Traditional Indonesian dishes
On many occasions, Indonesian cuisine undoubtedly satisfies ordinary traveler's needs. However, not every time you get a 100% gastronomic experience. Especially if we compare Indonesian cuisine to the phenomenal cuisines of neighboring Asian countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia or China, we find out that most Indonesian dishes are somewhat dull and lacking creativity. As I say in the article from 2015, frying is one of the most frequent ways to prepare the majority of Indonesian meals. Hence the word "goreng" in the original dishes names. Everything is fried, semi-fried, deep-fried, singed, or scorched to powder. It's worth mentioning that occasionally you can get steamed vegetables as a side dish.
Flavors are for a typical Czech tourist exciting, but not too exotic, as it is for instance in India. Sometimes your taste buds might get slightly burned by the commonly added chili peppers (in a balanced way) and often you'll be surprised by the rich spicy-sweet peanut butter like flavors in traditional Indonesian dishes. Indonesians in their recipes tend to use coconut products in combination with different kinds of exotic vegetables and spices.
And they love chicken, especially fried chicken - the KFC way.
Following pictures will help you to understand better what is the Indonesian cuisine like. I enjoy Indonesian food, although, honestly said, I usually seek alternatives after 2 months being on this diet.
Let's start with the popular and cheap Indonesian classics - Nasi Goreng - fried rice. It's offered in various combinations - vegetarian, chicken, pork or prawns. They always add a handful of vegetables (most commonly cabbage or spinach) and occasionally chopped egg omelet. If you order the extraordinary version (Nasi Goreng Spesial), they'll pop an extra fried egg on the scoop of rice.
Nasi Goreng is usually served as simply as it's shown on the picture. A scoop of rice accompanied by a few pieces of crunchy shrimps.
The noodle version is called Mie Goreng.
Price for both versions ranges from 15 to 25,000 IDR. Prices around 45,000 IDR in some tourist destinations are absurd.
Chicken Nasi Goreng, Arya Coffee Shop, Amed, map, 20.000 IDR
Bakso soup (Bakso is a name for soup dumplings) is a very popular fast food Indonesian dish. Hot chicken or beef broth mixed with dumplings (different kinds), fresh vegetables, rice or egg noodles. You can buy this soup on almost every corner - in supermarkets, in restaurants, or at street food stalls. The street version of this soup tasted a bit more peppery - but great! Such a nice bowl of soup won't cost you more than 12-15,000 in a cheap street version and about 20,000 IDR in the restaurant.
Chicken Noodle soup with fish dumplings, Pantai Ayu Restaurant, Padangbai, map, 20.000 IDR
Another type of soup is Soto Ayam. Chicken broth with noodles, vegetables, potato slices, chopped chicken, often decorated with a half of a hard-boiled egg and spiced up with a pinch of ginger.
The price is around 20,000 IDR per bowl.
Proper chicken Soto Ayam, Dewa Warung, Ubud, map, 20.000 IDR
We encountered this nice snack menu in a supermarket in Kuta, Bali. It was a traditional Balinese combo - Bakso soup, rice, fried chicken and a super sweet drink. The total price of USD 2.45 was a pleasant surprise indeed.
Bakso 17.500 IDR, Fried chicken with rice and drink 19.350 IDR, Lippo Mall Kuta, Hypermart, map
What a stay in Indonesia would that be without having tasted the real chicken Satay (also fish and pork) with spicy peanut sauce! It looks great and tastes even better. Across Indonesia, the sweet smell of grilled marinated meat is present in every other street. This delicacy can be found everywhere, at a price starting at 25,000 IDR per serving.
Chicken Satay, Bamboo Corner, Kuta, map, 25.000 IDR
If you are looking for a short escape from traditional Indonesian cuisine, in most restaurants you can get typical Chinese classics Sweet and Sour or "Indonesian versions" of curry (crab, vegetable, pork, chicken).
Prices starting at 25,000 IDR.
Fried chicken pieces in batter Sweet & Sour, Bamboo Corner, Kuta, map, 25.000 IDR
Nasi Campur - one of the other Indonesian super classics. In a way, this dish is a bit of everything. Each restaurant has its own interpretation as such Nasi Campur has to look like. Most of the time, they serve chicken, mixed meat skewer, rice, bamboo sprouts with sauce&peanuts and vegetable garnish.
One of the most delicious and best-looking Nasi Campur we ate at the Segara Suckling Duck in Ubud.
