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Cuisine Review Indonesian


Indonesian cuisine is a collection of various regional culinary traditions that formed the archipelagic nation of Indonesia. There are a wide variety of recipes and cuisines in part because Indonesia is composed of approximately 6,000 populated islands of the total 17,508 in the world's largest archipelago, with more than 1,300 ethnic groups. Many regional cuisines exist, often based upon indigenous culture with some foreign influences. Indonesia has around 5,350 traditional recipes, with 30 of them considered the most important. Indonesia's cuisine may include rice, noodle and soup dishes in modest local eateries to street-side snacks and top-dollar plates.

Indonesian cuisine varies greatly by region and has many different influences. Sumatran cuisine, for example, often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables such as gulai and curry, while Javanese cuisine is mostly indigenous, with some hint of Chinese influence. The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. Elements of Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine: foods such as noodles, meat balls, and spring rolls have been completely assimilated.

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 colonise most of the archipelago. The Indonesian islands the Moluccas (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.

Indonesian cuisine often demonstrates complex flavour, acquired from certain ingredients and bumbu spices mixture. Indonesian dishes have rich flavours; most often described as savory, hot and spicy, and also combination of basic tastes such as sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Most Indonesians favour hot and spicy food, thus sambal, Indonesian hot and spicy chili sauce with various optional ingredients, notably shrimp paste, shallots, and others, is a staple condiment at all Indonesian tables. Seven main Indonesian cooking methods are frying, grilling, roasting, dry roasting, sautéing, boiling and steaming.

Opor ayam (curry style), gulai, ketupat, diced potatoes with spices, and bawang goreng served during Lebaran (Eid al-Fitr) in Indonesia
Some popular Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng, gado-gado, satay, and soto are ubiquitous in the country and are considered national dishes. The official national dish of Indonesia however, is tumpeng, chosen in 2014 by Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy as the dish that binds the diversity of Indonesia's various culinary traditions. However, later in 2018, the same ministry has chosen 5 national dish of Indonesia; they are soto, rendang, satay, nasi goreng, and gado-gado.


Indonesia is the home of sate; one of the country's national dishes, there are many variants across Indonesia.
Today, some popular dishes that originated in Indonesia are now common to neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Singapore. Indonesian dishes such as satay, beef rendang, and sambal are favoured in Malaysia and Singapore. Soy-based dishes, such as variations of tofu and tempeh, are also very popular. Tempeh is regarded as a Javanese invention, a local adaptation of soy-based food fermentation and production. Another fermented food is oncom, similar in some ways to tempeh but using a variety of bases (not only soy), created by different fungi, and particularly popular in West Java.

SBS Australia stated that Indonesian food is "one of the most vibrant and colourful cuisines in the world, full of intense flavour". Kira Jane Buxton of Mashed described it as "eclectic" and "diverse".

Various Indonesian Cuisine
Rice
Using water buffalo to plough rice fields in Java; rice is a staple for all classes in contemporary; Indonesia is the world's third largest paddy rice producer and its cultivation has transformed much of Indonesia's landscape.
Rice is a staple for all classes in contemporary Indonesia, and it holds the central place in Indonesian culture: it shapes the landscape; is sold at markets; and is served in most meals both as a savoury and a sweet food. The importance of rice in Indonesian culture is demonstrated through the reverence of Dewi Sri, the rice goddess of ancient Java and Bali. Traditionally the agricultural cycles linked to rice cultivations were celebrated through rituals, such as Seren Taun rice harvest festival.

Rice is most often eaten as plain rice with just a few protein and vegetable dishes as side dishes. It is also served, however, as nasi uduk (rice cooked in coconut milk), nasi kuning (rice cooked with coconut milk and turmeric), ketupat (rice steamed in woven packets of coconut fronds), lontong (rice steamed in banana leaves), intip or rengginang (rice crackers), desserts, vermicelli, noodles, arak beras (rice wine), and nasi goreng (fried rice). Nasi goreng is omnipresent in Indonesia and considered a national dish.

