Must-Try Indonesian Foods

September 17, 2014 Cailin O Neil

Located in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is a wonderful country to visit for travellers of all kinds. Go there for the beautiful scenery, animals like Komodo dragons and orangutans, and of course the delicious food. Made up of over 13,000 different islands, Indonesia gets its food influences from other nearby countries, and of course from the ocean. So if you’re planning a visit there, here are some of the top must-try Indonesian foods that you shouldn’t miss.

Chicken satay

Indonesia is the birthplace of satay. You can get it made with chicken, (the most popular), lamb, or beef. Satay is meat that has been marinated in a sweet soy sauce and cooked on a grill, and then threaded onto skewers. Typically it comes with a delicious peanut sauce, onions, and cucumber on the side. You can find satay in most restaurants or from street vendors by the side of the road.

A woman preparing satay skewerson boat side

Indonesia is the birthplace of satay.

Sambal sauce

Sambal sauce, as you can guess, is a condiment rather than a meal, however it is a sauce that goes well with many Indonesian foods and even tastes great just with rice. Sambal sauce is made with onions, oil, salt, sugar, turmeric, shrimp paste, garlic and chilies. Be warned that this local favourite is a hot and spicy condiment so if you’re trying it for the first time, start with just a small amount.

Watching the hot and spicy Sambal sauce being made.

Watching the hot and spicy Sambal sauce being made.

Nasi goreng

Considered one of the country’s national dishes, nasi goreng is a dish of fried rice with various accompanying items together on one plate. Optional additions include a fried egg, cucumber, krupuk (crackers most commonly flavoured with shrimp), chicken or prawns, and even peanuts. Each place you visit seems to always have a slight variation on what comes with the rice but it is always delicious. Originally eaten as a breakfast food and as a way to use up the previous night’s leftover rice, nasi goreng is now eaten by many for lunch and/or dinner as well.

a plate of Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng is a popular dish that combines many Indonesian flavours.


Prawns and fish such as skipjack, mackerel and red snapper are commonly eaten in Indonesia, especially in the costal villages. Most commonly you will find the fish fried whole or grilled and served up with various sauces, sambal, rice and vegetables. We are talking whole fish here however, so don’t expect to find too many places that will serve you a filet and be prepared to dig into a whole fish yourself – scales and all.

cooked prawns

You must try some seafood when visiting Indonesia. The prawns especially!


Indonesia is full of tropical fruit and you might be surprised by how many different types there are that you haven’t heard of before. Mangosteen is a popular fruit that is sweet and juicy once you get through the tough purple exterior to the white fruit inside. Another fruit that you might not know about is the snakefruit. From its name and its appearance you might be wary of this fruit, but it’s actually quite tasty – almost like an apple. Just be sure you get all of the snakeskin looking exterior off before you take a bite. Young coconuts are popular on the beach and served with straws for you to drink from. Pineapple, avocado, watermelon and passion fruit are also quite popular.

Snakefruit in a bowl

Snakefruit. Don’t let the name deceive you – it is delicious!

Bananas almost deserve their own category. They come in various sizes and are eaten in various ways. A favourite is to have them deep-fried as is or with a bit of sugar or chocolate sauce drizzled on top. The banana leaf is also important and is used in many ways as plates, or cooking containers. It is sometimes even used in roofing for homes.


Tehbotol is a popular drink in Indonesia. The name translates to bottled tea. It’s basically Jasmine tea served cold by the bottle and it can be quite refreshing. If you are looking for an Indonesian beer to taste go for a local Bingtang beer or Anker beer.

Tehbotol is a refreshing local drink.

Tehbotol is a refreshing local drink.

This post only brushes the surface of the many tasty foods of Indonesia but it is a good place to get started for first time visitors. Have you been to Indonesia already? Which foods are your favourites? Are there any I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy eating!

Young coconuts are a must-try beach treat.

Young coconuts are a must-try beach treat.

Getting There

Let G Adventures show you Indonesia in a way you’ve yet to see! We’ve got a number of departures encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater for different tastes. We’re thrilled at helping you eat your way through Indonesia — check out our small group trips here.

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