Indonesian cuisine overview
Indonesian cuisine is diverse, in part because Indonesia is composed of approximately 6,000 populated islands. Many regional cuisines exist, often based upon cultural and foreign influences. Indonesian cuisine varies greatly by region and has many different influences. Throughout its history, Indonesia has been involved in trade due to its location and natural resources. Additionally, Indonesia’s indigenous techniques and ingredients were influenced by India, the Middle East, China, and finally Europe. Spanish and Portuguese traders brought new world produce even before the Dutch came to colonize most of the archipelago. The Indonesian islands of Maluku, which are famed as the Spice Islands, also contributed to the introduction of native spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, to Indonesian and global cuisine. Some popular Indonesian dishes such as Nasi Goreng, (fried rice) Mie Goreng, (fried noodles) Satays (meat skewers) and Gado Gado, (vegetable salad in peanut dressing) are ubiquitous in the country and considered as Indonesian national dishes and yet in origin they are not even Indonesian. Nasi and Mie Goreng are Chinese, Satays are globally found every where. Which leaves Gado Gado that is found in one form or the other throughout the country. Sumatran cuisine, for example, often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables such as Gulai and Kari, while Javanese cuisine is more indigenous.
The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. Elements of Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine everywhere. Foods such as Bakmi (noodles), Bakso (meat or fish balls), and Lumpia (spring rolls) have been completely assimilated. Some popular dishes that originated in Indonesia are now common across much of Southeast Asia. Indonesian dishes such as Rending Sapi (beef braised in coconut milk) and Sambals (spiced sauces) are also favored in Malaysia and Singapore. Soy-based dishes, such as variations of Tahu (tofu) and Tempe (fermented soy bean cakes), are also very popular. Tempe is regarded as a Javanese invention, a local adaptation of soy-based food fermentation and production.
Indonesian meals are commonly eaten with the combination of a spoon in the right hand and fork in the left hand (to push the food onto the spoon), although in many parts of the country, such as Bali, 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 food stalls, traditional Sundanese and Minangkabau restaurants, or East Javanese Pecel Lele (fried catfish with sambal) and Ayam Goreng (fried chicken) food stalls. Eating with chopsticks is generally only found in food stalls or restaurants serving Indonesian adaptations of Chinese cuisine, such as Bakmie or Mie Ayam (chicken noodle) with Pangsit (wonton), Mie Goreng (fried noodles), and Kwetiau Goreng (fried flat rice noodles).
Heinz puts together an assembly of Indonesia's best-loved dishes. This images and recipes feature some of the country's perennial favorites including soto ayam (chicken noodle soup), otak otak (minced fish steamed in banana leaf), rendang sapi (beef braised in coconut and spices), sayur lodeh (vegetables stew in coconut cream) and tempeh manis kacang (crispy fried soybean cakes with peanut).
Heinz von Holzen is the owner of the renowned Balinese restaurant Bumbu Bali. He is passionate about Indonesian cuisine and spent many years immersed in its diversity and intricacies. Heinz also conducts cooking classes at his restaurant three times a week. His classes are extremely popular and boost Bumbu Bali's reputation as an authentic Balinese restaurant and cooking school that has won multiple awards for its promotion of authentic Balinese cuisine.
Beverages Across Indonesia
The most common and popular Indonesian drinks and beverages are teh (tea) and kopi (coffee). Indonesian households commonly serve teh manis (sweet tea) or kopi tubruk (coffee mixed with sugar and hot water and poured straight in the glass without separating out the coffee residue) to guests. Since the colonial era of Netherlands East Indies, plantations, especially in Java, were major producers of coffee, tea and sugar. Since then hot and sweet coffee and tea beverages have been enjoyed by Indonesians. Jasmin tea is the most popular tea variety drunk in Indonesia, however recent health awareness promotions have made green tea a popular choice. Usually coffee and tea are served hot, but cold iced sweet tea is also frequently drunk. Kopi Luwak is an exotic and expensive coffee beverage made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and other related civets. The botol, bottled sweet jasmine tea, is now quite popular and locally competes favorably with international bottled soda beverages such as Coca Cola and Fanta. Kopi susu (coffee with sweetened condensed milk) is an Indonesian version of Café au lait, especially popular throughout Java. Dessert like refreshing drinks such as es teler; avocado, jackfruit and young coconut in shredded ice and condensed milk are a favored during the hottest part of the day.