Rice was only incorporated into diets, however, as either the technology to grow it or the ability to buy it from elsewhere was gained. Evidence of wild rice on the island of Sulawesi dates from 3000 BCE. Evidence for the earliest cultivation, however, comes from the eighth century stone inscriptions from the central island of Java, which shows that kings levied taxes in rice. The images of rice cultivation, rice barns, and pest mice infesting a ricefield is evident in Karmawibhanga bas-reliefs of Borobudur. Divisions of labour between men, women, and animals that are still in place in Indonesian rice cultivation, were carved into relief friezes on the ninth century Prambanan temples in Central Java: a water buffalo attached to a plough; women planting seedlings and pounding grain; and a man carrying sheaves of rice on each end of a pole across his shoulders (pikulan). In the sixteenth century, Europeans visiting the Indonesian islands saw rice as a new prestige food served to the aristocracy during ceremonies and feasts.

Rice production in Indonesian history is linked to the development of iron tools and the domestication of wild Asian water buffalo as water buffalo for cultivation of fields and manure for fertiliser. Rice production requires exposure to the sun. Once covered in dense forest, much of the Indonesian landscape has been gradually cleared for permanent fields and settlements as rice cultivation developed over the last fifteen hundred years.

Wheat
Wheat is not a native plant to Indonesia, however through imports and foreign influences — most notably Chinese and Dutch — Indonesians began to develop a taste for wheat-based foodstuff, especially Chinese noodles, Indian roti, and Dutch bread. Other than common steamed rice, the Chinese in Indonesia also considered noodles, bakpao and cakwe as staples. Yet in Indonesia, especially in Java and Sumatra, the rice culture was so prevalent that sometimes these wheat-based dishes, such as noodles are treated as side dishes and are consumed with rice, while others such as Chinese buns and cakwe are treated as snacks. The European, especially the Portuguese and the Dutch, introduced bread and various type of bakery and pastry. These European staples have now become alternatives for a quick breakfast.

The Indonesian wheat consumption reached a new height after the advent of Indonesian instant noodle industry back in the 1970s. Since then Indonesia has become one of the world's major producers and consumers of instant noodles. Indonesia is the world's second largest instant noodle market only after China, with demand reaching 12.54 billion servings in 2018, Today, instant noodles have become a staple in Indonesian households for quick hot meals. Certain brands such as Indomie have become household names.

Other staples
Other staple foods in Indonesia include a number of starchy tubers such as yam, sweet potato, potato, taro and cassava. Starchy fruit such as breadfruit and jackfruit and grains such as maize are eaten. A sago congee called papeda is a staple food especially in Maluku and Papua. Sago is often mixed with water and cooked as a simple pancake. Next to sago, people of eastern Indonesia consume wild tubers as staple food.

Many types of tubers such as talas (a type of taro but larger and more bland) and breadfruit are native to Indonesia, while others were introduced from elsewhere. Yam was introduced from Africa; while potato, sweet potato, cassava and maize were introduced from the Americas through Spanish influence and reached Java in the 17th century. Cassava is usually boiled, steamed, fried or processed as a popular snack kripik singkong (cassava crackers). Dried cassava, locally known as tiwul, is an alternate staple food in arid areas of Java such as Gunung Kidul and Wonogiri, while other roots and tubers are eaten especially in hard times. Maize is eaten in drier regions such as Madura and islands east of the Wallace Line, such as the Lesser Sunda Islands.

Vegetables
A number of leaf vegetables are widely used in Indonesian cuisine, such as kangkung, spinach, genjer, melinjo, papaya and cassava leaves. These are often sauteed with garlic. Spinach and corn are used in simple clear watery vegetable soup sayur bayam bening flavoured with temu kunci, garlic and shallot. Clear vegetable soup includes sayur oyong. Other vegetables like calabash, chayote, kelor, yardlong bean, eggplant, gambas and belustru, are cut and used in stir fries, curries and soups like sayur asem, sayur lodeh or laksa. Daun ubi tumbuk is pounded cassava leaves dish, commonly found in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Sayur sop is cabbage, cauliflower, potato, carrot, with macaroni spiced with black pepper, garlic and shallot in chicken or beef broth. The similar mixed vegetables are also stir fried as cap cai, a popular dish of the Chinese Indonesian cuisine. Tumis kangkung is a popular stir-fried water spinach dish.

