Indonesian Food: Top 10 Must-Eat Local Dishes in Indonesia

Indonesian Food: Top 10 Must-Eat Local Dishes in Indonesia

There are so many destinations in Southeast Asia that offer beautiful natural attractions and vibrant cultures — however, not a lot of them can offer the ‘whole package’. This is mostly why Indonesia has easily captured the hearts of travelers worldwide because aside from its majestic views and welcoming people, the country is also a huge gastronomical adventure! From fried foods to a variety of salads, from satays to flavored rice… the varying streets and stalls of Indonesian food surely have a delectable array of cuisines to offer to just about any palate.

As such, visitors should NOT miss the chance of tasting the best local delicacies that Indonesia has to offer; after all, there is much to enjoy with how they fuse local ingredients and traditional cooking styles. With the help of this guide as a start, go and indulge yourself with the following Indonesian food dishes among many others!
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Best Tours in Indonesia?

Come and check out this list of the top things to do in Indonesia which features the best activities and tours to do in Bali and more!

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Top 15 Instagram-Worthy Cafes in Bali
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Top photo from Shutterstock.

Indonesian Food

#1 – Nasi Goreng

Indonesian Food: Nasi GorengPhoto from Shutterstock
Nasi goreng, which literally means ‘fried rice’, is a staple and favorite Indonesian food among locals and tourists alike. In fact, it has been often referred to as the top national dish of Indonesia — though there are also a lot of other contenders for this title.

Anyhow, this can be found just about anywhere: from humble street food carts to high-end restaurants. Its ingredients primarily compose of various Indonesian spices, mixed with shredded egg omelette (or a sunny-side-up), some pieces of meat (often chicken or sometimes prawns), and vegetables. Now, of course, fried rice in Asia is common but what distinguishes nasi goreng from the rest is its aromatic and earthy flavor due to the generous shrimp paste and sweet soy sauce that is added into it.

Where to best eat it? Recommended by locals and travel writers, the Nasi Goreng Gila Sabang offers one of the best nasi goreng in Indonesia. It is located at Jl. Sidoarjo 3 in Central Jakarta. If you want a spot in Bali, go to Warung Dedalu; or in Ubud, Warung Biah Biah.

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#2 – Gado-gado

Gado-gado SaladPhoto from Shutterstock
Locals call this dish the ‘Indonesian vegetable salad’ given that a gado-gado contains blanched or steamed vegetables like bean sprouts, long beans, potatoes, spinach, along with tofu and tempeh, and then drizzled with a thick spicy peanut sauce. It is also often served with compressed rice cakes wrapped in banana leaf or lontong, as well as some hard-boiled eggs.

This is arguably one of the healthiest Indonesian food dishes, that its favorability and popularity has helped make this one of the 5 national dishes of the country (the rest being soto or Indonesian soup, rendang, sate or satay, and nasi goreng — so take note of these other dishes too!).

Where to best eat it? Gado-Gado Cemara, located at Jl. Tanah Abang V 36, Jetojo Selatan, Central Jakarta has the best savory peanut seasoning that makes the dish more appetizing and delicious.

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#3 – Satay

Indonesian Food : SatayPhoto from Shutterstock
Satay is a popular Indonesian food and also a national dish. It is extremely popular that not only has it spread far and wide throughout Southeast Asia, but it is also easily bought off a traveling stall, street eatery, or even an upper-class restaurant in Indonesia.

Basically, it is grilled or barbecued meat of skewered chicken, beef, mutton, fish, pork, or even exotic meats. It is marinated in a special mixture of soy sauce and spices and then grilled over wood or charcoal fire. The juicy skewers of satay are then often topped with condiments such as peanut sauce (often called satay sauce) or soy sauce with chili. Though these are typically eaten as is, I personally love eating them together with a bowl of hot rice!

Where to best eat it? Satay is sold by several eateries and street food stalls in Indonesia, but if you’re looking for the most tender and juicy meat skewers (as said by the locals and food critics), head to Sate Padang Ajo Ramon in South Jakarta, which is also known for their unique chili sauce. If you’re rather in Bali, look for the restaurant called Warung Sate Bonbon.

