Indonesian cuisine is a collection of various regional culinary traditions that formed the archipelagic nation of Indonesia. There are a wide variety of recipes and cuisines in part because Indonesia is composed of approximately 6,000 populated islands of the total 17,508 in the world’s largest archipelago, with more than 1,300 ethnic groups. Many regional cuisines exist, often based upon indigenous culture with some foreign influences. Indonesia has around 5,350 traditional recipes, with 30 of them considered the most important. Indonesia’s cuisine may include rice, noodle and soup dishes in modest local eateries to street-side snacks and top-dollar plates.
Indonesian cuisine varies greatly by region and has many different influences. Sumatran cuisine, for example, often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables such as gulai and curry, while Javanese cuisine is mostly indigenous, with some hint of Chinese influence. The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. Elements of Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine: foods such as noodles, meat balls, and spring rolls have been completely assimilated.
Throughout its history, Indonesia has been involved in trade due to its location and natural resources. Additionally, Indonesia’s indigenous techniques and ingredients were influenced by India, the Middle East, China, and finally Europe. Spanish and Portuguese traders brought New World produce even before the Dutch came to colonise most of the archipelago. The Indonesian islands the Moluccas (Maluku), which are famed as “the Spice Islands”, also contributed to the introduction of native spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, to Indonesian and global cuisine.
Indonesian cuisine often demonstrates complex flavour, acquired from certain ingredients and bumbu spices mixture. Indonesian dishes have rich flavours; most often described as savory, hot and spicy, and also combination of basic tastes such as sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Most Indonesians favour hot and spicy food, thus sambal, Indonesian hot and spicy chili sauce with various optional ingredients, notably shrimp paste, shallots, and others, is a staple condiment at all Indonesian tables. Seven main Indonesian cooking methods are frying, grilling, roasting, dry roasting, sautéing, boiling and steaming.
Some popular Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng, gado-gado, satay, and soto are ubiquitous in the country and are considered Indonesia Food national dishes. The official national dish of Indonesia is tumpeng, chosen in 2014 by Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy as the dish that binds the diversity of Indonesia’s various culinary traditions. Later in 2018, the same ministry has chosen 5 national dish of Indonesia; they are soto, rendang, satay, nasi goreng, and gado-gado.
Indonesia is the home of sate; one of the country’s national dishes, there are many variants across Indonesia.
Today, some popular dishes that originated in Indonesia are now common to neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Singapore. Indonesian dishes such as satay, beef rendang, and sambal are favoured in Malaysia and Singapore. Soy-based dishes, such as variations of tofu and tempeh, are also very popular. Tempeh is regarded as a Javanese invention, a local adaptation of soy-based food fermentation and production. Another fermented food is oncom, similar in some ways to tempeh but using a variety of bases (not only soy), created by different fungi, and particularly popular in West Java.History
Bas-relief of Karmawibhanga of 9th century Borobudur depicts a rice barn and rice plants being infested by mouse pestilence. Rice farming has a long history in Indonesia.
Indonesian cuisine has a long history—although most of it is not well-documented, and relied heavily on local practice and oral traditions. A rare instance is demonstrated by Javanese cuisine that somewhat has quite a well-documented culinary tradition. The diversity ranges from ancient bakar batu or stone-grilled yams and boar practiced by Papuan tribes of eastern Indonesia, to sophisticated contemporary Indonesian fusion cuisine. The ethnic diversity of Indonesian archipelago provides an eclectic combination — mixing local Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, Minang, Malay and other native cuisine traditions, with centuries worth of foreign contacts with Indian traders, Chinese migrants and Dutch colonials.
Rice has been an essential staple for Indonesian society, as bas-reliefs of 9th century Borobudur and Prambanan describes rice farming in ancient Java. Ancient dishes were mentioned in many Javanese inscriptions and historians have succeeded in deciphering some of them. The inscriptions from Medang Mataram era circa 8th to 10th century mentioned several ancient dishes, among others are hadaŋan haraŋ (minced water buffalo meat satay, similar with today Balinese sate lilit), hadaŋan madura (water buffalo meat simmered with sweet palm sugar), and dundu puyengan (eel seasoned with lemon basil). Also various haraŋ-haraŋ (grilled meats) either celeṅ/wök (pork), hadahan/kbo (water buffalo), kidaŋ/knas (deer) or wḍus (goat). Ancient beverages include nalaka rasa (sugarcane juice), jati wangi (jasmine beverage), and kinca (tamarind juice). Also various kuluban (boiled vegetables served in spices, similar with today urap) and phalamula (boiled yams and tubers served with liquid palm sugar). Other ancient vegetable dishes include rumwah-rumwah (lalap), dudutan (raw vegetables) and tetis.
The 9th century Old Javanese Kakawin Ramayana mentioned cooking technique as Trijata offered Sita some food (canto 17.101); scrumptious food of landuga tatla-tila (cooked with oil) and modakanda sagula (sugared delicacies).
Several foods were mentioned in several Javanese inscriptions dated from the 10th to 15th centuries. Some of this dishes are identified with present-day Javanese foods. Among others are pecel, pindang, rarawwan (rawon), rurujak (rujak), kurupuk (krupuk), sweets like wajik and dodol, also beverages like dawet.
In the 15th century Sundanese manuscript Sanghyang Siksa Kandang Karesian, it was mentioned the common Sundanese food flavours of that times which includes; lawana (salty), kaduka (hot and spicy), tritka (bitter), amba (sour), kasaya (savoury), and madura (sweet).
By the 13th to 15th century, coastal Indonesian polities began to absorb culinary influences from India and the Middle East, as evidence with the adoption of curry-like recipes in the region. This was especially affirmative in the coastal towns of Aceh, Minangkabau lands of West Sumatra, and Malay ports of Sumatra and Malay peninsula. Subsequently, those culinary traditions displayed typical Indian culinary influences, such as kare (curry), roti cane and gulai. This also went hand in hand with the adoption of Islamic faith, thus encouraged halal Muslim dietary law that omits pork. On the other hand, the indigenous inhabitant that resides inland—such as the Bataks and Dayaks, retains their older Austronesian culinary traditions, which incorporate bushmeat, pork and blood in their daily diet.
Indonesian spices (bumbu) including peppercorn, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. The famed 16th century spice trade has prompted European traders to seek spices’ sources as far as Indonesian archipelago.
According to the 17th century account of Rijklof van Goens, the ambassador of the VOC for Sultan Agung’s Javanese Mataram court,[i] the techniques of meat processing (sheep, goats, and buffalo) during celebration in Java, was by grilling and frying the seasoned meat. Unlike European, the Javanese primarily use coconut oil instead of butter.
Chinese immigrants has settled in Indonesian archipelago as early as Majapahit period circa 15th century CE, and accelerated during Dutch colonial period. The Chinese settlers introduced stir-frying technique that required the use of Chinese wok and small amount of cooking oil. They also introduced some new Chinese cuisine—including soy sauce,[ii] noodles and soybean processing technique to make tofu. Subsequently, soybean processing led to the possibly accidental discovery of tempeh (fermented soybean cake). The earliest known reference to tempeh appeared in 1815 in the Javanese manuscript of Serat Centhini.