When you’ve done the mainstream destinations, you crave for a destination that will give you an altogether different perspective on life—something exotic and far away. During my search for one such destination, I stumbled upon a name on the globe: Indonesia! Though I’ve been to Bali before, this time I thought of exploring Indonesia as a whole, with special attention to its cuisine and culture. So, one fine morning I hopped on a flight to Indonesia while opting this time to travel like a local.
To keep this promise, I decided to gorge on the local cuisine and ditching the usual eateries for once. And boy, I fell in love with the flavors and food. Eventually, it dawned on me that what makes Indonesian cuisine so special is the freshness of the ingredients, including the herbs and spices used for cooking. While I was devouring some of the most amazing dishes I ever had in my life, an idea popped up in my mind: Preparing a list of top five dishes that you simply can’t afford to miss while you’re on a tour of Indonesia. Needless to say, it was a feeble excuse on my account to eat every possible Indonesian dish. Anyway, here’s my list:
1. Sate Ayam/ Sate Kambing
Though sate, or satay, is something you can easily get in Southeast Asia, no other version can beat the taste of original Indonesian sate. You’ll find several versions with the most common one being sate ayam (chicken sate) and sate kambing (goat sate). The recipe to prepare those flavored balls is very easy. Pieces of meat marinated in various fresh ingredients, such as sweet manis soy sauce, are skewered and grilled to perfection.
2. Ayam Bakar Taliwang
If you’re a sucker for grilled, marinated chicken, then ayam bakar taliwang is simply heaven for you. And one won’t be enough, as I had three in just one meal. Don’t think of me as an ogre, though. The chicken is quite small because they’re either spring chickens or free-range chickens. Ayam bakar taliwang originated on the island of Lombok, and it’s now popular among chicken-lovers in Indonesia for its juicy and char-grilled texture.
First created in western Java, the Indonesian pepes include several versions, with the most common ones made from chicken, fish, tofu and mushrooms that are thoroughly mixed with garlic, shallots, green chilies, lemon, basil, candlenut and turmeric. All the ingredients are mixed together, packed in a banana leaf, and then steamed or grilled o perfection.
4. Soto Betawi
Soup is an essential part of Indonesian cuisine, and every region has its own version. Soto betwai, for example, essentially means Jakarta soup and comes from the country’s capital city. This version of the soup is prepared with beef that’s boiled with ingredients such as lemongrass and bay leaves. The soup is then flavored with galangal, garlic, shallots, and candlenut. A mixture of coconut milk and cow milk is added to make the broth creamy. Soto bewail is usually served with a bowl of rice and some crispy fried shallots for added crunch.
When it comes to comfort food of Indonesia, the title goes to bakso, which is the Indonesian version of meatballs. There are two different versions of bakso: one that’s deeply influenced by Chinese cooking, while the other has a distinct Indonesian flavor. Bakso is made of minced meat with tapioca starch to add flavor. You can team up bakso with different types of noodles, such as thin white rice noodles or yellow egg noodles, in a soup, or simply on they’re own with soup as a side dish.
What I love about Indonesian food is the variety of ingredients that go into the preparation. We’ve simply provided a sneak peek into Indonesian cuisine, but there are a multitude of dishes that will leave you craving for more.
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