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#4 – Rendang

Indonesian Food : RendangPhoto from Shutterstock
Rendang is an Indonesian meat dish that originated in West Sumatra, and this dish is famous for its long slow-cooking procedure and flavor. The original form of Rendang uses beef, but there have been several variations according to the tastes and preferences of the customers. After it has been braised in coconut milk and spices up until the liquid evaporates and the meat turns tender and brown, a lot of people would often think that it’s a curry dish — however, this Indonesian food isn’t since it has less liquid than most curries.

Nevertheless, rendang is an explosion of a myriad of flavors and considered as one of the most famous local foods in Indonesia. Truth be told, CNN even declared it as the #1 most delicious dish of their ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods‘.

Where to best eat it? These two eateries in Central Jakarta offers the best Beef Rendang in different ways: Simpang Raya is known for their brownish and savory Beef Rendang while Sari Bundo is known for their spicy Beef Rendang. These places are often occupied by locals. Whereas in Bali, you can head over to Seminyak’s Chandi to try their beef rendang.

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#5 – Nasi Uduk

Nasi UdukPhoto from Shutterstock

Nasi uduk is one of numerous Indonesian food rice-based dishes and it literally means ‘mixed rice’ in Betawi dialect. What you will love about this is that the rice in the dish is cooked in coconut milk together with pandan leaves, lemongrass, cloves and cinnamon. This results in a creamier, more savory, and aromatic rice that pairs well with tempeh or anchovies!

For years, this has become a popular breakfast meal that is often sold with side dishes such as eggs, fried rice noodles, or potato cake. Nasi uduk is also often pre-packed in a cone-shaped banana leaf.

Where to best eat it? If you’re craving for a flavorful nasi uduk in Bali, go to Chandi. Or if you’re in Central Jakarta, dine at Nasi Uduk Kebon Kacang Zainal Farami, and brace the queues that is as long as the name of this place. Besides, it is known for a savory and fragrant steamed rice. 

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#6 – Mie Aceh

Mie AcehPhoto from Shutterstock
Aside from spicy meat dishes and flavored fried rice, Indonesians also specialize in noodles as part of their local cuisine. Mie aceh, for instance, is a curried spicy noodle dish from Aceh.

Using thick yellow noodles that are typically homemade, mie aceh is usually served with slices of beef, lamb, seafood (shrimp or crab), as well as vegetables such as bean sprouts, garlic, cabbage, and tomatoes. It is seasoned with a spicy blend incorporated by chili peppers, shallots, caraway, cardamom, and cumin as it is served in a rich hot curry-like soup. For your fix of this Indonesian food, it can easily be bought from street vendors or at hawker-style eateries.

Where to best eat it? For the best authentic taste, Mie Razali is known for its spicy noodles that are served with chicken or seafood soup. It is located at Jl. Panglima Polem 83-85, Bandah Aceh, Indonesia.

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#7 – Kerak Telor

Indonesian Food : Kerak TelorPhoto from Shutterstock
Kerak telor is a trendy Betawi spicy omelette Indonesian food snack that is prominently found only on certain iconic spots, if not in big events like the annual Jakarta Fair.

It is usually cooked by vendors in a small wok pan over charcoal in which a small portion of ketan or glutinous sticky rice is cooked with egg and then added with toppings like serundeng (fried shredded coconut), shallots, dried shrimp and pepper. Sometimes, the whole piece is then mixed with either duck or chicken egg, and then served hot on top of paper.

Where to best eat it? If you want to taste this famous street food snack, head to the iconic spots in Jakarta such as Monas or Old Town, and you can see plenty of food carts selling Kerak Telor.

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#8 – Bakso

Indonesian Food : BaksoPhoto from Shutterstock
Bakso or baso is an Indonesian meatball soup or meat paste dish made from beef surimi, and it is a favorite street food in the country. The meatballs are mainly made from beef and tapioca that make them juicy and tender and they are put together in a bowl with rice noodles, egg noodles and some vegetables.

