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Indonesian Food: Top 10 Must-Eat Local Dishes You MUST Try!


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Kelsi Gilroy



Indonesia is not only known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage but also for its incredibly diverse and mouthwatering cuisine. Indonesian food is a fusion of different culinary influences, making it a paradise for food lovers and culinary enthusiasts. From spicy dishes packed with bold flavors to sweet treats that will satisfy any sweet tooth, Indonesian cuisine has something to offer for every palate.


In this article, we will explore the top 10 must-eat local dishes that you absolutely must try when visiting Indonesia. These dishes have become iconic representations of Indonesian cuisine and are beloved by locals and tourists alike.


Prepare to tantalize your taste buds as we take a gastronomic journey through Indonesian culinary delights. From flavorful fried rice to succulent rendang, aromatic satay, and refreshing soto, there’s an Indonesian dish to suit every craving. So, let’s dive in and discover the flavors and stories behind these delectable dishes.


Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Nasi Goreng, which literally translates to “fried rice,” is a staple dish in Indonesian cuisine. It is a flavorful and satisfying dish made by stir-frying pre-cooked rice with a combination of spices, vegetables, meat, and often accompanied by a fried egg on top. Considered the national dish of Indonesia, Nasi Goreng can be found everywhere from street food stalls to high-end restaurants.


What makes Nasi Goreng truly unique is the use of kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce, along with other condiments like shrimp paste, garlic, and shallots. These ingredients infuse the rice with a distinct umami flavor and enticing aroma. The dish is often garnished with fresh herbs, such as cilantro and spring onions, for an added burst of freshness.


One of the great things about Nasi Goreng is its versatility. It can be enjoyed in various ways, whether plain with just the rice and seasonings or with additional toppings like chicken, shrimp, or diced vegetables. The flavors can also be adjusted to suit individual preferences, with some people preferring a milder taste while others enjoy a spicier kick.


When it comes to Nasi Goreng, each region in Indonesia has its own unique twist on the dish. For example, in the capital city of Jakarta, it is common to find Nasi Goreng served with a side of pickled vegetables and kerupuk (prawn crackers).


If you’re looking to experience the full depth of Indonesian cuisine, Nasi Goreng is an absolute must-try. Its harmonious blend of flavors, affordable price, and widespread availability make it a popular choice for both locals and travelers.



Rendang is a traditional Indonesian dish that has gained international recognition for its rich and complex flavors. Originating from the Minangkabau ethnic group in West Sumatra, Rendang is a slow-cooked meat dish, typically made with beef, although variations with chicken and lamb are also common.


What sets Rendang apart is its unique cooking process, which involves simmering the meat in coconut milk and a blend of aromatic spices for several hours until the sauce thickens and the flavors intensify. The result is tender, succulent meat that has absorbed all the incredible spices and a rich, thick sauce that coats every bite.


The spice paste used in Rendang typically includes a combination of ingredients like shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and a variety of fragrant spices such as cloves, star anise, and cinnamon. These spices, along with the slow cooking process, give Rendang its distinct aroma and savory taste.


In Indonesia, Rendang is often served during special occasions and celebrations, such as weddings and religious festivals. It is also a popular dish in Malaysian cuisine, reflecting the historical and cultural ties between the two countries.


Rendang is best enjoyed with a plate of steamed rice, as the flavors of the dish complement the plainness of the rice perfectly. The tender meat, combined with the rich, aromatic sauce, creates a memorable taste sensation that will leave you craving for more.


Whether you’re exploring the vibrant streets of Jakarta or visiting the beautiful landscapes of Bali, don’t miss the opportunity to savor the iconic Indonesian dish that is Rendang. Its depth of flavors and cultural significance make it a true culinary masterpiece.


Satay (Sate)

Satay, also known as Sate, is a popular Indonesian street food that has captured the hearts of food lovers worldwide. This grilled meat skewer dish is typically made with chicken, beef, pork, or lamb, marinated in a flavorful blend of spices and then charcoal-grilled to perfection.


What sets Indonesian Satay apart from other variations found in Southeast Asia is the accompanying peanut sauce. The peanut sauce, made with ground peanuts, spices, and a hint of sweetness, adds a rich and creamy element to the succulent meat. It’s common to brush the skewers with the peanut sauce while grilling, enhancing the smoky flavor.