Nasi Campur, Segara Suckling Duck, Ubud, map, 25.000 IDR
You should not miss the famous Suckling Duck either. This is definitely a different duck version to what we have at home (CZ), but with the result, you will be overjoyed. In Ubud, they lightly roast this duck (rather a duckling) on a grill before serving on the plate. The duck comes complemented by a mixture of spicy sauces, a bowl of vegetable broth, rice and salad made with bamboo sprouts, green beans, nuts, and vinaigrette.
For a portion of half-duck, you would normally pay in Ubud from 120,000 to 150,000 IDR.
Half Duck, Segara Suckling Duck, Ubud, map, 66.000 IDR (in 2018 rather 120.000 IDR)
Suckling Pig (Babi Guling) is another of the excellent Indonesian culinary specialties. This is a combo of goodies made from pork meat - black sausage, fried grease, slow-cooked meat, salad with coconut, rice. Everything is sprinkled with a spicy sauce and topped with amazingly crunchy skin-crust. Complete menu (Babi Guling Pisah) is complemented by a bowl of good broth. This is a diabolically good combination.
Babi Guling Pisah, Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka 3, Ubud, map, 77.000 IDR
If you are lucky, this Lalapan Ayam will land on your table. Homemade golden baked or fried chicken garnished with green beans and finely chopped chili pepper. Simple but extremely delicious food.
Lalapan Ayam, Ina Warung, Gili Air, map, 40.000 IDR
Simple, but tasty roll - Martabak Special. A crispy fried pocket filled with vegetables, chicken meat, and egg omelet.
Martabak Spesial, Bambu Warung, Gili Air, map, 30.000 IDR
Chicken Rendang - a light-weight chicken variant of real beef Rendang. You can imagine something between curry and our Czech goulash. I definitely recommend trying the original beef Rendang. Usually, it is one of the most expensive dishes on the menu (starting at 45,000 IDR per serving), but this rich aromatic sauce with pieces of tender meat is surely going to get you.
Chicken Rendang, Tomato Cafe, Kuta Lombok, map, 30.000 IDR
Masakan Padang. In many Indonesian destinations, you might come across this popular Padang buffet. Bowls filled with a variety of dishes (vegetarian, meat, vegetable, fish) are stacked up behind a greasy glass display, and you pick a combo of dishes the way you want it. The selection is mostly satisfying - seafood, fish, vegetables, egg omelets, Rendang, curry, fried chicken, etc. Mind that this is not any flat-rate buffet - you pay for each item. Be careful, the canteen owners tend to force the Western tourists to load their plates with food they don't even want to eat - in order to achieve higher profits.
I must say, mostly the fish is dead fried (super dry).
You will pay for a decent lunch around 45,000 IDR.
Masakan Padang, RM Doa Ibu, Kuta Lombok, map, from 25.000 IDR
In Indonesia, of course, you won't have any problem at all finding a good fish or seafood dish on the menu. The quality and type of fish depend only on your budget. Locals abuse the fact that many tourists fancy fresh fish, overcharge them and quickly make their profits.
The fish (80.000 IDR) shown in the picture on the left we bought directly from a fisherman on the beach during one of our rides around Lombok. This fisherman seated us on a bamboo platform, prepared the fish on a grill right away, and we enjoyed a great lunch with a beautiful sea view.
You will find the same fish in cheap restaurants for at least 150 - 200,000 IDR.
Fresh fish (not sure of the name), Kuta Lombok, 80.000 IDR
As I have previously mentioned, Indonesians love KFC style fried chicken. Lovers of golden chicken nuggets and crispy chicken thighs experience the paradise on earth. Why not, this food is delicious and very cheap.
Chicken nuggets, Arya Coffee Shop, Amed, map,15.000 IDR
If the Martabak Spesial roll is a big bite for you, then these small Spring Rolls may come in handy. Prepared Chinese way - filled with vegetables and deep fried.
Spring Rolls, Dewa Warung, Ubud, map, 17.000 IDR
As has been said - in every restaurant, there is different Nasi Campur. Here, next to the standard fried piece of chicken and salad, they also served a hot chili sauce, tempeh crackers and tofu skewers topped with peanut sauce.
Nasi Campur, Dewa Warung, Ubud, map, 22.000 IDR
As you can see, the list of dishes is long and yet is far from being complete. Indonesia is about exploring and trying out new flavor combinations. I hope you have made yourself a picture of Indonesian cuisine. Read more about Indonesian cuisine here and definitely check out our tips for cheap eats in Kuta, Bali, and Ubud.