What do Indonesians eat in between meals? Join me as I take a look at some of the most popular snacks from every corner of the archipelago!
Indonesia is a huge country, with many huge islands that are spread from Sumatra in the far west to Papua in the far east. In most of these islands (not so much Papua), you can find a multitude of different cuisines, and there is no better way of showing off some of Indonesia’s top foods by taking a look at its street food scene! Whether you are taking a walk along a busy city road in Java, or having a quiet stroll beside the riverfront in Kalimantan, you can be sure of seeing street food vendors trying to sell you their latest homemade items. These vendors sell from warungs, that can range from the size of a little cart on wheels, to a fixed abode with multiple tables and chairs. However, what links all this together is the quality of the food on sale!
If you’re looking for a list of the top dishes in Indonesia, please refer to my article on Indonesian Foodporn. Until then, let’s take a look at 12 of the best street foods available from Indonesia:
Nasi Uduk is coconut rice and on the streets of Indonesia it is almost always sold in well-packaged banana leaves, which is itself, of course, edible. Unquestionably this is, along with sate, one of the most popular street foods of Indonesia.
Ketoprak is a vegetarian dish from Jakarta, Indonesia, consists of tofu, vegetables and rice cake, rice vermicelli served in peanut sauce. It is quite similar to the dish Gado-Gado and is a perfect street food.
Panada is a stuffed pastry, which can usually be found full of fresh seafood like tuna. It is a delicacy of northern Sulawesi, but has been adopted and adapted by other regions of the archipelago.
Sate is the Indonesian version of skewered meat, just like Turkish kebabs or Japanese yakitori. Here you can have delicious sate ayam (chicken) or sate bebek (duck). Everywhere you go in Indonesia, cafés or warungs will be serving sate of some kind, and usually accompanied with some spicy sambal!
Serabi is an Indonesian pancake that is made from rice flour with coconut milk or just plain shredded coconut as an emulsifier. Most of traditional serabi tastes sweet, as the pancake usually eaten with kinca or thick golden-brownish coloured coconut sugar syrup. However another savoury version also existed that uses oncom toppings. Each province in Indonesia has various serabi recipes corresponding to local tastes.
Kerak Telor is a traditional spicy omelette dish in Indonesian cuisine. It is made from glutinous rice cooked with egg and served with fried shredded coconut, fried shallots, and dried shrimp as topping. It is considered as a snack and not as a main dish, and was particularly popular even during colonial times with the Dutch.
Bakso is Indonesian meatball made from beef surimi and is similar in texture to the fish balls you can get commonly in China and ethnic Malaysia/Singapore. Bakso is commonly made from beef with a small quantity of tapioca flour, although bakso can also be made from other ingredients, such as chicken or shrimp. Bakso are usually served in a bowl of beef broth, with yellow noodles, tofu, egg, and Chinese green cabbage. Bakso can be found all across Indonesia; from the travelling cart street vendors known as warungs to high end restaurants.
Onde-Onde is a traditional rice cake from Sumatra, and now popular all over Indonesia and even in Malaysia. It is a boiled rice cake, stuffed with liquid palm sugar, and often rolled in grated coconut. A Javanese variant of Onde-Onde is called klepon, and this is green in appearance due to its ingredients.
Martabak is a stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread that originated in Indonesia but has been exported to the Middle-East. Depending on the location, the name and ingredients of Martabak can significantly vary (in Saudi Arabia, for example, it is known as “muttabaq”). In Indonesia, the Murtabak is one of the most popular street foods and can be seen being sold from warungs across the country.
Pisang Goreng is the traditional snack food favourite of Indonesia. It is a deep-fried banana that has been coated in batter. It was actually introduced to Indonesia by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Ayam Penyet is a dish consisting of fried chicken that has been smashed with the pestle against mortar to make it softer, served with sambal, slices of cucumbers, fried tofu, and tempeh. In Indonesia, penyet dishes are commonly associated with Surabaya, the capital city of East Java, although they can be found all over the country and all over South East Asia now.
Bakpao is the Indonesian equivalent of the Chinese baozi or the Japanese nikuman. It is a steamed dumpling that can be filled with anything imaginable, from fish to vegetables, but of course the most common filling is chicken.
Indonesia is certainly one of the street food kingdoms of Asia (along with Thailand…and maybe the Philippines), yet most of the 12 items listed here are very mild in flavour, so even people who are not used to Indonesian cuisine can enjoy these amazing snacks! Which one is your favourite?!