Destination Foodie: Indonesia
The fifteenth largest nation in the world is spread across almost two million square kilometers of land cutting a swathe right across Southeast Asia. Indonesia has a culture and heritage that have soaked up Indian (hence the ‘Indo’), Chinese and Dutch influences, combining them to enrich the native Malay one.
With verdant, fertile soil spread across mountains, valleys, plains and rainforests that produces some of the most flavorful ingredients anywhere, Indonesian cuisine is a wonder of exciting tastes and combinations that go surprisingly well together. For a true foodie, it is like a wonderland of experiences at every corner.
Not that you are always looking for the cheapest deals or anything, but Indonesia also promises food at low prices that pleasantly surprise most visitors.
While many may initially seem skeptical of the claim, it is indeed possible to find street food that indulges your taste buds in as magical a dance as dishes in the best restaurants in Indonesia.
There is a sureness of hand and confidence of style in the skillfully energetic way that old ladies running small stalls prepare meals that imbues their food with supremely divine taste. Watching them at work is an experience in itself.
Many tourists to Indonesia limit themselves to the island of Bali. In itself, the small Hindu island in the world’s most populous Muslim nation offers enough diversity of experiences for an entire visit. However, Indonesian cuisine can vary significantly across regions, as locals substitute locally-available or –preferred ingredients.
For example, the nasi padang (field rice) and nasi lemak (fat rice) dishes in Java will be more heavily flavored with coconut milk in Java than they would in Jakarta.
While we are on the topic, you have to try nasi lemak if you have not already. What seems like an awfully simple combination of rice, anchovies, sautéed vegetables, sambal (hot, pungent shrimp sauce) and fried egg is in fact a heavily-addictive meal that will have you yearning for another high long after you return home.
Another example of the beauty of simplicity in taste of Indonesian food is mi goreng (mi = noodles, goreng = fried). Here, a dish of stir-fried noodles and vegetables is again topped with fried egg. It is often accompanied by sambal, onions, cucumber and tomatoes.
If you are anywhere in southern Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore – do not miss the chance to try satay. Satay is simply meat on bamboo skewers barbecued on a charcoal fire and served with a peanut sauce and onions.
It. Is. Ecstasy.
The bamboo and smoke imbue the meat with subtle complexities of taste like no other.
Babi Guling (roast pork) should not be missed either. It is prepared to give the skin a crispiness while the pork inside retains its tenderness. Garnished with local herbs and shallots, it is the perfect accompaniment to the staple rice that makes an appearance so often at Indonesian tables.