Indonesian cuisine reflects the country’s diverse cultures and traditions. Being composed of approximately 6,000 populated islands in the world’s largest archipelago there exists in Indonesia a large variety of regional cuisines.
Rich in spices the indigenous techniques and ingredients have further been bolstered by extensive trade links with diverse countries such India, China, the Middle East, and Europe.
The five main Indonesian cooking methods are goreng (frying), bakar or panggang (grilling), tumis (stir frying), rebus (boiling) and kukus (steaming). The Indonesian islands The Moluccas (Maluku), famed as “the Spice Islands”, contributed native spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, to both Indonesian and global cuisine.
Dishes such as nasi goreng, gado-gado, sate and soto are ubiquitous in the country and considered as Indonesian national foods.
Sumatran cuisine incorporates Middle Eastern and Indian influences, such as gulai and kari, while Javanese cuisine benefits from hints of a Chinese influences such as bakmi (noodles), bakso (meat or fish balls), and lumpia (spring rolls)
The cuisine of Eastern Indonesia has many similarities to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine.
In return Indonesia has contributed dishes such as satay, beef rendang, and sambal to Global cuisine while soy-based dishes such as tofu (tahu) and tempe, are also becoming more popular.
Rice, a staple food for the majority of Indonesians. Rice is eaten as the main dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In fact some Indonesians don’t feel they have eaten a meal unless it is based around rice. It holds an important place in the country’s culture, shaping the landscape and driving the economy. Plain rice, known as nasi putih, is accompanied by a few protein and vegetable side dishes.
Rice is also served as ketupat (rice steamed in woven packets of coconut leaves), brem (rice wine), and nasi goreng (fried rice).
Indonesian meals are commonly eaten with a spoon and fork (to push the food onto the spoon), although in many parts of the country, such as West Java and West Sumatra, it is also common to eat with one’s hands.
In restaurants or households that commonly use bare hands to eat, like in seafood foodstalls, traditional Sundanese and Minangkabau restaurants, or East Javanese pecel lele (fried catfish with sambal) and ayam goreng (fried chicken) food stalls, they usually serve kobokan, a bowl of tap water with a slice of lime in it to give a fresh scent.
This bowl of water should not to be consumed, however; it is used to wash one’s hand before and after eating.