Food in Jakarta : The Spicy Amalgamation of Chinese, Indian and Western Cuisine

Yes, you read it right. A strange yet “yummilicious” combination of food from the world deliciously crafted into the tastes of Indonesia determines the food culture here. With more than 5300 traditional dishes, Indonesia offers the Chinese, Indian and western cuisine foods cooked and served in its very own style and taste.

The Flavourful Foundation of Indonesian Platter

The history of Indonesia reflects that the associations with countries like India, China, Portugal and Arabs were not restricted to just business or economic growth of the country but also penetrated deep down to the food salver. Thus, gifting Indonesia with one of the best cuisines in the world that is a must to try. The major cuisine belongs to the Sumatra, Madura and Java regions of Indonesia among which the Minangkabau cuisine is widely famous among the foreigners.

As per the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, 2018, the 5 national dishes of Indonesia are – Soto, Rendang, Satay, Nasi Goreng and Gado – Gado. These are the authentic flavoured traditional Indonesian dishes that reflect the true culinary values and foundational roots of the Indonesian cuisine.

Food in Jakarta At A Glance

The staple food of Indonesians being rice, you will get a variety of dishes with the Rice being the soul of it. In a typical Indonesian family, the platter showcases a large dish with the rice at the centre surrounded by spicy vegetable mix and variations of meat and seafood cooked with authentic Indonesian spices. Indonesia being home to a large Muslim community, many places serve the ‘Halal’ form of meat and restricts the pork dishes as it is banned to eat as per the Muslim religious rules. However, some areas of Indonesia do serve non Halal meat and pork as well.

So let us now explore Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and see what it has got to tickle our taste buds.

1. Satay (Sate in Indonesia) Padang - The Skewered Meat

Traditional meat skewers all the way from Padang province are not here to please your eyes. But they guarantee the bursts of tastes like salty, spicy, tangy, and what not. The satays are made normally from meat, but beef, chicken, lamb, turtle meat, fish and pork are also used for its different variations. Try these saucy dipped skewers garnished with fried crispy onions and you will never forget Indonesia for such a delightful treat. Don’t tell anybody, but the secret of this flavorful taste is the typical Indonesian style of grilling Satay over the burning charcoals. A recent study by Food experts has announced that there are more than 250 variations available in Satay to pamper your love for grilled meat. To name a few, Satay Ayam, Satay Kambing, Satay Madura, etc.

Satay Padang

2. Ayam Bakar Taliwang – The Grilled Chicken

This is the local dish of Lombok Island, it is the baby chicken grilled in the most authentic way. If your tastebuds demand something spicy then this platter must be ordered. It’s a baby chicken marinated or you can say jam-packed with chillies and other spices called Chilly sambal and grilled over the coal. These are super delicious with the natural taste of the chicken and the tongue burning hot spices.

3. Ikan Bakar - The Grilled Fish

Once more a spicy grilled platter of Indonesia is here to put you on fire. If fish is your hunger satisfier then a plate of this hot burning fish finely marinated in the all-time favourite Sambal Sauce and grilled over burning charcoals is must on the lunch table. This dish will definitely hypnotize you in its mouth watering taste when served with sweet soy sauce or spicy sambal sauce and super hot chillies.

Ikan Bakar

4. Pepes – The Green Parcel

These are the creative green edible packets filled with nutrition and flavorful taste. It includes assorted fish, meat and tofu all marinated and cooked with natural herbs and authentic homeland spices and tightly packed in banana leaves to make a packet. It is also accompanied by fried vegetables like Shallots, Garlic, Lemon basil, Ginger and Chilies for sure. These are then grilled over charcoal or steam cooked to serve it in its natural form retaining the essence and flavour of the banana leaf into the meat and vegetables inside. This dish belongs to Sundanese cuisine.


5. Bebek Goreng – The Fried Duck

Indonesia being home to flavorful non-vegetarian and seafood dishes from various provincial segments, Jakarta is a one-stop place that will obviously offer you the opportunity to taste all these in one single town. One of such Bali origin dishes is the Bebek Goreng or simply you can say the fried duck. The small baby ducks are stuffed and marinated with garlic puree and then fried to give you the perfect combination of crispy layer and the chewy juicy flesh. This can be served with rice cooked in coconut milk along with the Sambal dip. One such dish can cost you around 28,000 IDR in Jakarta.   

Bebek Goreng

6. Sambal - The Hottest and Spiciest Companion

Whatever you eat, Sambal will accompany you. It is the typical Indonesian sauce made of chillies and some special herbs and spices. There are lots of varieties of sambal sauce which will add a great taste and flavour to any dish you eat. There are some unique traditional recipes with some royal ancestral families in Indonesia that possess a rich authentic taste of Sambal preserved from old times.

