Indonesia is finally calling these dishes their own

Indonesia National Dishes

You must make space in your tummy for these Indonesian dishes the next time you visit the country. Source: Shutterstock.

THE Southeast Asian archipelago of Indonesia boasts 6,000 populated islands of the total 17,508. These are home to more than 300 ethnic groups.

And because there are so many ethnicities, coupled with Indonesia’s rich history spanning centuries-long, the country is blessed with thousands of traditional recipes influenced by techniques and ingredients from India, the Middle East, China, and Europe.

One can always expect an explosion of complex flavors when savoring Indonesia’s vibrant foods.

Ordinarily, Indonesia’s cuisine may include rice, noodle, and soup dishes in modest local eateries to street-side snacks and top-dollar plates. Sumatran food often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences while Javanese food has a hint of Chinese influence.

Most Indonesians enjoy hot and spicy food, usually cooked by frying, grilling, roasting, dry roasting, sautéing, boiling, or steaming.

Selecting a national dish has proven to be a challenge due to its ethnic groups. In 2014, its Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy picked tumpeng, a cone-shaped rice dish with side dishes of vegetables and meat, as its official national dish.

However, popular Indonesia dishes such as soto (aromatic soup), nasi goreng (fried rice), satay (skewered and grilled meat), and gado-gado (vegetables with peanut-based sauce) can be found just about anywhere.

Satay, for example, is so popular that it can be found in the neighboring countries of Malaysia and Singapore.

Acknowledging Indonesia’s most popular dishes, the country’s Tourism Minister Arief Yahya announced that the aforementioned dishes, as well as rendang (meat stewed in coconut milk and spices), will be declared Indonesian foods.

The move would solve the problem of Indonesia not officially having any national food, quoted the minister as saying.

“This is a problem of plenty because we have so many [types of] food.”

Satay, nasi goreng, and rendang were picked by CNN as some of the world’s most delicious food while soto is widely available in the archipelago.

Get to know Indonesia’s national dishes a little bit better:


Satay is a dish of seasoned, skewered (from the midrib of the coconut palm frond) and grilled meat over a wood or charcoal fire.

The meat may consist of diced or sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef, pork, fish, other meats, or tofu.

It can be served with various sauced but the most often is peanut sauce.

Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng is an Indonesian dish of pre-cooked rice stir-fried with vegetables and pieces of meat such as chicken or prawns, spiced with caramelized sweet soy sauce and ground shrimp paste.

It can be modified or jazzed up with ingredients such as ikan masin (salted dried fish) or ikan bilis (dried anchovies).

The trick to a double thumbs up-worthy nasi goreng? When it is fried with overnight rice (leftover rice from the previous night).


One of the characteristic foods of the Minangkabau people, an ethnic group indigenous to the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, rendang is a spicy meat dish.

It is often likened to curry, but the dish is actually richer and contains less liquid.

Rendang is made of beef is slowly simmered with coconut milk and a mixture of lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger, and chilies.


Also known as an Indonesian salad, the word gado-gado literally means “mix-mix.”

It is made of slightly boiled, blanched or steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs, boiled potato, fried tofu and tempeh (fermented soybean), and lontong (rice wrapped in a banana leaf).

Vegetables such as potatoes, long beans, bean sprouts, spinach, chayote, bitter gourd, corn, and cabbage are often used in the mix.


Soto is a traditional Indonesian comfort food/soup mainly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables.

The meats that are most commonly used are chicken and beef, but there are also variations with offal, mutton, and water buffalo meat.

Served from Sumatra to Papua, soto can be found in anywhere from street-side warungs to open-air eateries, and even fine dining restaurants.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry is also looking to promote culinary tourism in Indonesia.

It is in currently in the process of certifying three culinary destinations: Bali, Bandung, and Yogyakarta.