13 Indonesian Dishes You Need to Try

Indonesian vegetable salad |  ©closari/Flickr
Indonesian vegetable salad | ©closari/Flickr
Photo of Edira Putri
6 June 2017

Indonesian food is a manifestation of the country’s rich culture, conveying its diverse and delicious flavor and essence on a plate. From salad to dessert, discover the tastiest Indonesian dishes you need to try.

Beef Rendang

This slow-cooked beef dish is one of Indonesians’ all-time favorites, traditionally served on special occasions. Its popularity has now enabled locals and tourists to taste this West Sumatran specialty at restaurants or even humble warungs (small restaurants). Rendang is cooked for several hours in a special mixture of coconut milk and spices until the meat is tender and rich with flavor.

Indonesian Beef Rendang | ©Kyle Lam/Flickr


Satay (or sate) can be found throughout the country. In fact, many different cultures in Indonesia have their own variation of the skewered grilled meat recipe. Satay can use beef, chicken, pork, or fish, which will be marinated and then skewered and grilled. Most satay dishes are served with spicy peanut sauce or soy sauce with chili and shallots, eaten with rice cakes or rice.

Chicken satay with peanut sauce | ©Marufish/Flickr

Fried Rice

Indonesian fried rice is a versatile dish that can be found anywhere, from luxury hotels to street food vendors. The rice is fried with soy sauce and spices, and you can add anything, including eggs, chicken, seafood, vegetables, sausages, meatballs, even beef or goat. It’s often served with acar, an assortment of pickled cucumber, chili, shallots, and carrots.

Indonesian fried rice | ©Alpha/Flickr


There are many takes on soto throughout Indonesia, with different spices and ingredients. Generally, soto is a traditional soup that consists of meat or chicken, vegetables, and noodles. The recipe uses herbs and spices to make a tasty broth.

Soto in a pot | ©Ron Dollete/Flickr


Bakso is the Indonesian take on meatballs, and is served with seasoned broth, noodles, rice vermicelli, vegetables, sometimes tofu and traditional dumplings. Most Indonesian meatballs use beef, but tourists can also find it with fish, chicken, or pork. Bakso is a street food dish sold at carts or warungs.

Bakso sold on a cart | © rai_19 / Flickr


This traditional side dish is common throughout the country. Tempe is a naturally-fermented soy product, forming a cake-like shape. Tempe can be fried, steamed, or added to recipes, and can be enjoyed with rice or as a snack.

Nasi Uduk

The special thing about this dish is the rice, which is cooked with coconut milk and other herbs to create a fragrant and flavorful main dish. The rice is then served with chicken or beef, eggs, and cucumber, topped with fried shallots and kerupuk (Indonesian crackers). Nasi Uduk is a popular breakfast in its birthplace, Jakarta, where people often grab a portion of the dish to go.

Nasi uduk as breakfast | ©gurmit singh/Flickr


Gado-gado is Indonesian salad with peanut sauce dressing. The contents includes raw or boiled vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, carrot, and bean sprouts, with fried tofu, tempe and boiled eggs, served with rice cakes or regular rice.

Gado-gado, Indonesian vegetable salad | © Yasmina Haryono/Flickr

Oxtail soup

Locally named sop buntut, Indonesian oxtail soup features a juicy grilled oxtail along with slices of potato, tomato, carrot, or other vegetables in seasoned broth. This West Java specialty is popular throughout the country and often considered a sumptuous meal.

Babi Guling

Highly popular in Bali, babi guling is the island’s special roasted pork. Originally a traditional communal dish, the pork can only be roasted whole because it will be rolled (guling) over the fire. The recipe features traditional spices and grease, making the taste distinctive and unforgettable. It is difficult to find this dish outside Bali because the majority of Indonesian are Muslims and therefore do not eat pork.

Balinese roasted pork | © Kai Hendry/Flickr


This South Sumatran dish is made mainly from fish, mixed with tapioca to form a cake-like shape in various shapes and sizes. The assorted fish cakes are served with spicy-acid dipping sauce made from vinegar and chili. Pempek is popular throughout Indonesia, and is eaten as a main dish or snack.


This dessert is popular in many places in Asia, including Indonesia. It consists of two pancake-like layers with different fillings: chocolate, cheese, nuts, milk, or all of them together! Martabak is sold in the evening by street food vendors, kiosks, or parked cars.

Martabak | © frank wouters/Flickr


Siomay may refer both to a set of dishes and a specific traditional dumpling that is a part of that dish. The siomay dumpling contains fish and is served with steamed cabbage, potato, tofu, and boiled egg, and is dressed with peanut sauce.

Selection for siomay | © stwn/Flickr

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