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The 11 Spiciest Dishes in Indonesia, Ranked

Ayam Rica-Rica. Traditional dish from Manado, braised chicken in spicy paste.
Ayam Rica-Rica. Traditional dish from Manado, braised chicken in spicy paste. | © Ariyani Tedjo / Shutterstock
From fruit salad drenched in spicy sambal to noodle soup that will leave you breathless, these delicious Indonesian delicacies are better known for their ability to set tongues on fire.

Just like everything else about the nation’s culture, Indonesia’s cuisine is a mishmash of different influences. But no matter where you go, there are always delicious traditional dishes that will make your tongue twirl in flaming delight. These spicy meals will turn eating into a sweat fest – but it’s worth braving the heat for their flavoursome sensation. If you’re in for a daring culinary adventure, try these spiciest dishes in Indonesia.

Penyetan

With chili condiments alongside scrunched up chicken meat, there’s really no escape from this meal’s spiciness. This East Java specialty is served with chili sauce overflowing the plate, creating a delicious red mess and piquant aroma that only hints at how spicy the dish will be. Penyetan usually uses fried chicken, tofu, and tempeh as the ‘vessel’ for sambal inside and out.

Ayam penyet traditional spicy sauce or sambal and fried chicken © Odua Images / Shutterstock

Rujak

Indonesia knows plenty of rujak variations, but to sum it up it’s a refreshing fruit salad drenched in a tasty, tangy dressing. What makes rujak so addictive is the combination of all tastes – sweet and sour from the fruits, salty and spicy from the sauce. Most recipes require at least 5-10 hot cayenne peppers included in the assortment of mango, papaya, pineapple and more.

Rujak serut. An indonesian fruit salad with hot spicy sauce © Odua Images / Shutterstock

Ayam Taliwang

For this traditional Lombok recipe, chicken is grilled or fried until half-done, tenderised with a pestle, and then cooked while coated with spicy sauce made from chilis and spices. The two-step grilling process lets the condiment really permeate into the layers of meat, making it savoury and spicy no matter what part you’re munching on. Ayam taliwang is zesty on the outside, too – you get to enjoy this dish with a generous helping of sambal smeared all over the cooked meat, making it spicy inside and out.

Chicken Taliwang, famous food in Lombok, Indonesia. © anika arshad / Shutterstock

Rendang

Crowned reader’s pick in the world’s number one dishes by CNN Travel, rendang’s deliciousness is celebrated by many. What follows that savoury taste is a delicate spiciness that comes from an intricate mix of herbs and spices used during the hours-long preparation. The long cooking and marinating process help the zesty seasoning seep into the meat, resulting in the same intensity of taste in every bite.

Rendang Padang. Spicy beef stew from Padang, Indonesia. © Ariyani Tedjo / Shutterstock

Ayam betutu

Legend has it that this traditional recipe hails from the grand palaces of Balinese royalty. And of course the kings had to have the most intricate and delicate mixture of spices, yielding the most intense and delicious tastes. For this dish, a whole chicken or duck is stuffed with the seasoning made from chilis, shallots, gingers, and more. After that, the chicken is to be wrapped in banana leaves, then baked or steamed for a full 24 hours ideally. Serve with Bali’s own sambal matah and you’ve got yourself a merciless hot fest.

Indonesian balinese culinary. ayam betutu.steamed or roasted chicken © Odua Images / Shutterstock

Balado

Balado is originally found in Minang cuisine of West Sumatra, the region that gives us rendang and sambal cabe ijo. Balado means ‘with chili’, which properly describes what you’re in for. The main ingredient could be anything — egg, chicken, beef, prawn, etc — as long as there are dozens of chilis, you’re good. The devilish red colour and piquant aroma are irresistible, enticing anyone to challenge their tastebuds’ resistance to heat.

Telur balado, boiled egg served with tomato and chili paste, or sambal. © Odua Images / Shutterstock

Bebek Madura

This special duck recipe from Madura is a favourite all over Indonesia. Don’t let the thick dark sauce fool you – bebek madura is as spicy as it comes. The black-ish colour comes from a long marinating process that incorporates a long list of spices. Chilis make up a substantial part of the seasoning, along with tangy-tasting shallots and pepper. The crunchy, tender duck is served with a helping of warm rice and yet another sambal for an extra kick.

Fried duck rice typical of madura island, indonesia. © spotters / Shutterstock

Mie Aceh

This spice-rich noodle recipe originates from Aceh, Sumatra. Mie Aceh comes in two variations, soup and dry noodle. Both can have anything from beef, goat meat, or seafood, but all versions have one thing in common: an enticing spicy flavour that could burn your tongue from scoop one. However, the spices and chillis conspire to make a distinctive and delicious curry-like taste that is worth catching your breath for.

Noodle Indoensia Aceh © Perdana Rulliano / Shutterstock

Rica-rica

It’s generally known that Manadonese cuisine is a delicious realm of spiciness. For those familiar with this fare, rica-rica is a cue word for ‘really spicy’. Rica means ‘chilli’ in the local dialect, a taste so intense that you say it twice. Rica-rica recipe can be used for any meat, most commonly chicken and fish. Other than the meat and some herbs like shallots and lemongrass, the recipe uses at least two different chillis, and lots of them.

Deep fried fish and chili sauce © narai chal / Shutterstock

Seblak

Seblak is a beloved street food dish from West Java, notorious for its devilish spicy broth. The main ingredient is kerupuk or crackers, combined with side additions like chicken or sausage, drenched in the reddish thick broth. Over the years people have made novelty creations out of this traditional recipe, incorporating unlikely ingredients from macaroni to mozzarella. Regardless whatever modern take is incorporated, the intense spiciness of seblak’s sauce is almost non-negotiable.

Seblak, indonesia food © ARIALstudios / Shutterstock

Oseng-oseng mercon

‘Mercon’ means firecracker, a word appropriately represents the sensation in your mouth when a spoonful of this dish from Yogyakarta comes in. The recipe most commonly uses beef as the primary ingredient, stir-fried with the spicy seasoning. The plenteous amount of chili in this food will explode in your mouth, with intense reactions felt up to your ears. You’ve been warned.

Oseng Kikil Mercon Kecap, Indonesian dish from Jakarta. © OlegD / Shutterstock