Satay is not just about the meat; it’s also about the experience of enjoying it. You’ll find Satay vendors lining the streets of Indonesia, their grills filled with skewers sizzling over the open flame. The aroma of grilled meat and the sight of the charred edges will undoubtedly ignite your appetite. Satay is often served with a side of steamed rice cakes (ketupat) or sliced cucumber and onions, adding freshness and crunch to each bite.


One unique aspect of Satay is that it varies from region to region. Each area has its own techniques and flavors, making Satay a diverse culinary delight. In Jakarta, you’ll find Satay skewers served with a thick and sweet soy glaze, whereas in Java, the Satay might have a spicier marinade. Bali offers Satay Lilit, where minced meat is wrapped around a skewer made from lemongrass or bamboo.


Indonesian Satay is not just a delicious dish; it’s a reflection of the country’s vibrant street food culture and the warmth of its people. So, when you visit Indonesia, don’t miss the chance to feast on this mouthwatering treat that has been tantalizing taste buds for centuries.



Gado-Gado is a refreshing and vibrant Indonesian salad that showcases the country’s love for fresh vegetables and bold flavors. This vegetarian dish is a colorful mix of blanched or steamed vegetables, such as cabbage, bean sprouts, green beans, and carrots, served with a delicious peanut sauce.


The peanut sauce is the star of Gado-Gado, adding a creamy, nutty, and slightly sweet element to the crunchy vegetables. The sauce is made from ground peanuts, palm sugar, garlic, chili, tamarind, and lime juice, creating a perfect balance of flavors. A sprinkle of fried shallots and prawn crackers on top adds texture and an extra burst of flavor.


Gado-Gado is not only a tasty and healthy dish but also a versatile one. Besides the vegetables, it can also include ingredients such as tofu, tempeh (fermented soybean cake), hard-boiled eggs, and even rice cakes. The combination of textures and flavors creates a satisfying and well-rounded meal.


This Indonesian salad is commonly found in local markets and street food stalls, as well as restaurants across the country. It is a popular choice for those seeking a light and nutritious option that still delivers on taste.


Gado-Gado is the perfect representation of Indonesia’s commitment to fresh and diverse ingredients and its ability to create harmonious flavors. So, if you’re looking for a flavorful and healthy dish during your visit to Indonesia, don’t miss the opportunity to try Gado-Gado.



Soto is a beloved Indonesian soup that warms the soul and delights the taste buds. This aromatic and flavorful dish consists of a clear broth, usually made from chicken or beef, infused with a blend of herbs and spices. Soto is often served with rice and a variety of toppings that add texture and depth to the soup.


What sets Indonesian Soto apart is the use of a unique spice paste called bumbu koya. Made from fried shallots, garlic, coriander, and dried shrimp, this paste adds a distinct umami flavor and a delightful crunch to the soup. Other common ingredients in Soto include lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, and lime leaves, which contribute to the soup’s fragrant and aromatic profile.


Soto comes in various regional variations across Indonesia, each with its own twist. For example, Soto Madura from the island of Madura is known for its use of cow’s offal, while Soto Betawi from Jakarta includes beef and coconut milk in its recipe. Soto Ayam, a popular version made with chicken, is enjoyed throughout the country.


When it comes to garnishes and toppings, the options are endless. Slices of boiled egg, shredded chicken or beef, bean sprouts, fried shallots, and lime wedges are commonly used to enhance the flavors and textures of the soup. Some variations may also include crispy fried noodles or rice cakes for added indulgence.


Soto is not just a meal; it’s a comforting and nourishing experience that reflects the warmth and hospitality of Indonesian culture. Whether you’re exploring the busy streets of Jakarta or wandering through the scenic landscapes of Bali, don’t miss the chance to savor a bowl of Soto, the perfect comfort food for any time of the day.


Nasi Padang

Nasi Padang is a quintessential Indonesian culinary experience that is not to be missed. Originating from the Padang region of West Sumatra, Nasi Padang is a flavorful feast that showcases a wide array of dishes served with steamed rice. This style of dining allows you to choose your favorite dishes, creating a personalized and satisfying meal.


