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What To Eat In Bali And Beyond: An Indonesian Food Guide And Recipes – Be My Travel Muse


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Romonda Barwick



When it comes to exploring the intersection of food and travel, few destinations are as enticing as Indonesia. This Southeast Asian country is a melting pot of cultures, flavors, and traditions, creating a vibrant culinary scene that is sure to delight food enthusiasts.


Indonesian cuisine is incredibly diverse, showcasing influences from Chinese, Indian, Arab, and European cultures, as well as a range of local ingredients and cooking techniques. From the island of Bali to the bustling streets of Jakarta, each region offers its own unique flavors and delicacies.


In this Indonesian food guide, we will take you on a gastronomic journey through the country, highlighting the must-try dishes, regional specialties, street food delights, and even providing a few traditional recipes for you to try at home. Whether you’re planning a trip to Indonesia or simply want to experience the flavors of this captivating country, this guide will provide you with a comprehensive overview of Indonesian cuisine.


Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with a rich blend of spices, aromatic herbs, bold flavors, and unique cooking techniques. From the fiery sambals to the savory rendang, Indonesian food is a celebration of boldness and complexity.


Join us as we delve into the world of Indonesian food, exploring the vibrant culinary traditions of Bali and beyond. Prepare to be transported to the bustling street food stalls, the aromatic spice markets, and the family kitchens where generations of recipes have been perfected.


Indonesian Food Culture

Indonesian food culture is deeply rooted in communal dining and the sharing of dishes. Meals are often enjoyed with family and friends, and the act of eating is seen as a social experience. Indonesians take pride in their cuisine and consider food as a way to bring people together.


The diverse culture and history of Indonesia have greatly influenced its food. The country’s culinary traditions are a blend of indigenous flavors and techniques, as well as influences from neighboring countries and international trade routes. This fusion has resulted in a rich and varied culinary landscape.


Rice, known as “nasi,” is a staple in Indonesian cuisine and is typically served with a variety of side dishes, such as vegetables, meat or fish, and spicy sambal sauce. Noodles, known as “mie,” are also popular and are often stir-fried or served in soup dishes.


Indonesian cuisine is characterized by its bold flavors and aromatic spices. Common ingredients include lemongrass, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and coriander. These ingredients are used to create the vibrant and complex flavors that are synonymous with Indonesian cuisine.


Another key element of Indonesian food culture is the use of fresh and local ingredients. Indonesians take pride in sourcing ingredients from their own gardens or local markets. This emphasis on fresh and seasonal produce ensures that the flavors of the dishes are at their prime.


Indonesia is also known for its traditional cooking techniques, such as grilling, frying, steaming, and braising. These methods are used to bring out the best flavors in the ingredients and create dishes that are both delicious and visually appealing.


Overall, Indonesian food culture is a celebration of flavors, communal dining, and the use of fresh ingredients. It reflects the rich diversity and heritage of the country, making it a truly unique and exciting culinary experience.


Balinese Cuisine

Balinese cuisine is a beloved and distinctive part of Indonesian food culture. Known for its vibrant flavors, aromatic spices, and unique cooking techniques, Balinese cuisine is a treat for the senses.


One of the defining features of Balinese cuisine is the use of spices and herbs. Balinese dishes are often seasoned with a blend of spices, including turmeric, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and shallots. These aromatic ingredients create a delightful medley of flavors and add depth to the dishes.


Rice is a staple in Balinese cuisine, and you will find it in almost every meal. Nasi campur, a popular Balinese dish, is a plate of steamed rice accompanied by an assortment of side dishes, such as grilled meats, vegetables, and spicy sambal sauce.


Balinese cuisine also features a variety of grilled and roasted meats, with babi guling (suckling pig) being one of the most famous dishes. The pig is seasoned with a flavorful blend of spices and roasted on an open fire, resulting in tender, juicy meat with crispy skin.


Another iconic Balinese dish is ayam betutu, which consists of spiced chicken wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked for hours. The result is succulent and aromatic chicken with a rich blend of flavors.