Fruit juices (jus) are very popular. Varieties include orange (jus jeruk), guava (jus jambu), mango (jus mangga), soursop (jus sirsak) and avocado (jus alpokat), the last of these being commonly served with condensed milk and chocolate syrup as a dessert-like treat. Durian can be made into ice cream called es durian.
Many popular drinks are based on ice (es) and can also be classified as desserts. Typical examples include young coconut (es kelapa muda), Grass jelly (es cincau), cendol (es cendol or es dawet), avocado, jackfruit and coconut with shreded ice and condensed milk (es teller), mixed ice (es campur), red kidney beans (es kacang merah), musk melon (es blewah) and seaweed (es rumput laut).
Hot sweet beverages can also be found, such as bajigur and bandrek which are particularly popular in West Java. Both are coconut milk or coconut sugar (gula jawa) based hot drinks, mixed with other spices. Sekoteng, a ginger based hot drink which includes peanuts, diced bread, and pacar cina, can be found in Jakarta and West Java. Wedang jahe (hot ginger drink) and wedang ronde (a hot drink with sweet potato balls) are particularly popular in Yogyakarta, Central Java, and East Java.
AAs a Muslim majority country, Indonesian Muslims also share Islamic dietary laws that prohibit alcoholic beverages. However since ancient times, local alcoholic beverages were already developed in archipelago. According to a Chinese source, people of ancient Java drank wine made from palm sap called tuak (palm wine). Today tuak continues to be popular in the Batak region, North Sumatra, Bali, Lombok and the spice islands. A traditional Batak bar serving tuak is called lapo tuak. In Solo, Central Java, ciu (a local adaptation of Chinese wine) is also known. Bottled brem bali(Balinese rice wine) is popular in Bali. In Nusa Tenggara and Maluku Islands the people also drink palm wine, locally known as sopi. In the Minahasa region of North Sulawesi, the people drink a highly alcoholic drink called Cap Tikus. Indonesians also developed local brands of beer, such as Bintang Beer and Anker Beer.
Spices meant for centuries politics, power and wealth, and who ever dominated the trade ruled the world. Lets face it, the last thing Christopher Columbus was looking for was America, which in fact was an accidental discovery. Known as the Spice Islands in the fare east of Indonesia, Maluku was obsessively sought for many years before they where rediscovered by Portuguese sailors in the 15th century. Explorers like Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Sir Francis Drake all dreamed of finding their wealth there. In fact, one of the main incentives for Europe’s age of discovery was the avid search for spices, easily worth their weight in gold then.
Spices like nutmeg, mace and cloves where used to camouflage the flavour of spoiled meat in the days long before refrigeration. It was also believed that this exotic spices had huge medicinal value. As far back as the 3rd century BC, the Chinese knew of cloves, and by the 4thcentury AD, fragrant cloves had reached Europe. Yet for hundreds of years, the worlds total clove production come from five little islands in the fare east of Indonesia. Ternate and Tidore in the north, Ambon in the centre and the island group of Banda’s on the southern edge of the spice islands. Control over these spice producing islands assured immeasurable fortunes, and countless lives where lost in the quest for them.
But the introduction of refrigeration and British success in propagating nutmeg and cloves in Sri Lanka was to end the spice wars for ever. Even more astonishing is the fact that these indigenes spices to Indonesia where actually introduced into Indonesian cooking by Indian traders and missionary from the Middle East which introduced Islam to the world’s largest archipelago.