Asian countries are known for their rich diversity in both cultures and foods. Even by Asian standards, Indonesia offers a wide range of delicious cuisine that you must get a taste of whenever you visit. The majority of Indonesians are Muslims, and that’s why you won’t see any pork-based dishes in this list.
As an agrarian country, Indonesia is rich in farm crops such as rice, corn, and groundnut. Indonesia’s tropical climate also allows various fruits and vegetables to grow in its soil which, in turn, allows the development of various dishes that varies greatly from one region to the other.
Among the thousands of Indonesian dishes out there, these are the 30 most popular foods in Indonesia.1. Nasi Padang
Nasi padang’s flavorful sensation even reaches overseas to Singapore – to which point even Singaporean often say they can’t live without it.
Nasi Padang is a flavour-rich dish originated from Padang, Indonesia. It is a rice-based meal topped with various dishes, including curries, chickens, fishes, and various parts of cow meats (sometimes even cow’s feet). The best way to eat nasi Padang is, according to 99% of Indonesian, by putting away your cutleries and digging in with your (clean) hands. Once you’re finished, wash down all the greasy goodness with a glass of refreshing iced tea.2. Rawon (Beef Stew)
Upon setting your eyes on this soupy dish for the first time, the pitch-black broth might seem unusual and uninviting. However, don’t let the aesthetic fool you. The black broth is a result of kluwak (Pangium) that is used as one of the main spices for this cow meat dish.
The slow-cooking process allows the flavor to penetrate deep into the meat and tenderize it so good that it melts in your mouth.3. Pecel (Savory Vegetable Salad)
Pecel is an Indonesian vegetable salad containing various boiled greens with a spicy peanut sauce as the topping. Pecel originated from East Java, but even so, every city in the region has its own version of the dish with several differences.
While the name pecel refers to the boiled vegetable dish, it is often served with rice, tempeh, and crackers – hence you will often see the word ‘nasi pecel‘ (pecel rice) on a restaurant’s menu. Indonesians often dub pecel as their local version of the western salad, but instead of mayonnaise, it uses the more flavorful peanut sauce (or often called sambal pecel).4. Nasi Uduk (Flavored Rice)
Nasi uduk is another famous Indonesian dish originating from Jakarta. While in appearance, it is identical to steamed rice, it tastes much better due to spices involved in its cooking process.
The rice grains have to be cooked in coconut milk with bay leaves, lime leaves, lemongrass, and galingale to produce the delicious taste of nasi uduk. Like many other Indonesian foods, nasi uduk is often served with various other dishes such as sunny-side-up eggs, tempeh, and chickens with sprinkles of fried shallots and a spoonful of sambal to top it off.5. Nasi Goreng Indonesia Food (Fried Rice)
While fried rice is famous all throughout Asia, it is one of the most popular comfort foods in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s take on fried rice often involves sweet soy sauce, scrambled eggs, shredded chicken, hot dog slices, as well as pickled cucumber and carrots (acar). If you are looking to try a different version of fried rice, there are many restaurants in Indonesia that offer nasi goreng gila (crazy fried rice), which is much hotter than regular fried rice.6. Bubur Ayam (Chicken Porridge)
Everyone in Indonesia is familiar with chicken porridge – or bubur ayam. This country-famous breakfast dish is a savory, rice-based porridge served with soy sauce, crackers, fried shallots, fried peanuts, and shredded chicken.
You can usually find street vendors selling bubur ayam starting at 6 a.m, and they usually close out at around 10 a.m or earlier when they have sold out their stock for the day.7. Ayam Taliwang (Roast Chicken)
Ayam taliwang is a chicken dish that originated from Western Nusa Tenggara. The chicken needs to be roasted with a seasoning that includes dried chilies, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, fried shrimp paste, galangal, brown sugar, and salt.
This smokey chicken dish is usually served with additional sambal sauce, roast rice, stir-fried kale, and fresh vegetables as refreshing garnish.8. Ayam Betutu (Roast Chicken)
If you have visited Bali before, chances are you have tried ayam betutu – since it is one of the most popular traditional dishes on the island.
The chicken for this dish needs to be marinated in various spices and seasoning for a few hours – but most would recommend leaving it in the fridge overnight. Once the marinating is complete, the chicken will be roasted in husk fire until it is well-done. The low-heat husk fire allows a good cook to deliver a tender yet juicy chicken as if it was steamed instead of roasted.9. Opor Ayam (Spicy Chicken Soup)
Opor ayam is one of the signature Eid Al-Fitr dishes for Muslims in Indonesia. This dish is primarily chicken boiled in coconut milk and several other spices, including bay leaf, lemongrass, galangal, and other signature Indonesian seasonings.
Opor ayam is typically served with steamed rice and its other forms, such as ketupat (a diamond-shaped rice cake) and lontong (tube-shaped rice cakes).10. Asinan (Pickled Vegetables & Fruits)
Asinan is another one of the most popular foods in Indonesia that often stuns people with its making process. In a nutshell, asinan is a type of pickled food made by curing the food with vinegar or salt. There are two signature types of Asinan in Indonesia: Asinan Betawi and Asinan Bogor.
Asinan Betawi mainly covers salt-cured vegetables. The most common vegetables to use for Asinan Betawi are mustard greens, cabbages, lettuce, and bean sprouts. Sometimes you can also find Asinan Betawi in the form of salt-cured tofu.
Asinan Bogor, on the other hand, mainly covers vinegar-cured fruits. Asinan Bogor uses various fruits, but the most common ones are mango, papaya, ambarella, jicama, pineapple, and water apple. Asinan is one of the best dishes to snack on long road trips as well since their vendors are offering them at traffic lights and roadside tents.11. Karedok (Fresh Vegetable Salad)
Karedok is another one of Indonesia’s vegetable-based cuisine, with a remarkable similarity to pecel. But one thing makes karedok different from other Indonesian plant-based dishes: instead of boiling the vegetables before serving them, karedok serves every ingredient fresh and uncooked.
The typical vegetables used to make karedok are cucumber, bean sprouts, basil, long beans, cabbage, and eggplant. Peanut sauce is also used to add some flavor to the otherwise bland and natural-tasting vegetable dish. The peanut sauce used to drench karedok typically contains peanuts, chili, galangal, Javanese sugar, vinegar, and shrimp paste.12. Papeda (Sago Porridge)
Coming from the eastern part of Indonesia, papeda is one of the most iconic dishes from Papua. Papeda is a porridge made from sago flour, and since there are limited resources to farm rice, the majority of Papua’s citizens use papeda as a source of carbs.
Papeda is rather bland on its own, but you will get a unique cuisine experience that you can’t find anywhere else when paired with protein-rich foods like fish and eggs.13. Indomie (Instant Noodle)Indomie
While technically Indomie is a brand of instant noodles, it is one of the most famous foods that has ever come out of Indonesia. Even if you live in the United States, chances are you have encountered Indonesia’s most beloved instant noodles in your favorite grocery stores.
Indomie’s iconic taste and practicality make it a perfect choice for a quick snack or to quench your late-night cravings.14. Mie Aceh (Spicy Noodle)
Speaking of noodles, mie Aceh (Aceh Noodle) is a non-instant and rich-flavored Indonesian food that you should try whenever you come to the country.
As the name suggests, mie Aceh originated from Aceh, Indonesia. The noodle used for mie Aceh is a lot thicker and has more volume compared to others. The whole mie Aceh dish also has its signature orange color, making it an easy tell if you ever spot one in a restaurant. Mie Aceh is usually packed with seafood such as squid, crab, or shrimp.15. Ketoprak (Bean Sprout Salad)