Indo-licious: 9 Indonesian Foods You Must Makan

indonesian food

Indonesian food is all about robust aromas and tantalising flavours. Whether it’s nasi goreng or tahu telur, these different culinary delights are all delectable and boast astounding flavours like no other. Essentially, you’d know that these are Indonesian foods the moment you taste them. So if you’re thinking of replicating them in the comforts of your own home, simply read on to find out more!

1. Nasi Rawon

indonesian food Nasi Rawon
(Credit: Kazuhisa Matsui / Flickr)

Nasi rawon is a popular Javanese dish that originated in the city of Surabaya, East Java, during the 19th century. The dish gets its name from the black-coloured rawon broth that is made by boiling beef or buffalo meat with a blend of exotic spices and herbs, including keluwak, a dark fruit that imparts a distinctively rich and earthy flavour to the broth. It’s usually enjoyed with a serving of steamed rice, so anyone can enjoy the true depth of flavour in this Indonesian food dish.


  • 500g beef or buffalo meat, cut into chunks
  • 5-6 pieces keluwak, soaked in water overnight
  • 10 shallots, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3cm galangal, sliced
  • 1cm turmeric, sliced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
  • 5-6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind, dissolved in 100ml of water
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 500g steamed rice
  • 100g bean sprouts, blanched
  • 100g fried tempeh, sliced
  • 100g shredded chicken, cooked
  • 2 tbsp fried shallots


  • Large pot
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large bowl


  1. Start by heating the cooking oil in a large pot over medium heat. 
  2. Add the sliced shallots, garlic, ginger, and galangal and sauté until fragrant. Then, add the beef or buffalo meat and stir-fry until the meat is browned on all sides. 
  3. Next, add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, salt, sugar, and the soaked keluwak, along with the water in which the keluwak was soaked. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. 
  4. Reduce the heat and let the broth simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the broth has thickened.
  5. Once the rawon broth is ready, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve (available on Walfos Official Store), discarding the solids.
  6. Return the strained broth to the pot (available on WMF Official Store) and add the tamarind water and coconut milk. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let it cook for another 10-15 minutes until the broth has thickened slightly.
  7. To serve, place a portion of steamed rice in a bowl and pour the rawon broth over it. Top with shredded chicken, fried tempeh, and blanched bean sprouts
  8. Garnish with fried shallots and serve hot.

2. Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng
(Credit: Muhammad Fawdy / Pexels [cropped])
While fried rice is one of the most iconic comfort foods, nothing can beat the Indonesian variation. Although it’s the Indonesian translation of fried rice, nasi goreng is special because of how it’s packed with tons of flavours, spices and textures. This Indonesian food dish is usually spicier because it contains chilli, sambal or belacan. Nevertheless, it’s still versatile, so you can always add your preferred ingredients. 


  • 500g cooked rice (preferably leftover rice that has been refrigerated overnight)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 200g cooked chicken, diced
  • 100g prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving


  • Large wok or frying pan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sharp knife 
  • Cutting board
  • Serving plate


  1. Heat the vegetable oil in the wok or frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and chillies and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Add the beaten eggs and scramble until cooked through. Add the diced chicken and prawns and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the prawns are pink and cooked through.
  3. Add the cooked rice to the wok and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the rice is heated through and coated in the egg mixture.
  4. Add the sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, and black pepper to the wok and toss the ingredients together until well combined.
  5. Add the sliced spring onions to the wok and toss for a further 30 seconds.
  6. Serve the nasi goreng hot with lime wedges on the side for squeezing over the dish.

3. Gado-Gado

(Credit: tongkm / Flickr)

Gado-gado is a well-loved Indonesian street food dish that’s known for its unique combination of vegetables, peanut sauce, and crispy crackers. But did you know that it has a rich history that dates back to the 16th century? It was first introduced by the Javanese, where gado-gado was created to use up leftover vegetables and to make a nutritious and filling meal. And now, it’s sought after by many thanks to its sweet and savoury flavour profile.


  • 300g boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 200g boiled green beans, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 200g boiled bean sprouts
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 100g fried tofu, sliced into small pieces
  • 100g tempeh, sliced into small pieces
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 red chillies, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200ml water
  • 100g roasted peanuts, ground
  • 1 packet emping crackers


  • Large pot
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Blender
  • Serving plate


  1. Boil the potatoes, green beans, and bean sprouts in a large pot of salted water until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine the roasted peanuts, tamarind paste, palm sugar, salt, and water. Blend until you get a smooth peanut sauce.
  3. In a frying pan (available on Carote Official Store), fry the tofu and tempeh until crispy.
  4. Arrange the boiled vegetables, sliced eggs, cucumber, tomatoes, and fried tofu and tempeh on a serving plate.
  5. Pour the peanut sauce over the vegetables and garnish with chopped chillies and minced garlic.
  6. Serve the gado-gado with emping crackers on the side.

