Further on William says: “Indonesia is comprised of thousands of regions and each region has its own special dish, some of which we are already know, and others we don’t. So if you say nasi goreng, satay and gado-gado are the real Indonesian dishes – I beg to differ. I think there is so much more”
Indonesian food reflects the country’s diverse cultures and traditions. In general, Indonesian food is rich in spices. The indigenous cooking techniques and ingredients have benefited from trade and influences originating in places as far away as India, China, the Middle East, and Europe.
The rijstafel (rice table)
It was during the colonial times that the “rijst tafel” (Dutch for rice table) was introduced to the Western world, which was usually an elaborate buffet with rice as the main dish and maybe a dozen or so side dishes of different variety
Different regions in Indonesia offer different dishes. The Minangkabau region in West Sumatra, is represented all over the world for it’s Padang food (Padang is the capital city of West Sumatra). Padang food is pretty spicy and in local restaurants it is being served by waiters who will put all of the earlier prepared dishes on your table and you only pay for the ones you have touched.
Rice is a staple food for majority of Indonesians. It holds an important place in the country’s culture. It shapes the landscape, is served in most meals, and drives the economy. Plain rice is known as nasi putih. Often, it is accompanied by a few protein and vegetable side dishes. Rice is also served as ketupat (rice steamed in woven packets of coconut leaves), lontong (rice steamed in rolled banana leaves) and many other rice dishes such as the festive yellow rice (nasi kuning), nasi timbel etc.
In the eastern part of Indonesia, corn, sago, cassava, and sweet potatoes are more common. Sago is a powdery starch made from processed pith, the soft and spongy cells found inside the trunk of the Sago Palm (Metroxylon sago). Sago is usually cooked as pancake and eaten with fish and vegetable side dishes.
As its endless coastlines are strategically located between two oceans, the country enjoys an abundance of salt-water fish and seafood. Its many lakes and rivers too provide fresh-water fish. Not surprisingly, fish is major source of protein for the people of Indonesia. Fish is usually fried, grilled, baked, or cooked.
Next to meat and fish, Indonesians’ other main source of protein is soy. Soy-based dishes such as tahu (tofu) and tempe are very popular in Indonesia. In fact, tempe is an adaptation of tofu to the tropical climate of Indonesia. Tempe is uniquely Indonesian. It is made through a controlled fermentation process that binds soybean into a cake form. The fermented soybean holds more protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins than regular tofu. Tempe is usually prepared by cutting it into small pieces, soaking it in a salty sauce and then frying it to a golden brown. Cooked tempe can be eaten alone or accompanied with chili
Sambal is the most famous Indonesian condiment. It is made of various spices including chili, shallots, garlic, and terasi (shrimp paste). It can be served either as a side dish or as a substitute for fresh chili. Sambal is often cooked with fish, vegetables, and meat. Some popular Indonesian sambal include sambal bajak, sambal balado, sambal belacan, and sambal tomat.
There are many sidewalk stalls in Indonesia. They are called as “Pedagang Kaki Lima” literally means ‘5-Legged-traders’. So, we don’t need to come in a restaurant or food stall to fill in our stomachs. If our pocket is in crisis, come and try food in the sidewalk. They usually sell on a small tent or pushcart on sidewalk city. They have unique ways to attract people. For example, a meat ball seller strikes the meat ball pan or a Indonesian chicken noodle seller makes sounds by bamboos. Sure, it will not be a boring culinary tourism.
- Weekender Monthly Magazine of Jakarta Post (May09 edition)
- Belindo Indonesia Portal