Two weeks ago, on August 17th to be exact, Indonesia celebrated its 71st Independence Day. Being a #proudindonesian, I thought I’d dedicate this month’s blog post to the delectable cuisines of my tanah air (homeland). So the following is a list of 7 Indonesian dishes that are worth every single calorie.
- Martabak Bandung Manis
This hot dessert is the pure definition of guilty pleasure. If you conduct a survey of Indonesians living abroad on what food they miss the most from their home country, this will probably come out on top. Martabak Bandung manis is basically the Indonesian version of pancakes. The batter is, in fact, pretty similar to normal pancakes, but what makes it better and extra fattening tasty is the copious amount of butter and fillings. A typical martabak place will give you a choice of chocolate, cheese, peanuts and condensed milk for the fillings; you can then mix and match as you like. But nowadays new flavours like green tea, red velvet, taro, Toblerone etc. are fast becoming famous too. I personally prefer a simple cheese and condensed milk martabak, but it is these combinations of fillings that turn a martabak from a plain pancake into an oozy, sticky delight.
- Nasi Bali
Balinese cuisines are amongst my favourite foods to eat, and nasi Bali is one such dish. It’s basically white rice served with complimentary condiments such as spicy shredded chicken, spicy green beans and jackfruit, an array of chili sauce, etc. I’ve never been to Bali so I don’t know if the nasi Bali in Jakarta are as authentic as the ones in Bali, but they’re pretty tasty to me. Beware though, this dish is not for those who cannot handle spicy food; even a crazy chili lover like me sometimes can’t handle the heat. Whenever I eat nasi Bali, or any Balinese cuisines for that matter, I always end up with sexy, red swollen lips ha.. ha.. But it’s totally worth it!
- Bubur Ayam
This, literally translated, is chicken porridge; which might not sound very exotic or special, but don’t undermine the power of a good bowl of bubur ayam. This dish is a staple Indonesian breakfast menu. What you get is steaming hot rice porridge topped up with shredded chicken, fried shallots, freshly chopped spring onions, a generous helping of crackers, and that special sauce that ties the whole dish together. This is the dish that I always crave whenever I’m down with the flu and have no appetite; all you have to do is mix everything together and enjoy every spoonful.
- Pisang Goreng
Pisang goreng is basically fried bananas, and it is the bomb! This is my brother’s no. 1 thing to eat, and whenever he comes home from Singapore my mum would have a big plate of it ready for him, which he will then proceed to devour all by himself. But who can blame him really? Just look at that crispy, slightly savoury, golden coating and the sweet, soft banana hidden inside? It’s practically impossible to eat just one; they’re kinda like Pringles: once you pop, you can’t stop!
- Nasi Padang
Nasi Padang is another spicy dish that I can never pass up. When you go to a Padang restaurant, you might be surprised that all the dishes are already stacked right in front of you; you don’t need to order from a menu or wait for your food. You get a plate of steamed rice, choose the side dishes that you want and enjoy. This one is not as spicy as nasi Bali, but most (if not all) of the dishes are spicy and curry based, so if you don’t like spicy food, then you probably won’t like this one. My favourite side dishes are the spicy grilled chicken, spicy chicken curry and cassava leaves in green curry. Add their staple green chili paste and I’m one happy diner.
- Mie Ayam
This is another popular breakfast dish, but it can also be enjoyed at any time of the day. It’s basically noodles and diced chicken, served with a steaming bowl of broth. Varieties of this dish might also include bakso (meatballs), and pangsit (dumplings). This dish is so popular, so simple, and so ubiquitous in Indonesia that it’s kind of difficult to believe that they’re not available overseas, considering the increasing number of Indonesians living abroad. I remember when I was still in Hong Kong, whenever my Indonesian friends were having a difficult time at uni, they’d always say, “Kita buka restoran mie ayam aja yuk, pasti laku daripada susah susah kuliah.” Roughly translated: “let’s just forget about uni and open a mie ayam restaurant, it’s bound to sell like hot cakes.” I’ve even heard the same things from my brother’s Indonesian friends in Singapore too. Someone should really jump on this idea and turn it into a reality because I’m pretty sure a humble bowl of mie ayam can cure any Indonesian’s homesickness.
These are small pieces of meat, grilled on a wooden skewer over an open coal fire. Many different types of meat are used: chicken, beef, goat, pork, even rabbit. But the most popular ones are by far sate ayam (chicken) and sate kambing (goat). Sate ayam is served with sweet and spicy peanut sauce, while sate kambing is usually served with sweet soy sauce and fresh pieces of tomatoes, shallots and chili mixed in.
We usually eat sate with steamed rice or lontong (compressed rice that’s been rolled and cooked in banana leaves), but you can also enjoy them as they are. A good sate will have perfectly soft, tender and slightly charred meat with that burnt, smoky taste that will have you salivating for more.
It took me so long to narrow this list down to just 7; and there were so many wonderful dishes that I really really didn’t want to cut out of the list, but I didn’t want to make this post too long. Maybe I should make a part II in the future… But I hope the 7 delicacies on this list can convince you to give Indonesia a visit because one of the reasons that I’m proud to be Indonesian is the numerous amount of food that I can never get enough of, and that you can’t find anywhere else in the world! When people hear Indonesia, they immediately think of Bali, but there is so much more to the country than just Bali. By all means, come for the sandy beaches, but stay for the food. I promise you won’t regret it!
Leave a comment below on what food you’d be most excited to try; or if you’re Indonesian, let me know what other dishes would be on your list!
p.s. now I’m craving everything on this list… why did I decide to write this in the middle of the night? =,=