Saturday, June 18, 2011

Indonesian cuisine

See also: List of Indonesian dishes

Example of Indonesian Sundanese meal; roasted fish, nasi timbel (rice wrapped in banana leaf), fried chicken, sambal, fried tempeh and tofu, and sayur asem; the bowl of water with lime is kobokan.

Indonesian cuisine reflects the vast variety created by the people who live on the 6,000 populated islands that make up the modern nation of Indonesia. There is not a single "Indonesian" cuisine, but rather, a diversity of regional cuisines formed by local Indonesian cultures and foreign influences. Indonesian cuisine reflects its complex cultural history. Cooking varies greatly by region and combines many different influences.[1]

Throughout its history, Indonesia has been involved in trade due to its location and natural resources. Additionally, Indonesia’s indigenous techniques and ingredients were influenced by India, the Middle East, China, and finally Europe. Spanish and Portuguese traders brought New World produce even before the Dutch came to colonize most of the archipelago. The Indonesian island of Maluku, which is famed as "the Spice Island", also contributed to the introduction of native spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, to Indonesian and global cuisine.

Indonesia is the home of sate; one of the country's most popular dishes, there are many variants across Indonesia.

Some popular Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng[2], gado-gado[3], sate[4], and soto[5] is omnipresent in the country and considered as Indonesian national dishes.

Sumatran cuisine, for example, often shows Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables, while Javanese cuisine is rather more indigenous. The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. Elements of Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine: items such as bakmi (noodles), bakso (meat balls), and lumpia have been completely assimilated.

The most popular dishes that originated in Indonesia are now common across much of Southeast Asia. Popular Indonesian dishes such as satay, beef rendang, and sambal are also favoured in Malaysia and Singapore. Soy-based dishes, such as variations of tofu (tahu) and tempe, are also very popular. Tempe is regarded as a Javanese invention, a local adaptation of soy-based food fermentation and production. Another soy-based fermented food is oncom, similar to tempe but created by different fungi and particularly popular in West Java.

Indonesian meals are commonly eaten with the combination of a spoon in the right hand and fork in the left hand, although in many parts of the country (such as West Java and West Sumatra) it is also common to eat with one's hands. In restaurants or households that commonly use bare hands to eat, like in seafood foodstalls, traditional Sundanese and Minangkabau restaurants, or East Javanese pecel lele (fried catfish with sambal) and ayam goreng (fried chicken) foodstalls, they usually serve kobokan, a bowl of tap water with a slice of lime in it to give a fresh scent. This bowl of water with lime in it should not to be consumed, however; it is used to wash one's hand before and after eating. Eating with chopsticks is generally only found in foodstalls or restaurants serving Indonesian adaptations of Chinese cuisine, such as bakmie or mie ayam (chicken noodle) with pangsit (wonton), mie goreng (fried noodle), and kwetiau goreng (fried flat rice noodles).

Using water buffalo to plough rice fields in Java; Rice is a staple for all classes in contemporary; Indonesia is the world's third largest paddy rice producer and its cultivation has transformed much of Indonesia’s landscape.

Rice is a staple for all classes in contemporary Indonesia,[6] and it holds a central part in Indonesian culture: it shapes the landscape; is sold at markets; and is served in most meals as a savoury and sweet food. Rice is most often eaten as plain rice with just a few protein and vegetable dishes as side dishes. It is also served, however, as nasi uduk (rice cooked in coconut milk), nasi kuning (rice cooked with coconut milk and turmeric), ketupat (rice steamed in woven packets of coconut fronds), lontong (rice steamed in banana leaves), intip (rice crackers), desserts, vermicelli, noodles, arak beras (rice wine), and nasi goreng (fried rice).[7]Nasi goreng is omnipresent in Indonesia and considered as national dish [2]

