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Indonesian cuisine is more diverse than some people might think. The country has much more to offer than just Nasi Goreng and in addition to the country-wide Indonesian dishes, there are also many regional dishes. Even the typical Indonesian dishes are often subject to regional differences.

Eating in Indonesia: we show you 23 delicious and popular dishes

For your next trip you should also familiarize yourself with the cuisine of Indonesia and then try it out. Whether in food stalls/Warungs, restaurants, or at markets – you will find the dishes presented below almost everywhere.

Food in Indonesia: Nasi Goreng, Plecing Kangkung, and fish

Also very popular are food tours on Bali, where you will be introduced to the diversity of the local cuisine. If you’re traveling to Bali, this would be a great option to get to know Indonesian cuisine.

Of course, these are by no means all Indonesian dishes and the list could go on for a long time. But that could be too confusing, so we have listed 23 highlights for you here.


1. Nasi Goreng

A true classic! This fried rice is the national dish of Indonesia and is offered in every restaurant or Warung. There are Nasi Goreng in different variants, e.g. with chicken (Nasi Goreng Ayam), lamb (Nasi Goreng Kambing), or shrimp (Nasi Goreng Udang). Of course, there is also a vegetarian version with only vegetables or tofu.

Nasi Goreng is also a popular breakfast dish and can generally be eaten at any time of the day. Nasi Goreng is often served with fried egg on top and Krupuk (crab chips).

Nasi Goreng

2. Mie Goreng

Another popular dish is fried noodles, also known as Bami Goreng. They are fried with vegetables and any type of meat, mostly chicken or seafood. Of course, vegetarian is also possible.

Mie Goreng (Bami Goreng)

3. Nasi Campur

One of my favorite dishes! Nasi Campur means something like “mixed rice” and the name says it all. You will get a portion of pure rice and you can choose your own side dishes that are added to the rice. For example, in the form of a buffet.

You can choose from egg, chicken, vegetables, shrimp, tofu, Tempe (deep-fried soybean tofu), and much more. The side dishes are often prepared in a spicy sauce.

By the way, many Indonesians like to eat their Nasi Campur with their (right!) hand. “To go” is also very popular with Nasi Campur and a kind of fast food, because you don’t have to wait until it is cooked.

Depending on where you order, Nasi Campur can be very spicy at times.

Nasi Campur

4. Gado Gado

Gado Gado is definitely one of the best vegetarian dishes in Indonesia. It is a lightly cooked vegetable salad that is refined with a sweet peanut sauce.

5. Sate

Sate are small grilled skewers that are traditionally served with a sweet-spicy to even very hot peanut sauce. The most popular is clearly Sate Ayam (chicken), but there are other variants, e.g. with beef (Sate Sapi).

On Lombok you should definitely try Sate Tanjung. This variant is only available in the northwest of Lombok and the skewers made from fish taste simply delicious! Another variant that is only available on Lombok is Sate Rembiga. These small delicious beef skewers are known and loved all over Lombok (and even beyond).

Sate Ayam

6. Nasi Kuning

Nasi Kuning means “yellow rice” and the color is obtained by adding turmeric. Here, too, there are various side dishes, such as chicken, egg, etc. Similar to Nasi Campur, the selection is large.

Nasi Kuning is also a popular breakfast dish or is eaten on special occasions.

7. Lalapan

If you order Lalapan you will get grilled or fried meat with various vegetables. Mostly cucumber, cabbage, and long beans. Of course, a portion of rice and a Sambal sauce are served.

Lalapan comes with different types of meat: chicken (Ayam) or fish (Ikan). There are many varieties to choose from, especially with fish. A very popular variant is also Lalapan Burung Dara = pigeon. It may sound a bit unusual for some, but pigeon meat is not that bad. Even if there is not a lot of meat, at least on the Indonesian pigeons.

Chicken Lalapan does not normally use big and fat broilers, but rather little village chickens. This is the much healthier option.

Lalapan

8. Rendang

Rendang is a usually very spicy curry dish made from beef. Even though there are other variants (e.g. lamb), Rendang is usually prepared with beef.

The spicy and extremely tasty curry sauce has many ingredients that give it this unique taste. When the beef is tender and doesn’t necessarily contain bones or cartilage, it’s absolutely delicious.

Rendang

9. Bakso

Bakso is one of the most popular soups in Indonesia. Its main ingredients are noodles, meatballs, and some vegetables. The soup is served with sweet soy and Sambal sauce so that you can adjust the flavor yourself. The meatballs are also available in different types, such as chicken (Bakso Ayam), beef (Bakso Sapi), or fish (Bakso Ikan). Definitely a must-try!

Bakso in Jakarta

10. Soto Ayam

Another popular soup in Indonesia is the chicken soup Soto Ayam. In addition to fine pieces of chicken, it contains noodles, vegetables, and an egg.

Soto Ayam

11. Ayam Goreng/Bebek Goreng

Ayam Goreng or Bebek Goreng are fried chicken or fried duck. Sounds boring? It’s definitely not! The fried chickens in Indonesia simply have a very special taste. Of course, the (often very spicy) Sambal sauce is also important here.

Eating by hand and rice as a side dish is also common and popular with this dish.

