Protect yourself and your loved ones from life's uncertainties with AIA's life insurance and takaful plans.
29 May 2019
Indonesia’s 6,000 “Spice Islands”, have over the centuries attracted traders, pirates and adventurers from all over the world – Indian, Chinese, Arab, Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch – each having left their stamp on the island’s cuisine. Sumatran cuisines, for example, often have Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables, while Javanese cuisines are mostly indigenous, with some hint of Chinese influence. The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisines.
From bustling street vendors to high-end restaurants, Indonesian dishes have rich and complex flavours; often described as savoury, hot and spicy, and also a combination of basic tastes such as sweet, salty, sour and bitter. While rice is a staple, with nasi goreng (literally meaning “fried rice”) as a national dish, most of Indonesian cuisine is considered fattening. Here are the top, favourite dishes that are not only unique to the region but are healthy too!
Considered as Indonesia’s comfort food and available at every corner in a wide range of variations, soto is a traditional soup mainly composed of broth, meat and vegetables. Soto Betawi, literally meaning Jakarta soup is one of the most famous homegrown dishes. It is usually prepared with beef, which is boiled with aromatic herbs like lemongrass and Indonesian bay leaves, and flavoured with candlenut, galangal, garlic, and shallots. Coconut milk or even fresh milk is usually added to give the soup a rich, creamy texture. For a healthier version, opt for a clear broth without the coconut milk and preferably a vegetable stock.
For a lighter and healthier soup, try soto ayam, commonly known as chicken soup. It includes shredded chicken, vermicelli noodles, hardboiled egg and various herbs; providing a light yet hearty herbal broth.
If you want to avoid the deep-fried dishes, try the traditional siomay! Derived from Chinese Shumai and similar to the Dim Sum, siomay (also known as somay), is an Indonesian steamed fish dumpling with vegetables served in peanut sauce. It is traditionally made from tenggiri (wahoo) fish meat. Other types of seafood such as tuna, mackerel, and prawn can also be used to make siomay. Complements to siomay are steamed cabbage, potatoes, bitter gourd, boiled egg and tofu. Siomay is cut into bite size pieces and topped with peanut sauce (which you can exclude as a healthier option), sweet soy sauce, chili sauce and a dash of lime juice.
A savoury meatball soup that is not only the nation’s choice but it’s even the former U.S. President Barack Obama’s favourite! It consists of soft meatballs made of minced meat mixed with tapioca starch. It is normally served with rice or egg noodles, boiled eggs, a little bit of bird eyes chilli and fried onions. Some even add in tofu! Simple, nutritious and packed with the right mix of protein, this dish will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
One of Indonesia's best-known and healthiest dishes is a vegetable salad, gado-gado, which literally means “mix-mix”. At its base are boiled long beans, spinach, potato, corn, egg, cucumber and bean sprouts. It can also include cabbage, dutch cucumber and bitter melon (mostly steamed or blanched), together with fried tofu, tempeh (fermented soy), and rice cakes. The mix is doused in a runny sweet to spicy peanut sauce dressing, which can be kept to a minimal for a healthier version.
This spicy omelette snack dish belongs to the Betawi culture, an ethnic group native to Jakarta. This traditional meal is a delicious rice frittata cooked over charcoal. Made primarily of sticky glutinous rice and egg, the omelette-shaped dish is usually topped with some fried shallots, serundeng (spicy fried coconut flakes) or shredded coconut and dried shrimp. You can also request for your “kerak telor” to be cooked in less oil.
According to local tales, the name pempek refers to the old Chinese man who first produced these fish and tapioca cakes from Palembang in South Sumatra. Now a Palembang specialty, pempek or empek-empek comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The most popular variation is called kapal selam, which translates to submarine, and includes an egg in the middle. It is rumoured to be the most nutritious form of the spongy dough balls, which are sprinkled with shrimp powder and served with a dark dipping sauce made from vinegar, chili and sugar.
Sure to get your taste buds sizzling, this dish is simply a grilled purple eggplant topped with heaps of chili sauce made from dried shrimp paste (belacan). You can pair it with brown rice to enjoy the rich flavours as it is.
Indonesia offers an immense variety of dishes! While most of the Indonesian cuisines are deep fried or cooked in rich coconut milk, here are a few tips on how to eat healthy and at the same time enjoy the flavours of Indonesia.
As it is said that the best part of travelling is trying out new and delicious food; something that every foodie will definitely get to enjoy and experience in the many islands of Indonesia.
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.