Sambal, the red hot spicy indonesian sauce

7. Soto Betawi - The Creamy Soup of Jakarta

A pure Jakartan dish is basically a soup made with beef. The dish has boiled beef flavored with spices like Indonesian bay leaf, lemon grass, candlenut, garlic and shallots. Once cooked, it is served with either cow’s milk or coconut milk to give it a rich creamy texture. This will make your stomach full when eaten with rice. Being a healthy and balanced dish on the level of spiciness, Soto Betawi must be tried by those who can not afford to eat hot spicy food. Among the dishes that arrived from the surrounding provinces of Jakarta, Soto Betawi is the one that was born and brought up in Jakartan streets.

Soto Betawi, the creamy healthy Jakarta soup

8. Nasi Goreng - Justifying As A National Dish of Indonesia

The national dish of Indonesia is bound to be sold on every “Warung” – the street stalls or the “Rumah Makan” – the restaurants of Jakarta. It has everything in it. This wholesome dish serves the fried rice in combination with chicken meat, boiled eggs slices, shrimps, lamb and crabs, diced vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, stink beans, tomatoes, shallots, ginger and garlic and flavored with rich spices and sauces like soy sauce, red chilly sauce or the traditional “kecap”. It is garnished with egg or tomato slices and a dash of lemon juice along with the crispy Indonesian snacks called Krupuk crackers.   

Nasi Goreng, National Dish of Indonesia

9. Gado Gado - For The Peanut Sauce Lovers

A delicious snack widely sold at every corner in the city are a pleasure to eat at the mobile stalls. This dish is a great combination of the creamy peanut sauce smeared all over the soft cooked rice cakes and healthy green salad vegetables topped with crispy rice wafers. This dish is honoured with the label of National dish of Indonesia.

Gado Gado, the peanuty street food of Jakarta

10. Nasi Uduk - Rice Dish on Rescue

The simple yet healthy and sober flavoured rice cooked in coconut milk with a dash of few herbs will enhance the natural taste of rice. This dish will definitely be a lifesaver when your taste buds will be burning with the hot and spicy dishes of Jakarta. So you can always order Nasi Udak to accompany other curries and seafood dishes to have a balance between the sweet and spicy diet. Of course, you can top it up with the Sambal sauce.

Nasi Uduk, the coconut milk rice

11. Nasi Padang - A Complete Indonesian Plate

Nasi Padang is a Padang provincial dish that serves a rich combination of rice and different curries. Different vegetables like Peppers, Onions, etc. are cooked in the sweet coconut milk to prepare varieties of curries. Different Indonesian herbs and spices are also added to give a unique and yummylicious taste to each of the curries. It turns out to be a good combination of rice and flavorful curries to be eaten together.

Nasi Padang

12. Rendang - The Festive Feast 

The original Indonesian spicy meat dish from the lands of Minangkabau people in Western Sumatra was voted as the number 1 dish in the list of “World’s 50 most delicious food” by CNN International. The official national dish of the country can be found in any Padang restaurants of Jakarta and are must to try while you are here. Rendang is served during festive occasions like Ramzan Eid (Hari Raya in Indonesia) or during social celebrations like weddings.  A rich taste of the coconut can be felt at every chew as the meat is slow-cooked in coconut milk and tasty spices like ginger, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric leaves, shallots and chillies. The slow cooking gives it the perfect texture and the sweet deep flavour of the coconut and hot spices. Enjoy this royal dish with a variety of rice. Other variations include replacing the meat with lamb, beef or goat meat.

Rendang, Indonesian feast

13. Kue Pancong - The Coconut Cake

A traditional Betawi cake that can be found in Jakarta sold by the mobile vendors on every streets and road for few Indonesian Rupiahs. There is basically a coconut cake made of rice flour and prepared in the half-circle shaped. It is decorated with desiccated coconut and served to satisfy your sweet tooth on Jakartan streets.

Kue Pancong, the coconut cake of Jakarta

14. Pisang Goreng Sambal Roa - Eat While You Walk

The literal translation goes like this – Fried Banana with Chili Sauce. If you are in Jakarta, this dish will be best suited as the “On – The – Go” handy food dish for Walk and Eat travellers. The sweet from inside and savoury from outside, the soft creamy from inside and the crispy from outside will put you in amazing on the streets of Jakarta. The special Indonesian bananas are chosen to be sliced and dipped into the batter made of rice flour and other spices and deep-fried into the oil. These are served hot and can be enjoyed eating with the Sambal dip or just plain. For those short cravings, Pisang Goreng Sambal Roe will be the best option.

Pisang Goreng Sambal Roa

Apart from all these foods, you can always have the Chinese platters like Noodles and steamed Momos, the European inspired sweet delicacies like Cotton Candies and flavour dipped Marshmallows or the Indian inspired Biryani’s variety of versions. So while in Jakarta, you will always fall short of time while exploring the ‘Food World’. But if there is one word to describe the Food in Jakarta, it will be “Spicy”.

This post was published by Monali Dholakia

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