12. Ikan Bakar

Ikan Bakar is just grilled fish. That doesn’t sound particularly spectacular, but it is! Indonesian grilled fish is one of the best I’ve ever eaten in the world.

The sauce is what makes the dish so delicious. You usually get it served with a fiery hot Sambal sauce, sometimes there are other sauces, too. In addition, there is usually a portion of rice and some vegetables.

Ikan Bakar is best eaten by hand (as many locals do).

Ikan Bakar

13. Pepes Ikan

Pepes is an Indonesian variant of cooking or grilling, in which the dish (mostly fish = Ikan) is wrapped in banana leaves. To keep the banana leaf and its inside part together while cooking or grilling, it is fixed with natural needles. This type of preparation gives the meat a special and intense taste. Delicious!

14. Urap (also Urap Urap)

Urap Urap is another dish that could be particularly interesting for vegetarians. Usually, Urap is a side dish.

It is a warm vegetable salad that is unique especially because of the coconut flakes. By the way, the Balinese variant of Urap is called Lawar.

15. Pecel Lele

Pecel Lele is a fried catfish, which e.g. is also known in other countries in Southeast Asia. As it is often the case, a delicious hot Sambal sauce is also part of it, in which you can dip the fish. There is also Tempe and some vegetables.


16. Lombok only: Nasi Puyung

Nasi Puyung is one of my favorite dishes on Lombok! It’s also one of the most spicy Indonesian dishes I know. It originally comes from the village of Puyung, from where it gets its name.

Similar to Nasi Campur, Nasi Puyung is white rice with various side dishes. The main ingredient is the extremely spicy, very finely chopped chicken. Also, there are soybeans and fried coconut flakes added. It is traditionally served on banana leaves and eaten by hand.

An absolute must-try for everyone who likes to eat spicy.

Nasi Puyung (Lombok)

17. Lombok only: Plecing Kangkung

For the residents of Lombok, especially Sasaks, Plecing Kangkung is clearly the most popular dish. The vegetarian dish consists only of boiled water spinach and a special Plecing Sambal sauce.

Plecing Kangkung is a delicious side dish, but you can also order it as a main course with rice.

Plecing Kangkung (Lombok)

18. Lombok only: Ayam Taliwang

Another typical Lombok dish is this grilled chicken. Here too, a small, non-fattened chicken is normally used. It is first pre-grilled, then pounded softly and finally poured with a delicious fiery sauce, which ensures a unique taste.

As you’ve surely noticed by now, many Indonesian dishes include Sambal. This is a sauce that comes in many different varieties. Most of the time it contains tomatoes, lime juice, shrimp paste, garlic, and of course plenty of chillies. In my opinion, a well-made Sambal sauce is one of the tastiest sauces available in Southeast Asia. At least if you like to eat spicy.


For dessert or in between

19. Gorengan

Gorengan is a general term for fried food. Specially meant are small fried snacks, which are mostly made from tofu, vegetables, or bananas. You can often buy them on the street for a few thousand rupiahs. Ideal for on the go or as a small snack for tours.

My favorite is Bakwan. Bakwan are some kind of small fried cookies that are filled with vegetables. They taste even better when they have cooled down and are eaten together with a small green chili.

But you should also try fried small bananas, Pisang Goreng. Other tasty snacks are Tempe (deep-fried soybean tofu), deep-fried tofu, or Singkong (deep-fried cassava), which is somewhat reminiscent of potatoes.

Gorengan (Bakwan)
Bakwan

20. Es Campur/Es Buah

These typical Indonesian ice desserts are ideal after a meal. But they are also great for cooling off in between. You can buy them both in restaurants and on the street at the small stands, where you can get them in a bag.

These desserts mainly contain a kind of jelly of various colored varieties, ice cubes, milk, syrup, and some fruits. All of this is then mixed (= campur) and results in a delicious and refreshing ice cream dish. Yummy!

21. Martabak

Martabak is an Indonesian pancake, which you can also get in Malaysia or Singapore.

There are 2 Martabak versions: a sweet (Martabak Manis) and a hearty, egg-made and meat-filled one (Martabak Telur). The sweet variant is more reminiscent of a cake and tastes very different from the egg variant. You should still try both, if possible.

Martabak Telur
Martabak Telur

22. Rujak

Rujak is a fruit salad that contains a special sauce. This sauce tastes extremely sweet at first, but then gets spicy very quickly thanks to the chillies it contains.

You can buy Rujak almost anywhere on the street when the Rujak dealers with their small carts usually draw attention to themselves with some kind of whistle or other noise.

A very tasty salad, but it can become very spicy depending on the preparation. Since the sauce is prepared directly at the time of purchase, you can use the words “tidak pedas” to inform the seller that you don’t want it to be too spicy.

Rujak

23. Bubur Hitam

Bubur Hitam means something like “black porridge”, which does not sound particularly appetizing, but is definitely delicious. The black sticky rice is refined with coconut milk and sugar. I could also describe Bubur Hitam as a kind of sweet milk rice.


Marcel eating on Gili Meno, Lombok

And now you: what is your favorite Indonesian dish? What do you think is missing from this list? Let us know below!

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Marcel

Hi, I'm Marcel! Blogger, author, web & graphic designer and digital nomad. I love traveling in Southeast Asia and exploring wonderful beaches and trying delicious food. My home base is Koh Phangan, Thailand. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.