Vegetables like winged bean, tomato, cucumber and the small variety of bitter melon are commonly eaten raw, like in lalab. The large bitter melon variety is usually boiled. Kecombrang and papaya flower buds are a common Indonesian vegetable. Urap is seasoned and spiced shredded coconut mixed together with vegetables, asinan betawi are preserved vegetables. Gado-gado and pecel are a salad of boiled vegetables dressed in a peanut-based spicy sauce, while karedok is its raw version.

Vegetarianism in Indonesia
Vegetarianism is well represented in Indonesia, as there is a wide selection of vegetarian dishes and meat substitutes that may be served. Dishes such as gado-gado, karedok, ketoprak, tauge goreng, pecel, urap, rujak and asinan are vegetarian dishes. However, dishes that use peanut sauce, such as gado-gado, karedok or ketoprak, might contain small amounts of shrimp paste, called "terasi", for flavor. Shrimp paste is also often used to add flavour to spicy sambal chili paste served with lalap assorted fresh vegetables. Fermented soy products, such as tempeh, "tahu" (tofu) and oncom are prevalent as meat substitutes and as a source of vegetable protein. In contemporary fusion cuisine, tempeh is used to replace meat patties and served as tempeh burger.

Most Indonesians do not practice strict vegetarianism and may consume vegetables or vegetarian dishes for their taste, preference, economic and health reasons. Nevertheless, there are small numbers of Indonesian Buddhists that practice vegetarianism for religious reasons.

Meat and fish
The main animal protein sources in the Indonesian diet are mostly poultry and fish, however meats such as beef, water buffalo, goat and mutton are commonly found in the Indonesian marketplaces.

Poultry
The most common poultry consumed is chicken and duck, however to a lesser amount, pigeon, quail and wild swamp bird such as watercock are also consumed. Traditionally, Indonesians breed free-ranged chicken in the villages known as ayam kampung (village chicken). Compared to common domesticated chicken, these village chicken are thinner and their meat are slightly firmer. Various recipes of ayam goreng (fried chicken) and ayam bakar (grilled chicken) are commonly found throughout Indonesia. Other than frying or grilling, chicken might be cooked as soup, such as sup ayam and soto ayam, or cooked in coconut milk as opor ayam. Chicken satay is also commonly found in Indonesia, it is a barbecued meat on skewer served with peanut sauce. Popular chicken recipes such as ayam goreng kalasan from Yogyakarta, ayam bakar padang from Padang, ayam taliwang from Lombok, ayam betutu from Bali, and ayam goreng lengkuas (galangal fried chicken).

Meat
Beef and goat meat are the most commonly consumed meats in Indonesia, while kerbau (water buffalo) and domestic sheep are also consumed to a lesser degree, since water buffalo are more useful for ploughing the rice paddies, while sheep are kept for their wool or to be used for the traditional entertainment of ram fighting. As a country with an Islamic majority, Indonesian Muslims follows the Islamic halal dietary law which forbids the consumption of pork. However, in other parts of Indonesia where there are significant numbers of non-Muslims, boar and pork are commonly consumed. Dishes made of non-halal meats can be found in provinces such as Bali, North Sumatra, North Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, North Kalimantan, West Papua, Papua, and also in the Chinatowns of major Indonesian cities. Today to cater for the larger Muslim market, most of the restaurants and eating establishments in Indonesia put halal signs that signify that they serve neither pork nor any non-halal meats, nor do they use lard in their cooking. With an overwhelming Muslim population and a relatively small population of cattle, today Indonesians rely heavily on imported beef from Australia, New Zealand and the United States which often results in a scarcity and raised prices of beef in the Indonesian market.