At a Nasi Padang restaurant, you’ll be greeted with a vibrant display of numerous dishes, ranging from rich curries and flavorful stir-fries to spicy sambal (chili paste) and crispy fried goodness. Some popular dishes you’ll find include rendang (slow-cooked beef in coconut milk), gulai (spicy curry), ayam pop (fried chicken), and dendeng (thinly sliced beef jerky).


What makes Nasi Padang truly special is the depth and complexity of its flavors. The dishes are infused with a blend of traditional Indonesian spices, such as coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and chili, resulting in a symphony of tastes that will leave you wanting more.


In addition to the incredible variety of flavors, the unique aspect of Nasi Padang lies in its communal dining culture. All the dishes are laid out on the table, and you can choose which ones you’d like to eat. It’s common practice to share your selections with the entire table, creating a convivial and inclusive dining experience.


Whether you’re a meat lover or a fan of vegetarian cuisine, Nasi Padang offers something for everyone. The range of dishes ensures that each bite is a delectable adventure, allowing you to sample different flavors and textures in one meal.


Nasi Padang is more than just a meal; it’s an experience that immerses you in the rich culinary tradition of Indonesia. So, when you visit the country, be sure to indulge in a plate of Nasi Padang and let your taste buds journey through the delightful flavors of the archipelago.


Bakso (Meatball Soup)

Bakso, also known as meatball soup, is a beloved Indonesian comfort food that can be found on almost every street corner. It consists of savory meatballs, typically made from beef or chicken, served in a flavorful broth with noodles and an assortment of toppings.


What makes Bakso truly special is the unique texture and taste of the meatballs. They are springy and bouncy, thanks to a combination of ground meat, tapioca starch, and spices. The broth, which is usually made by simmering meat bones for hours, is rich in flavors and often enhanced with aromatic ingredients like garlic, ginger, and herbs.


In addition to the meatballs and broth, Bakso typically includes toppings like fried shallots, cilantro, green onions, and crispy wontons. Some variations may also have additional ingredients such as tofu, vegetables, or even boiled eggs. The combination of textures and flavors creates a delightful and satisfying bowl of soup.


Bakso vendors can be found throughout Indonesia, each with their own unique style and recipe. They often set up their portable stalls and serve the soup along with a variety of condiments like chili sauce, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), and lime wedges, allowing you to customize the flavors to your preference.


Bakso is more than just a delicious soup; it holds a special place in Indonesian culture. It’s a comforting and affordable meal that is enjoyed by people of all ages. From bustling cities to small villages, Bakso is a ubiquitous part of the Indonesian culinary landscape.


Don’t miss the chance to try this beloved Indonesian street food when you visit the country. Whether you enjoy it as a light snack or a filling meal, Bakso will undoubtedly win you over with its tantalizing flavors and unique textures.



Sambal is a staple condiment in Indonesian cuisine that adds a fiery kick and a burst of flavor to any dish. It is a chili-based sauce made from a combination of fresh red or green chili peppers, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste, and various spices and seasonings.


Indonesia is known for its wide variety of sambal variations, each with its own unique taste profile and level of spiciness. Some sambals are milder, providing a subtle heat and a balance of flavors, while others are extra hot, not for the faint of heart. Popular types of sambal include sambal oelek, sambal terasi, and sambal bajak.


Sambal is a versatile condiment that can be used in multiple ways. It is commonly served as a dipping sauce for fried dishes or grilled meats, as a flavor enhancer for soups and stir-fries, or even as a topping for noodles and rice dishes. Its vibrant color, intense flavors, and spicy sensation bring an added layer of excitement to any meal.


Indonesians have a deep appreciation for sambal, and many households have their own secret recipes passed down through generations. It is not uncommon for families to have multiple varieties of sambal in their pantry, offering options to suit different taste preferences.


When it comes to sambal, the combination of chili peppers and the other ingredients creates a symphony of flavors that excite the taste buds. The spice, the tanginess, and the umami notes all come together to create a harmonious taste experience.


If you’re a fan of bold and spicy flavors, make sure to try sambal when visiting Indonesia. Whether you’re exploring the street food scene or dining in a local restaurant, adding a dollop of sambal to your dish will elevate your culinary adventure to a whole new level.



Martabak is a popular Indonesian street food that combines elements of both sweet and savory flavors. It is a type of stuffed pancake that can be enjoyed as a snack or even as a meal. Martabak comes in two main variations: Martabak Manis (sweet) and Martabak Telur (savory).