Seafood is also abundant in Bali, thanks to its coastal location. Grilled fish, prawns, and squid are popular choices, often marinated in a mixture of spices and served with a side of sambal or a spicy peanut sauce.


Vegetarians and vegans will also find a wide range of options in Balinese cuisine. Balinese salads, known as urap, are made with steamed vegetables tossed in a flavorful dressing of grated coconut, chili, and lime juice. Tofu and tempeh, both staple ingredients in Indonesian cuisine, are often prepared in various dishes, such as tofu satay or tempeh curry.


To complete your culinary journey in Bali, don’t miss out on the traditional desserts. Bubur injin, a black rice pudding with coconut milk, and klepon, sweet rice balls filled with palm sugar and coated in grated coconut, are just a few examples of the sweet indulgences you can savor.


Balinese cuisine is a true reflection of the island’s vibrant culture and natural abundance. The combination of bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and traditional cooking techniques make it a must-try for any food lover exploring Indonesia.


Beyond Bali: Regional Indonesian Cuisine

While Bali is renowned for its culinary delights, the diverse regions of Indonesia offer a plethora of unique and tantalizing cuisines. From the spicy flavors of Padang in West Sumatra to the savory dishes of Yogyakarta in Central Java, each region has its own distinct culinary traditions and specialties.


In West Sumatra, the cuisine is heavily influenced by Minangkabau traditions. Padang food is known for its rich and spicy flavors, with dishes like rendang (slow-cooked beef in coconut milk and spices), sate padang (grilled skewers in a thick sauce), and nasi kapau (a rice dish served with various side dishes) being the highlights.


Traveling to Central Java, you’ll encounter the royal cuisine of Yogyakarta. The food here is characterized by its delicate flavors and indulgent ingredients. Gudeg, a slow-cooked jackfruit stew, and opor ayam, a chicken dish cooked in a fragrant coconut milk sauce, are beloved dishes in this region.


On the island of Sulawesi, you’ll find unique dishes that reflect the local culture. One example is coto Makassar, a spicy beef soup made from slow-cooked beef, spices, and ground peanuts. Another notable dish is konro, which consists of grilled beef ribs served with a flavorful broth.


Eastern Indonesia offers a range of seafood dishes, as well as dishes that incorporate local ingredients like sago and seaweed. Manado, in North Sulawesi, is famous for its spicy cuisine, with dishes like tinutuan (a porridge made with various vegetables) and rica-rica (spicy grilled meat or fish) being popular choices.


Heading to the island of Java, the city of Surabaya is known for its street food scene. From the famous soto ayam (chicken soup with noodles) to the flavorful tahu campur (tofu and bean sprout dish), Surabaya offers an array of affordable and delicious street food options.


These are just a few examples of the regional cuisines that await you in Indonesia. Exploring the culinary diversity of the country allows you to connect with different cultures, traditions, and flavors, making your food journey even more memorable.


Whether you’re in Bali or venturing off to other parts of Indonesia, be sure to embrace the regional cuisines and savor the unique flavors that each has to offer.


Famous Indonesian Dishes

Indonesia is renowned for its diverse and flavorful culinary heritage. From mouthwatering curries to fiery stir-fries, the country boasts a wide array of famous dishes that are loved by both locals and travelers.


One of the most beloved Indonesian dishes is rendang. Hailing from West Sumatra, rendang is a slow-cooked beef dish cooked in a rich and fragrant coconut milk sauce. The tender meat is infused with a medley of spices, creating a dish that is both succulent and aromatic. It is often served with steamed rice and is a must-try for any food enthusiast visiting Indonesia.


Nasi goreng, which translates to “fried rice,” is another iconic Indonesian dish. This flavorful and satisfying dish is made by stir-frying rice with a combination of vegetables, meat, and spices. It is often topped with a fried egg and served with shrimp crackers. Nasi goreng is a popular street food option and is a staple in Indonesian cuisine.