The meat can be cooked in rich spices and coconut milk such as beef, goat or lamb rendang, skewered, seasoned and grilled chicken or mutton as satay, barbecued meats, or sliced and cooked in rich broth soup as soto. Muttons and various offals can be use as ingredients for soto soup or gulai curry. In Bali, with its Hindu majority, the babi guling (pig roast) is popular among locals as well as non-Muslim visitors, while the Batak people of North Sumatra have babi panggang that is a similar dish. Wild boar are also commonly consumed in Papua. The meat also can be processed to be thinly-sliced and dried as dendeng (jerky), or made into abon (meat floss). Dendeng celeng is Indonesian "dried, jerked" boar meat. Raised rabbits are also consumed as food in mountainous region of Indonesia.

Some exotic and rare game meat such as venison might be sold and consumed in wilder parts of Indonesia. In West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, and Papua, deer meat can be found, usually wildly acquired by hunting. Other unusual and often controversial exotic meats include frog legs consumed in Chinese Indonesian cuisine, horse meat consumed in Yogyakarta and West Nusa Tenggara, turtle meat consumed in Bali and Eastern Indonesia, snake, biawak (monitor lizard), paniki (fruit bats), dog meat, and field rats, consumed in Minahasan cuisine of North Sulawesi. Batak cuisine of North Sumatra is also familiar with cooking dog meat.

Fish
In an archipelagic nation, seafood is abundant, and it is commonly consumed especially by Indonesian residents in coastal areas. Fish is especially popular in the eastern Indonesian regions of Sulawesi and Maluku, where most of the people work as fishermen. Both areas have a vast sea which brings them many different kinds of seafood. Popular seafood in Indonesian cuisine among others; skipjack tuna, tuna, mackerel, pomfret, wahoo, milkfish, trevally, rabbitfish, garoupa, red snapper, anchovy, swordfish, shark, stingray, squid or cuttlefish, shrimp, crab, blue crab, and mussel. Seafood is commonly consumed across Indonesia, but it is especially popular in Maluku islands and Minahasa (North Sulawesi) cuisine. Seafood is usually grilled, boiled or fried. Ikan bakar is a popular grilled fish dish that can be found throughout Indonesia. However another method of cooking like stir fried in spices or in soup is also possible. Salted fish is preserved seafood through cured in salt, it also can be found in Indonesian market.

Fresh water fisheries can be found in inland regions or in areas with large rivers or lakes. Fresh water fishes are popular in Sundanese cuisine of West Java, caught or raised in Lake Toba in Batak lands of North Sumatra, or taken from large rivers in Malay lands of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, or large rivers in Kalimantan. Popular fresh water fish among others; carp, gourami, catfish, pangasius, snakehead, trichogaster, climbing gourami, Nile tilapia, and Mozambique tilapia.

Insects
Unlike Thailand, in Indonesia insect is not a popular food ingredient nor widely available as street food. In Java, locals do catch, breed and sell certain species of insects, usually sold fresh or alive as pet bird feed. Nevertheless, traditionally several cultures in Indonesia are known to consume insects, especially grasshopper, cricket, termite, also the larvae of sago palm weevil and bee. In Java and Kalimantan, grasshoppers and crickets are usually lightly battered and deep fried in palm oil as crispy kripik snack. Smaller grasshoppers, crickets and termites might be made as rempeyek batter cracker which resembles insect fossil. During monsoon rainy season, flying termites are abundant being attracted to lightbulbs to mate. Locals usually put a bucket of water under the lamp to trap the flying termites, pluck the wings, and roast the termites as additional protein-rich snack. In Banyuwangi, East Java, there is a specialty dish called botok tawon (honeybee botok), which is beehives that contains bee larvae, being seasoned in shredded coconut and spices, wrapped inside banana leaf package and steamed. Dayak tribes of Kalimantan, also Moluccans and Papuan tribes in Eastern Indonesia, are known to consumes ulat sagu (lit. sagoo caterpillar) or larvae of sago palm weevil. This protein-rich larvae is considered a delicacy in Papua, and often being roasted prior of consumption. However, locals may also commonly eat the larvae raw or alive.