Martabak Manis, also known as Terang Bulan, is a sweet indulgence that will satisfy any dessert lover’s cravings. The pancake batter is cooked on a griddle until it becomes fluffy and golden brown. It is then filled with a luscious mixture of chocolate, cheese, and sometimes peanuts or condensed milk. The result is a decadent pancake that is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.


Martabak Telur, on the other hand, is a savory delight. The pancake is folded and stuffed with a mixture of seasoned ground meat (such as chicken or beef), eggs, and a variety of herbs and spices. It is then cooked until the exterior turns crispy and golden. Martabak Telur is often served with a side of pickles and a tangy dipping sauce.


What makes Martabak truly special is the combination of flavors and textures. The contrasting elements of sweet and savory, soft and crispy, create a delightful eating experience. It’s no wonder that Martabak has become a popular snack enjoyed by people of all ages in Indonesia.


Martabak stalls can be found throughout the country, especially in bustling street food markets and night markets. The vendors often prepare the pancakes fresh to order, adding to the allure and ensuring you’ll enjoy a warm and satisfying treat.


Whether you have a sweet tooth or prefer savory snacks, Martabak is a must-try when in Indonesia. Indulge in the rich and comforting flavors of this beloved street food, and you’ll understand why it has become a favorite among locals and visitors alike.


Mie Ayam (Chicken Noodles)

Mie Ayam, or Chicken Noodles, is a popular Indonesian dish that showcases the perfect marriage of flavorful noodles and succulent chicken. It is a hearty and comforting meal that can be found in street food stalls, small eateries, and even high-end restaurants all across the country.


The dish features egg noodles that are cooked to perfection and topped with slices of tender, seasoned chicken, along with an array of toppings and a savory broth. The chicken is often marinated in a blend of soy sauce, garlic, and spices, which infuses it with a rich aroma and mouthwatering flavor.


Mie Ayam is a customizable dish, allowing you to tailor it to your own taste preferences. You can choose to have it dry or with a light broth, and you can also add various toppings such as crispy wontons, vegetables, and fried shallots. Some versions also come with a side serving of chicken broth.


What sets Indonesian Mie Ayam apart is the depth of flavors and the use of special condiments. It’s common to find a spoonful of chili sauce or sambal, along with a squeeze of lime juice, to add a kick of spiciness and tanginess to the dish. This combination of flavors creates a harmonious balance that keeps you coming back for more.


Whether you’re in Jakarta, Surabaya, or any other city in Indonesia, the aroma of Mie Ayam will tempt your senses. You’ll find dedicated Mie Ayam stalls with chefs meticulously preparing each bowl, ensuring that you enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal.


So, if you’re a fan of noodles and chicken, don’t miss the opportunity to savor Mie Ayam when visiting Indonesia. It’s a dish that captures the essence of Indonesian street food culture and offers a delightful blend of flavors and textures that will leave you longing for more.



Indonesia’s food culture is a treasure trove of flavors, aromas, and culinary delights. From the iconic Nasi Goreng and fiery Rendang to the refreshing Gado-Gado and diverse sambals, each dish reflects the country’s rich heritage and diverse regional influences.


Exploring the food scene in Indonesia is like embarking on a gastronomic adventure. Whether you’re indulging in street food, dining in local eateries, or experiencing fine dining, you’ll encounter a plethora of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds.


The beauty of Indonesian cuisine lies in its ability to cater to different preferences, from meat lovers to vegetarians, mild flavors to explosive spiciness. Whatever your preference, you’re sure to find a dish that satisfies your cravings.


Beyond the incredible flavors, Indonesian food tells stories of traditions, cultures, and the warmth of its people. Sharing a meal with locals and experiencing their hospitality is an integral part of the culinary journey.


So, when you visit Indonesia, be prepared to embark on a sensory adventure filled with bold flavors, vibrant colors, and heartwarming experiences. Indulge in the renowned Indonesian dishes, try the street food, and immerse yourself in the rich culinary heritage that defines this incredible nation.


Discovering Indonesian food is not just about nourishing your body; it’s a cultural experience that allows you to connect with the country’s traditions, history, and the warmth of its people. Let the flavors of Indonesia transport you to a world of culinary delight!