Sate, or satay, is a crowd-pleasing dish found throughout Indonesia. It consists of skewers of marinated and grilled meat, typically chicken, beef, or pork, served with a peanut sauce dipping. The meat is often tender and flavorful, thanks to the marinade of spices and sweet soy sauce. Sate is a favorite street food snack and is perfect for those looking to sample the diverse flavors of Indonesian cuisine.


Gado-gado is a traditional Indonesian salad that offers a burst of flavors and textures. It features a mix of blanched vegetables, such as cabbage, bean sprouts, and carrots, with tofu, tempeh, and hard-boiled eggs. The whole dish is then drizzled with a peanut sauce dressing, resulting in a harmonious combination of sweet, savory, and tangy flavors.


Indonesia is also known for its vibrant and spicy soups. Soto Ayam is a popular Indonesian chicken soup flavored with a variety of spices, such as turmeric, ginger, and lemongrass. It is often served with shredded chicken, vegetables, and rice noodles, making it a hearty and satisfying meal option.


The list of famous Indonesian dishes goes on, from the aromatic and flavorful beef soup known as Bakso, to the scrumptious and crispy Indonesian-style fried chicken, Ayam Goreng. Each dish tells a story and captivates the taste buds with its unique flavors and enticing aromas.


No matter which famous dish you decide to try, be prepared to embark on a culinary adventure through Indonesia’s rich and diverse gastronomy.


Indonesian Street Food

Indonesia is a haven for street food lovers, offering a wide array of delicious snacks and meals that can be found on almost every street corner. Indonesian street food is not only affordable and convenient, but it also showcases the vibrant and diverse flavors of the country’s cuisine.


One of the most famous street foods in Indonesia is mie goreng, which translates to “fried noodles.” This flavorful dish features stir-fried noodles combined with a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, meat, shrimp, and spices. Mie goreng is often served with a side of chili sauce and is a popular choice for a quick and satisfying meal.


Satay, or sate, is another beloved Indonesian street food. These skewered and grilled meats, commonly made with chicken, beef, or lamb, are marinated in a flavorful blend of spices and then grilled to perfection. Satay vendors can be found across the country, with each region adding its own twist to this classic dish. Be sure to try it with a side of peanut sauce for a truly authentic experience.


Ketoprak is a delightful street food dish that originated from Jakarta. It consists of rice vermicelli noodles, tofu, bean sprouts, and rice cakes, all dressed in a sweet and spicy peanut sauce. Ketoprak is often garnished with crispy fried shallots and served with a side of krupuk (shrimp crackers). This flavorful and satisfying dish is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.


When it comes to snacks, Indonesian street food has plenty to offer. Martabak is a popular sweet or savory pancake filled with various ingredients such as chocolate, cheese, nuts, or meat. The crispy and indulgent snack is a go-to for those craving something comforting and delicious.


Cireng is a simple yet addictive street food snack made from cassava flour. It is deep-fried until golden and crispy, then served with a variety of dipping sauces such as spicy sambal or sweet soy sauce. Cireng is perfect for munching on the go and is often found in bustling food markets and street stalls.


Of course, no discussion of Indonesian street food would be complete without mentioning the famous bakso, or meatball soup. Bakso vendors can be seen all around Indonesia, serving up bowls of bouncy meatballs in a flavorful broth. Garnished with a variety of toppings such as noodles, sprouts, and fried shallots, bakso is a beloved comfort food that can be enjoyed any time of the day or night.


Indonesian street food offers a fantastic way to explore the flavors of the country while immersing yourself in its vibrant street culture. Be adventurous and try different snacks and dishes from various vendors, as each one brings its own unique twist to these beloved street food classics.


Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Indonesian cuisine is a paradise for vegetarians and vegans, with a plethora of flavorful and satisfying plant-based options. Traditional Indonesian cuisine has long celebrated vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and other plant-based ingredients, making it relatively easy to find delicious meat-free dishes throughout the country.


Gado-gado is a popular Indonesian salad that can be easily adapted to suit vegetarian and vegan diets. This dish features a colorful mix of blanched vegetables, such as cabbage, bean sprouts, and carrots, accompanied by tofu, tempeh, and hard-boiled eggs. To make it vegan, simply omit the eggs or replace them with a plant-based protein alternative.