4. Martabak Manis

Martabak Manis
(Credit: gourmetpigs / Flickr)

Martabak manis is an Indonesian dessert that’s usually sweet, but can also be savoury. Depending on its filling, martabak manis is a pancake that’s extremely indulgent. It’ll definitely satisfy your guilty pleasures. From savoury cheese and peanuts, to sweet chocolate sprinkles and condensed milk, this is one Indonesian food dish that will definitely pander to your sweet tooth.

  • Instructions:
  • 250g all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150ml warm water
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles
  • 2 tbsp cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp butter for frying


  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Frying pan
  • Spatula
  • Serving plate


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, baking powder, salt, egg, warm water, and granulated sugar. Mix until you get a smooth batter. Cover the batter with a damp cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
  2. After 30 minutes, add the condensed milk to the batter and whisk until well combined.
  3. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and melt the butter.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the frying pan and spread it out evenly with a spatula.
  5. Sprinkle the chocolate sprinkles and grated cheese over the top of the batter.
  6. Cover the frying pan with a lid and let the martabak cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the top is set and the bottom is golden brown.
  7. Use a spatula to carefully flip the martabak over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the other side is also golden brown.
  8. Transfer the martabak to a serving plate and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
  9. Serve the martabak hot and enjoy!

5. Bakso

indonesian food Bakso
(Credit: deku kertorahardjo / Flickr)

Bakso, an Indonesian meatball soup, is a comforting and flavourful dish that’s perfect for cold days or when you’re in need of some hearty comfort food. This Indonesian food dish is known for its rich broth and tender meatballs, and they’re usually enjoyed on its own or as a side dish. 


  • 500g minced beef
  • 150g tapioca starch
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 litre beef broth
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • Fried shallots for garnish


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Pot for boiling the meatballs
  • Ladle
  • Soup bowl


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the minced beef, tapioca starch, minced garlic, minced shallots, salt, pepper, sugar, and egg until well combined.
  2. Take a small portion of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the meatballs and let them cook for 5-7 minutes or until they are cooked through.
  4. In another pot, heat up the beef broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil until boiling.
  5. Once the meatballs are cooked, remove them from the pot with a ladle and transfer them into the pot with the boiling broth.
  6. Let the meatballs simmer in the broth for a few minutes until they absorb the flavour of the broth.
  7. Once the meatballs are cooked and the broth is flavourful, ladle the soup into a serving bowl and top with chopped spring onions and fried shallots.

6. Tempeh

indonesian food Sayur Asem
(Credit: Robin / Flickr)

Need a vegan option for your dinner guests? Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food that’s both vegan-friendly and full of protein. It’s made by allowing cooked soybeans to ferment in open air. What happens is a type of mould develops and this not only imparts a unique flavour to the Indonesian food, but also makes soybeans easier to digest. The best part about tempeh is how it can be eaten on its own as a snack or used as an ingredient in stir-fries, sandwiches, and more. Packed with fibre, iron, calcium, and other essential vitamins and minerals, this is one nutritious Indonesian food dish you can’t leave out of your sight.


  • 500g soybeans
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon tempeh starter (also known as ragi tempeh)
  • Water


  • Large pot
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cheese cloth or a clean dish towel
  • Wooden spoon
  • Steamer basket
  • Plastic wrap or aluminium foil
  • Baking dish


  1. Soak the soybeans in water overnight. Drain the water and rinse the soybeans thoroughly.
  2. Boil the soybeans in a large pot for 30 minutes or until soft. Drain the water and let the soybeans cool.
  3. Remove the soybean skins by rubbing the beans between your hands under running water.
  4. Add the vinegar and tempeh starter to the cooled soybeans and mix well.
  5. Transfer the soybean mixture to a cheesecloth (available on or clean dish towel and wrap it tightly. Place the wrapped mixture in a steamer basket and steam for 24 hours at 30-32°C.
  6. After 24 hours, unwrap the steamed mixture and transfer it to a baking dish. Cover it with plastic wrap or aluminium foil and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

7. Sayur Asem

Sayur Asem
(Credit: maulisa lisa / Flickr)

Sweet, spicy and sour. Though that may seem like a dish that’s hard to come by, the Indonesian food cuisine is here to prove you otherwise. Sayur asem is a savoury soup that’s made with vegetables and tamarind juice, and it’s perfect for anyone who loves the combination of sweet and sour flavours. With the help of fresh ingredients, this Indonesian food dish ends up having a unique flavour that’s extremely palatable.