Various Indonesian spices
"Rempah" is the Indonesian word for spice, while "bumbu" is the Indonesian word for a spice mixture or seasoning, and it commonly appears in the names of certain spice mixtures, sauces and seasoning pastes. Known throughout the world as the "Spice Islands", the Indonesian islands of Maluku contributed to the introduction of its native spices to world cuisine. Spices such as nutmeg or mace, clove, pandan leaves, keluwak and galangal are native to Indonesia. It is likely that black pepper, turmeric, lemongrass, shallot, cinnamon, candlenut, coriander and tamarind were introduced from India, while ginger, scallions and garlic were introduced from China. Those spices from mainland Asia were introduced early, in ancient times, thus they became integral ingredients in Indonesian cuisine.

In ancient times, the kingdom of Sunda and the later sultanate of Banten were well known as the world's major producers of black pepper. The maritime empires of Srivijaya and Majapahit also benefited from the lucrative spice trade between the spice islands with China and India. Later the Dutch East India Company controlled the spice trade between Indonesia and the world.

Sambal
The Indonesian fondness for hot and spicy food was enriched when the Spanish introduced chili pepper from the New World to the region in the 16th century. After that hot and spicy sambals have become an important part of Indonesian cuisine.

Indonesia has perhaps the richest variants of sambals. In the Indonesian archipelago, there are as many as 300 varieties of sambal. The intensity ranges from mild to very hot. Sambal evolved into many variants across Indonesia, ones of the most popular is sambal terasi (sambal belacan) and sambal mangga muda (unripe mango sambal). Sambal terasi is a combination of chilies, sharp fermented shrimp paste (terasi), tangy lime juice, sugar and salt all pounded up with mortar and pestle. Dabu-dabu is North Sulawesi style of sambal with chopped fresh tomato, chili, and lime juice.

Sambal, especially sambal ulek, or sambal terasi can also become a base ingredient for many dishes, such as sambal raja (a dish from Kutai), terong balado, dendeng balado, ayam bumbu rujak, sambal goreng ati, among other things.

Sauces and seasonings
Soy sauce is also an important flavourings in Indonesian cuisine. Kecap asin (salty or common soy sauce) was adopted from Chinese cuisine, however Indonesian developed their own kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) with generous addition of palm sugar into soy sauce. Sweet soy sauce is an important marinade for barbecued meat and fish, such as satay and grilled fishes. Sweet soy sauce is also an important ingredient for semur, Indonesian stew.

Peanut sauce
One of the main characteristics of Indonesian cuisine is the wide application of peanuts in many Indonesian signature dishes, such as satay, gado-gado, karedok, ketoprak, and pecel. All of these dishes applied ample of bumbu kacang (peanut sauce) for flavouring. Gado-gado and Satay for example have been considered Indonesian national dishes.

Introduced from Mexico by Portuguese and Spanish merchants in the 16th century, peanuts assumed a place within Indonesian cuisine as a key ingredient. Peanuts thrived in the tropical environment of Southeast Asia, and today they can be found, roasted and chopped finely, in many recipes. Whole, halved, or crushed peanuts are used to garnish a variety of dishes, and used in marinades and dipping sauces such as sambal kacang (a mixture of ground chilies and fried peanuts) for otak-otak or ketan. Peanut oil, extracted from peanuts, is one of the most commonly used cooking oils in Indonesia.

Bumbu kacang or peanut sauce represents a sophisticated, earthy seasoning rather than a sweet, gloppy sauce. It should have a delicate balance of savoury, sweet, sour, and spicy flavours, acquired from various ingredients, such as fried peanuts, gula jawa (coconut sugar), garlic, shallots, ginger, tamarind, lemon juice, lemongrass, salt, chilli, peppercorns, sweet soy sauce, ground together and mixed with water to form the right consistency. The secret to good peanut sauce is "not too thick and not too watery". Indonesian peanut sauce tends to be less sweet than the Thai version, which is a hybrid adaptation. Gado-gado is a popular dish particularly associated with bumbu kacang, and is eaten across Indonesia.