Another popular vegetarian and vegan option is nasi goreng, or fried rice. This flavorful dish can be customized to include a variety of vegetables and tofu or tempeh as a protein source. Just be sure to request no shrimp paste or fish sauce when ordering, as these ingredients are typically used in the traditional version.


Martabak is a versatile street food option that can also be made vegetarian or vegan. This pancake-like snack can be filled with a variety of plant-based ingredients, such as vegetables, cheese alternatives, or even sweet fillings like chocolate or fruits. When ordering, make sure to inquire about the filling options to ensure they align with your dietary preferences.


Indonesian cuisine is famous for its wide variety of tempeh dishes. Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian fermented soybean cake that is high in protein and has a firm texture. It can be stir-fried, grilled, or used as a filling in various dishes like tempeh satay or tempeh curry. Its versatility makes it an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans craving a substantial and flavorful meal.


For those who enjoy spicy flavors, sambal is a must-try condiment in Indonesian cuisine. Made primarily from chili peppers, sambal can be used as a dip or sauce to add a kick to your meals. Be sure to check the ingredients, as some versions of sambal may contain shrimp paste or fish sauce.


When dining out in Indonesia, it’s important to communicate your dietary preferences to ensure your meal is prepared in a way that aligns with your needs. Many restaurants and street food vendors are accommodating and can make adjustments to dishes to suit vegetarian or vegan diets. Asking for recommendations or checking online resources for vegetarian and vegan-friendly establishments can also be helpful.


Vegetarian and vegan travelers in Indonesia can enjoy a wide array of flavorful and satisfying dishes that highlight the deliciousness of plant-based ingredients. Embrace the local flavors and culinary traditions, and you’ll discover that Indonesian cuisine has plenty to offer for every dietary preference.


Indonesian Drinks

Indonesia offers a vibrant and diverse array of beverages that are as refreshing as they are flavorful. From exotic fruit juices to traditional herbal concoctions, Indonesian drinks are designed to quench your thirst and provide a unique taste experience.


One of the most popular and iconic Indonesian drinks is teh botol, which translates to “bottled tea.” This sweetened jasmine tea is served cold and can be found in practically every corner of the country. Teh botol has a distinct floral aroma and is a perfect companion to your meals or as a refreshing pick-me-up on a hot day.


If you’re looking for something more fruity, try jus alpukat, or avocado juice. Avocados are blended with palm sugar and a splash of milk to create a creamy and indulgent treat. The combination of the rich avocado and the sweet palm sugar results in a luscious drink that will leave you wanting more.


Es campur is a popular dessert drink that combines a medley of ingredients, such as grass jelly, coconut meat, sweetened condensed milk, shaved ice, and a variety of fruits. This colorful concoction is a refreshing and delightful way to cool down in the tropical heat. Each spoonful offers a burst of different textures and flavors.


Bajigur is a traditional warm beverage that originates from West Java. It is typically made with coconut milk, palm sugar, ginger, and sometimes pandan leaves. The combination of these ingredients creates a comforting and aromatic drink that is commonly enjoyed on rainy days or to warm up during cooler evenings.


Indonesia is also famous for its coffee, and one must-try is kopi luwak. Often deemed one of the most expensive coffees in the world, kopi luwak is made from coffee beans that have been ingested and excreted by civet cats. The unique fermentation process gives the coffee a smooth and distinct flavor. Coffee lovers can find kopi luwak in specialty coffee shops or traditional markets throughout the country.


For those seeking a non-alcoholic alternative, consider bir pletok. This traditional herbal drink is made with a combination of spices, including ginger, lemongrass, and cloves, as well as palm sugar. It is often served warm and is believed to have various health benefits, such as aiding digestion and boosting the immune system.


Whether you prefer hot or cold beverages, fruity or herbal flavors, the Indonesian drink culture has something to satisfy every palate. Embrace the opportunity to explore the unique and refreshing flavors of Indonesia as you sip your way through an array of delightful concoctions.


