Our monthly newsletter contains health and financial news, expat articles, social media recommendations and more.
Indonesia - Food and Drink
Where to eat while in Indonesia
Indonesian local cuisine can be sampled from any part of a town or city. You can be standing on the streets or seated in a roadside restaurant. The same tantalizing delicacies will be served but at different prices.
Kaki Limas are the cheapest food joints in Indonesia. These are normally mobile hawkers in three-wheeled carts peddling food through streets or stationed at strategic points like bus stations. A Kaki Lima usually serves one type of food, and a signature dish by most of these vendors is Mee Bakso.
During the night, the Kaki Limas will congregate around night markets to sell food. Indonesians are generally evening people and most of them gather together to eat at the night markets. The Kaki Lima vendor will take your order and cook the food on the spot; hence why they focus only on making one dish so they save time. To get the most out of the local cuisine, try to sample food from different food vendors.
As well as the Kaki Limas there are the Warung. These are street or roadside food shacks decorated with a few tables surrounded by chairs. Warung restaurants are one of the cheapest places to have a quick bite. Everything costs less than a dollar, thus you can sample many delicacies at once.
Then there are the Rumah Makan, which are an upgrade on the Warung in size and décor. Rumah Makan are restaurants with more seating space and a more comfortable ambience. If you want to sample a wider array of Indonesian local delicacies, the Rumah Makan is the place to be. You will even get a menu to guide you on what to order.
Indonesia also has a number of established restaurants located in the big cities. Here you can expect the environment to be more professional. You will still be served the top local cuisines cooked by the best chefs. However, the prices of food in the big restaurants are often several times more expensive than those of the smaller street restaurants. Also, expect to see a VAT tax of 21% on your bill when you dine in the modern restaurants.
The best local Indonesian foods
From locally made condiments to a full course meal, expect your taste buds to be wowed by Indonesian culinary prowess. Whether you are standing next to a Kaki Lima or waiting for your order in a cozy Rumah Makan, ensure you try out some of these famous delicacies.
For the soup lover, Soto is a tantalizing dish served with veggies or meat. Soto is mainly meat broth whose ingredients will vary depending on where you are on the island. Soto from Jakarta is considered to be the most authentic, spruced with a dash of sweet coconut milk. The meat is then topped with crunchy shallots or the aroma of fried garlic. Soto from the streets will include different flavors such as goat, chicken, and beef.
Another soup variant you should sample is Bakso. This is a noodle soup topped with tasty meatballs. The meatballs can be made from beef, chicken, pork or a mixture of all three. Bakso is commonly served in the streets by Kaki Lima and will include boiled eggs, fried crispy shallots, or wontons as garnish.
Nasi Goring is the signature rice meal enjoyed by most Indonesians. This refers to fried rice accompanied with a thick sauce made from soy locally known as Kecap. Nasi Goring can be garnished with pickled cucumbers, acar, or crispy carrots. The ingredients used in Nasi Goring will also vary from one location to another; nevertheless, the flavors are unique.
Nasi Uduk is another rice delicacy that expats often enjoy. This is mainly rice boiled in coconut milk and accompanied with a meat or vegetable dish. In the streets, Nasi Uduk is commonly flavored with fried chicken, soybean cake (tempe), or boiled eggs. You can also add some melinjo nutcrackers for a crunchier taste.
Indonesians also love to indulge in light snacks before enjoying a full course meal later on. One of the relished street snacks is aromatic skewers known as Satay. Satay is made from chicken, mutton, goat, or rabbit meat. They are skewered over hot burning coals and frequently fanned to prevent them from charring. A Satay tastes better when marinated in turmeric, roasted, and then garnished with peanut sauce.
Drinks in Indonesia
As a rule of thumb, always avoid drinking tap water. Tap water in Indonesia is poorly treated and often contains traces of disease-causing bacteria or viruses. Only drink boiled water or bottled water sold in the streets.
Indonesians love coffee. Indonesian coffee is considered one of the best in Asia and is often flavored with lots of sugar and condensed milk.
Alcohol is not a commonly sold drink as the local culture is heavily influenced by Islam. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy a cold beer in some of the non-Islamic towns of Indonesia.
Two locally brewed beer brands are Anker and Bintang. These are served in most of the Chinese restaurants and the big modern hotels. Spirits are not consumed locally and many of the brands are considered illegal. Thus, you should be careful when buying spirits.
For those who do not mind locally brewed beer, Tuak, Arak, and Sopi are three local brews to sample. Tuak is made from palm wine sap and often bears a milky white hue. Arak is a local wine made from rice, which may take a while to get used to. Sopi is the distilled version of Tuak and is highly intoxicating; it causes delusions when consumed heavily.
Indonesians are friendly people who will not mind sharing a meal with a friendly foreigner. Eating is done either with your fingers, a spoon, or a fork. When eating with your fingers, always use the right hand only. In addition, do not eat everything. Leaving a little food on your plate, or drink in your bottle, is considered courteous.
Read more about this country