Coconut milk
Coconuts are abundant in tropical Indonesia, and since ancient times Indonesians developed many and various uses for this plant. The broad use of coconut milk in dishes throughout the archipelago is another common characteristic of Indonesian cuisine. It is used in recipes ranging from savoury dishes – such as rendang, soto, gulai, mie koclok, sayur lodeh, gudeg, and opor ayam – to desserts – such as es cendol and es doger. Soto is ubiquitous in Indonesia and considered one of Indonesia's national dishes.

The use of coconut milk is not exclusive to Indonesian cuisine. It can also be found in Indian, Samoan, Thai, Malaysian, Filipino, and Brazilian cuisines. Nonetheless, the use of coconut milk is quite extensive in Indonesia, especially in Minangkabau cuisine, although in Minahasan (North Sulawesi) cuisine, coconut milk is generally absent, except in Minahasan cakes and desserts such as klappertart.

In Indonesian cuisine, two types of coconut milk are found, thin coconut milk and thick coconut milk. The difference depends on the water and oil content. Thin coconut milk is usually used for soups such as sayur lodeh and soto, while the thicker variety is used for rendang and desserts. It can be made from freshly shredded coconut meat in traditional markets, or can be found processed in cartons at the supermarket.

After the milk has been extracted from the shredded coconut flesh to make coconut milk, the ampas kelapa (leftover coconut flesh) can still be used in urap, seasoned and spiced shredded coconut meat mixed together with vegetables. Leftover shredded coconut can also be cooked, sauteed and seasoned to make serundeng, almost powdery sweet and spicy finely shredded coconut. Kerisik paste, added to thicken rendang, is another use of coconut flesh. To acquire a rich taste, some households insist on using freshly shredded coconut, instead of leftover, for urap and serundeng. Serundeng can be mixed with meat in dishes such as serundeng daging (beef serundeng) or sprinkled on top of other dishes such as soto or ketan (sticky rice). An example of the heavy use of coconut is Burasa from Makassar, rice wrapped in banana leaf cooked with coconut milk and sprinkled with powdered coconut similar to serundeng.

Cooking method
Most of the common Indonesian dishes are named according to their main ingredients and cooking method. For example, ayam goreng is ayam (chicken) and goreng (frying), which denotes fried chicken. Mie goreng is fried noodle, ikan bakar is grilled fish, udang rebus is boiled shrimp, babi panggang is roasted pork and tumis kangkung is stir fried water spinach. Cooking methods in Indonesian kitchen are goreng (frying) either in a small amount of oil or deep frying with a lot of cooking oil, tumis (stir frying), sangrai (sautéing). Roasting methods are bakar (grilling) usually employing charcoal, firewood, or coconut shell, panggang (baked) usually refer to baking employing oven. Other methods are rebus (boiling) and kukus (steaming).

The fire used in cooking can be either strong fire or small fire for slow cooking. Cooking nasi goreng usually employs strong fire, while authentic rendang for example requires small fire for slow cooking of beef, spices, and coconut milk until the meat is caramelised and all the coconut milk's liquid has evaporated. Traditional Indonesian dapur (kitchen) usually employs firewood-fuelled kitchen stove, while the contemporary household today uses liquefied petroleum gas-fuelled stove or an electric stove. The ingredients could be cut in pieces, sliced thinly, or ground into a paste. Cooking utensils are wajan (wok), penggorengan (frying pan), panci (cauldron), knives, several types of spoon and fork, parutan (shredder), cobek and ulekan (stone mortar and pestle). Traditionally Indonesians use a stone mortar and a pestle to grind the spices and ingredients into coarse or fine pastes. Today most households use blender or food processor for the task. Traditional Indonesian cookingwares are usually made from stone, earthenware pottery, wood, and woven bamboo or a rattan container or filter, while contemporary cookingwares, plates and containers use metals – iron, tin, stainless steel, aluminium, ceramics, plastics, and also glass.

(Wikipedia)

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