Throughout the country, there are several variations of bakso, but all of them include these three main ingredients: meatballs, noodles and broth (bakso kuah however is bakso soup served without noodles). Bakso is usually sold in small carts or eateries along the streets, but it is also such a popular Indonesian food that you can easily buy a ready-to-cook meal from supermarkets’ frozen foods section.

Where to best eat it? Located at Ketelan, Banjarsari, Jawah Tenga, Indonesia, Bakso Alex is a well-known place that serves the most delicious Bakso. After all, they are known for their home-made meatballs and savory beef broth. When in Bali though, you can head over to Bakso Garasi for a taste of this dish.

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#9 – Pempek

PempekPhoto from Shutterstock
Pempek (also known as mpek-mpek or empek-empek) is a traditional Indonesian fish cake delicacy that is made with ground fish meat and tapioca.

Originating from Palembang, its texture is deliciously chewy and presented in several variations in ingredients and shapes. These cakes are usually steamed — and right before serving, they are fried and cut into small pieces whilst served in a sweet and sour sauce called kuah cuka or kuah cuko (vinegar sauce). As per locals’ preference, pempek is best eaten with sliced cucumbers, yellow noodles, and rice to balance out the sauce’s sourness.

Where to best eat it? For authentic and delicious fish cakes, dine at Pempek 161, located at Jl. Radio Dalam Raya, Gardaria Utara, South Jakarta. For Bali-goers, simply look for Pempek Corner or Pempek Farina.

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#10 – Gudeg

GudegPhoto from Shutterstock
Gudeg is a traditional Javanese dish made with young unripe jackfruit that is stewed for hours in coconut milk, palm sugar, as well as other herbs to make it taste sweeter. Sometimes, additional spices may include garlic, coriander seed, shallot, bay leaves, and teak leaves (to give a reddish color to the dish).

On its own, gudeg can easily be referred to as a vegetarian or vegan dsh, but this Indonesian food is usually served with egg or chicken (opor ayam or in coconut milk, or ayam goreng or fried chicken); hence it’s best to confirm beforehand.

There are two most common varieties of gudeg too: the dry and the wet variant. Both varieties use the same ingredients but the dry gudeg has less coconut milk, is cooked longer and has a thicker sauce. It can be eaten with rice and other sides such as eggs and meat. This authentic Indonesian dish is usually sold at streets or specialized gudeg eateries.

Where to best eat it? This dish originated in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and this is where tourists can taste the authentic gudeg in the country. Wijilan (in Yogyakarta) is famous for having lot of food stalls serving Gudeg with unique and delicious taste. Head to Gudeg Yu Pjum, one of the stalls that sell the best Gudeg in Yogyakarta. If you can’t go to Yogyakarta, try the Gudeg Jogja in Bali — ir there is also the Gudeg Keprabon.

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TOP INDONESIA ACTIVITIES

Waterbom BaliWaterbom Bali
Popular waterpark perfect for thrill-seekers!

Nusa Penida TourNusa Penida Day Tour
Visit Kelingking Beach and many others from Bali!

Uluwatu Kecak FireUluwatu Kecak Fire
…and Dance Show package for a cultural evening!

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Overall

Indonesian Food

There sure are a wide number of Indonesian dishes that you must try — but these top 10 is a good list to start with!

Photos above from Shutterstock

How about you?

  • What do you think of these top Indonesian food dishes?
  • Which dish would you like to try the most?
  • Or have you tried any of these before? How was it?

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5 comments

  1. YUM! Totally agree with your list. LOVE Indonesian food. Just found your blog and really love your graphic design and post style. Will enjoy following :)

    Reply
    1. Yay! I’m very happy to hear this, thank you Jennifer! <3

      Reply
  2. Can I visit INDONESIA? How’s INDONESIA with Covid-19?

    Reply
    1. As of this date, Indonesia is not open yet to non-essential travelers; but I believe that the latest news is that they’re aiming to open up in mid-September to international tourists.

      Reply
  3. great post about Indonesian food!

    Reply

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