  • 300g jackfruit, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 100g long beans, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 100g corn, cut into small pieces
  • 100g carrot, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 100g peeled peanuts
  • 2 red chillies, sliced thinly
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 litres water

Spice Paste

  • 4 shallots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 red chillies
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies
  • 1 tsp of shrimp paste


  • Chopping board
  • Knife
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Soup pot
  • Ladle


  1. Prepare the spice paste by grinding the shallots, garlic, chillies, bird’s eye chillies, and shrimp paste in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a smooth paste.
  2. Boil 2 litres of water in a soup pot (available on Simplus Official Store), and add the spice paste, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Stir well and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the jackfruit, tomatoes, long beans, corn, and carrot to the pot, and stir well. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes.
  4. Add the tamarind paste, palm sugar, and salt to the pot, and stir well until the sugar dissolves.
  5. Add the peanuts and sliced red chillies to the pot, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool down for a few minutes.
  7. Serve the sayur asem in bowls, with steamed rice on the side.

8. Pempek

indonesian food Pempek
(Credit: Jamaludin Muh / Pexels)

Indonesian food is all about yummy snacks and another one that’s worth a mention is pempek. Typically made with fish and tapioca starch, this Indonesian food dish is a healthy and gluten-free option for those with dietary restrictions. They’re also paired with a sweet and sour vinegar-based sauce known as kuah cuka, which complements the savoury flavours of pempek perfectly.


  • 500g fish fillet (mackerel, tuna, or any other firm white fish)
  • 150g tapioca starch
  • 50g wheat flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 500ml water
  • Cooking oil for frying
  • Kuah cuka (vinegar-based sauce)


  • Mixing bowl
  • Blender
  • Large pot
  • Frying pan
  • Slotted spoon


  1. To start making the pempek, blend the fish fillet in a blender until it becomes a smooth paste. Then, transfer the paste into a mixing bowl and add in the tapioca starch, wheat flour, minced garlic, egg, salt, and sugar. Mix well until all ingredients are fully combined.
  2. Next, heat the water in a large pot until it comes to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and use a tablespoon to scoop the pempek mixture into the boiling water. Cook the pempek for about 5 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove the pempek from the pot and place them on a plate to cool.
  3. Once the pempek has cooled down, heat some cooking oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the pempek until they turn golden brown, then remove them from the pan using a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  4. Finally, serve the pempek with kuah cuka on the side for dipping. The sweet and sour sauce perfectly complements the savoury and slightly spicy flavour of the pempek.

9. Tahu Telur

Tahu Telur
(Credit: Hafifa Haider / Flickr)

Tahu telur is a crowd favourite when it comes to Indonesian foods. It features fried tofu and eggs, drenched in a peanut sauce that’s savoury and sweet. Originally created as a vegetarian alternative to egg crepes, tahu telur has evolved to become what we all know and love today – one of Indonesia’s prized street food dishes.


Tahu Telur

  • 500g firm tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Peanut Sauce

  • 100g roasted peanuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 red chillies, minced
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml water


  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 small bunch of lettuce, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fried shallots


  • Chopping board
  • Knife
  • Mixing bowl
  • Frying pan
  • Spatula
  • Blender
  • Saucepan


  1. Start by preparing the tofu. In a mixing bowl, combine the cubed tofu, beaten eggs, all-purpose flour, salt and black pepper. Mix well until the tofu is evenly coated with the egg mixture.
  2. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the tofu mixture and fry until the tofu is golden brown and crispy, turning occasionally to ensure even cooking. Once cooked, remove the tofu from the pan and set it aside.
  3. To make the peanut sauce, start by blending the roasted peanuts in a blender until they form a smooth paste. Set the peanut paste aside.
  4. In a saucepan, heat some vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic, shallots and red chillies and sauté until fragrant and golden brown.
  5. Add the peanut paste to the saucepan and stir well to combine. Add the tamarind paste, palm sugar, salt and water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.
  6. To assemble the dish, place the fried tofu on a plate and pour the peanut sauce over it. Garnish with sliced cucumber, chopped lettuce and fried shallots.
  7. Serve the tahu telur while it’s still hot and enjoy!

‘Makan’ time with these Indonesian foods

More than just nasi goreng and ayam penyet, Indonesian foods like gado-gado and tahu telur are sure to whet your appetite. But if you’re craving for something else, here are some Indian curry recipes and rendang recipes to try out!