Every since we saw Anthony Bourdian take his No Reservations series to Indonesia we have been in love with Indonesia’s food culture. Here our latest new writer at Just A Platform, Indonesia based, Prithvi Vasandani gives us his definitive guide to Indonesian food and culture.
Image Nasi Goreng. Delphine Sindynata via Flickr
Indonesians and rice go hand in hand. Every local having their breakfast, lunch or dinner has to have rice on their plate, if not the meal just isn’t complete. There is a saying which goes, ‘kalau belom makan nasi, itu namanya belom makan’ which literally translates to ‘if you haven’t eaten rice then you haven’t eaten at all.’ This particular adage is what describes the characteristics of a true Indonesian.
You might have heard of the usual Indonesian food like nasi goreng (fried rice), sate ayam (chicken pieces on skewers) and mi goreng (fried noodles) but although these might be the ones which most clearly represents this country, they may also be the ones that bore you after some time. For the ones who dare to try, I can assure you that there is a plethora of other delicious food that you may love.
Image Sambal. Irwandy Mazwir via Flickr
A normal Indonesian meal will consist of usually rice with 3 or 4 dishes accompanying it and not to forget sambal, in abundance. Sambal is the country’s most prized possession. It is a chili based sauce or relish made typically of a variety of chili peppers and a mixture of other ingredients to complete the taste. Some may include shrimp paste, mango slices, fish sauce, garlic, etc.
Eating with hands is completely acceptable anywhere in Indonesia. People usually are given a small bowl of tap water in which they dip their right hand in it which takes up the job of the wash basin. The left hand is used for hygienic purposes and is customarily kept on the lap because it is considered unclean. Prior to taking a second helping, the plate must be emptied by finishing up all food. A small amount of food is typically left on the plate which indicates that they’ve had enough.
Image Indonesian Spices. rini w pics via Flickr
Indonesian food is known to be very vibrant and colourful with intense flavours. It’s safe to say that Indonesian food is rich with spices, considering the 18,000 islands in the country. Some of these flavours come from the infamous kecap manis which is a sweet and thick soy sauce used in almost all Indonesian dishes.
With the tropical climate throughout the year, it is an ideal place to get a wide range of vegetables and fruits. Fruits are generally eaten after a meal as dessert but also sometimes used as a condiment to savoury dishes. Popular fruits include pineapple, mango and papaya.
Image sate ayam . Christopher Johnson via Flickr
Image Ayam bakar must be tried. zul mokhtar via Flickr
Red meat is a frequent feature in the locals’ everyday meal. The speciality Indonesians have is a particular dish named rendang daging which is mainly beef, marinated and specially seasoned. This certain chow was crowned as the world’s most delicious food by CNN readers with nasi goreng coming in second.
Not a shock once you’ve tried how it tastes like. Chicken is also enjoyed regularly and eaten with rice. Ayam bakar is a must to be tasted once you set foot in Indonesia, along with tempe which is just fermented soybeans in block forms. Chicken is also enjoyed with curries and soups like soto ayam and the popular sate ayam. Peanuts are also commonly used to be made as a paste and mixed with spices to make peanut sauce.
Image es cendol popular Indonesian desert. tokyofoodcast.com via Flickr
Indonesian desserts have one of the most exuberant tastes in comparison to any other countries. Almost anything goes in it. The favourite, which is es cendol comprises tropical fruits, coconut milk, green jelly-like worms made from pandan leaf and ice shavings. Another famous yet appetizing dessert commonly had after intake of all these delicacies is martabak manis. It is a type of pan fried pancake stuffed with cheese, chocolate and peanuts depending on your preferences.
To understand a culture, you must accept their food. This aphorism is most understood when dealing with Indonesian cuisine. All that has been mentioned is sure to take your tongue by surprise. Enjoy tasting Indonesian food, or as they say in Indonesia: selamat makan!
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