rice and lavar – a mix of vegetables, coconut and meat. Most of Indonesians are Muslim, so babi guling is a dish that you can try only in settlements with a predominantly Hindu or Christian population, as pork for Muslims is haram.
If you want some munchies, then krupuk is for you – it’s chips made of flour or starch, combine with dried seafood or fish. They served with sauces, this Indonesian snack can be found anywhere – they are cooked at home, in restaurants, you can buy half-cooked krupuk that you can fry yourself. Chips is snack for us, but krupuk is a kind of analogue of bread for Malaysians and Indonesians.
This drink originates from the thirteenth century, and is a medicinal tincture made of fruits and herbs. Jamu was created on Java, and now it is popular all over Indonesia. There are thousands of recipes, but the most popular is probably a combination of lime, turmeric root and ginger, which has strong antiseptic and detox effects. Nowadays jam is not only a drink, but also medical drugs and cosmetics.