Indonesian Food Recipes

Immerse yourself in the rich flavors of Indonesian cuisine by trying your hand at some traditional recipes. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or an adventurous home cook, these recipes will allow you to recreate the authentic taste of Indonesia in your own kitchen.


Rendang is a slow-cooked beef dish that is both tender and packed with aromatic flavors. To make this iconic Indonesian dish, you will need:

  • 500g beef, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups thick coconut milk
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Oil, for cooking

In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the minced shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add the beef cubes and cook until browned. Pour in the coconut milk, followed by the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, tamarind paste, palm sugar, and salt. Simmer over low heat for about 3-4 hours, or until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened. Serve with steamed rice.

Nasi Goreng

Indonesian fried rice, or nasi goreng, is a delicious and versatile dish that can be customized with your choice of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups cooked rice, preferably day-old
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables (peas, corn, green beans, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Oil, for cooking
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and shrimp paste (if using), and cook until fragrant. Add the carrots, bell pepper, and mixed vegetables, and stir-fry until they are tender but still crispy. Push the vegetables to one side of the pan and pour the beaten eggs into the other side. Scramble the eggs until cooked, then mix them with the vegetables. Add the cooked rice to the pan and stir-fry it with the vegetables and eggs. Pour in the soy sauce and sweet soy sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together until well combined. Serve hot.


A refreshing and nutritious Indonesian salad, gado-gado, mixes blanched vegetables with a flavorful peanut sauce. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Assorted vegetables (cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, etc.)
  • Fried tofu, sliced
  • Fried tempeh, sliced
  • Hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Peanut sauce:
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts, ground
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 1 tbsp tamarind juice
  • 1 red chili, minced (optional)
  • Water, as needed

Blanch the vegetables in boiling water until they are crisp-tender, then drain and set aside. To make the peanut sauce, combine the ground peanuts, minced garlic, palm sugar, sweet soy sauce, tamarind juice, and minced chili (if using) in a bowl. Gradually add water and mix until you achieve your desired consistency. Arrange the blanched vegetables, tofu, tempeh, eggs, and cucumber on a plate. Drizzle the peanut sauce over the top or serve it on the side.


These three recipes are just a taste of the wide variety of dishes that Indonesian cuisine has to offer. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients and flavors, and don’t be afraid to add your own personal touch to make each dish your own.



Indonesian cuisine is a treasure trove of flavors, aromas, and culinary traditions that will leave you craving more. From the vibrant and diverse street food to the rich and aromatic traditional dishes, Indonesia offers a culinary experience like no other.


Exploring the world of Indonesian food allows you to embark on a gastronomic journey through the country’s diverse regions, from the iconic flavors of Bali to the unique regional specialties found throughout the archipelago. The communal dining culture, emphasis on fresh ingredients, and bold flavors make Indonesian cuisine a delight for food enthusiasts and travelers alike.


Whether you’re indulging in the mouthwatering rendang or savoring the tantalizing spices of nasi goreng, each bite tells a story and invites you to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the Indonesian people. From the street food stalls to the humble family kitchens, Indonesian food brings people together, fosters connection, and creates lasting memories of flavors and experiences.


As you explore the diverse range of Indonesian dishes, don’t forget to try the vegetarian and vegan options that abound, allowing you to experience the country’s culinary delights regardless of your dietary preferences. And let’s not forget the refreshing Indonesian drinks, with their tropical and aromatic flavors, adding another layer of sensory delight to your culinary experience.


By trying out traditional Indonesian recipes in your own kitchen, you can recreate the authentic flavors and immerse yourself in the culinary delights of the Indonesian archipelago. The combination of spices, fresh ingredients, and unique cooking techniques will transport you to the bustling food markets and vibrant street stalls of Indonesia.


So, whether you’re planning a trip to Indonesia or simply want to bring the taste of Indonesia into your home, immerse yourself in the world of Indonesian food. Allow your taste buds to be tantalized, your senses to be awakened, and your culinary horizons to be expanded as you explore the rich and diverse flavors of this captivating country.