Rice was only incorporated into diets, however, as either the technology to grow it or the ability to buy it from elsewhere was gained. Evidence of wild rice on the island of Sulawesi dates from 3000 BCE. Evidence for the earliest cultivation, however, comes from eighth century stone inscriptions from the central island of Java, which show kings levied taxes in rice. Divisions of labour between men, women, and animals that are still in place in Indonesian rice cultivation, can be seen carved into the ninth-century Prambanan temples in Central Java: a Water buffalo attached to a plough; women planting seedlings and pounding grain; and a man carries sheaves of rice on each end of a pole across his shoulders. In the sixteenth century, Europeans visiting the Indonesian islands saw rice as a new prestige food served to the aristocracy during ceremonies and feasts.[6]

Rice production requires exposure to the sun. Rice production in Indonesian history is linked to the development of iron tools and the domestication of Wild Asian Water Buffalo as water buffalo for cultivation of fields and manure for fertilizer. Once covered in dense forest, much of the Indonesian landscape has been gradually cleared for permanent fields and settlements as rice cultivation developed over the last fifteen hundred years.[6]
[edit] Other staple carbohydrates

Other staple foods in Indonesia include maize (in drier regions such as Madura and the Lesser Sunda Islands), sago (in Eastern Indonesia), cassava (dried cassava, locally known as tiwul is an alternate staple food in arid areas in Java such as Gunung Kidul and Wonogiri) and root tubers (especially in hard times).

sambal ulek, a common Indonesian spicy condiment.

Known throughout the world as the "Spice Islands", the Indonesian islands of Maluku contributed to the introduction of its native spices to world cuisine. Spices such as pala (nutmeg/mace), cengkeh (clove), and laos (galangal) are native to Indonesia. It is likely that lada hitam (black pepper), kunyit (turmeric), sereh (lemongrass), bawang merah (shallot), kayu manis (cinnamon), kemiri (candlenut), ketumbar (coriander), and asem jawa (tamarind) were introduced from India, while jahe (ginger), daun bawang (leek) and bawang putih (garlic) were introduced from China. Those spices from mainland Asia were introduced early, in ancient times, thus they became integral ingredients in Indonesian cuisine. "Bumbu" is the Indonesian word for spice or seasoning, and it commonly appears in the names of spice mixtures.[citation needed]

In ancient times, the kingdom of Sunda and the later sultanate of Banten were well known as the world's major producers of black pepper. The maritime empires of Srivijaya and Majapahit also benefited from the lucrative spice trade between the spice islands and China and India. Later the Dutch East India Company controlled the spice trade between Indonesia and the world. The Indonesian fondness for hot and spicy food was enriched when the Spanish introduced cabai chili pepper from the New World to the region in 16th century. After that hot and spicy sambals have become an important part of Indonesian cuisine.[citation needed]
[edit] Peanut sauce

Peanut sauce is important part of gado-gado.

One of the main characteristics of Indonesian cuisine is the wide application of peanuts in many Indonesian signature dishes, such as satay, gado-gado, karedok, ketoprak, and pecel. Gado-gado and Sate for example has been considered as Indonesian national dishes.[3][4] Introduced from Mexico by Portuguese and Spanish merchants in 16th century, peanuts assumed a place within Indonesian cuisine as a key ingredient. Peanuts thrived in the tropical environment of Southeast Asia, and today they can be found, roasted and chopped finely, in many recipes. Whole, halved, or crushed peanuts are used to garnish a variety of dishes, and used in marinades and dipping sauces such as sambal kacang (a mixture of ground chillis and fried peanuts) for otak-otak or ketan. Peanut oil, extracted from peanuts, is one of the most commonly used cooking oils in Indonesia.

Bumbu kacang or peanut sauce represents a sophisticated, earthy seasoning rather than a sweet, gloppy sauce [8]. It should have a delicate balance of savoury, sweet, sour, and spicy flavours, acquired from various ingredients, such as fried peanuts, gula jawa (coconut sugar), garlic, shallots, ginger, tamarind, lemon juice, lemongrass, salt, chilli, peppercorns, sweet soy sauce, ground together and mixed with water to form the right consistency. The secret to good peanut sauce is “not too thick and not too watery.” Indonesian peanut sauce tends to be less sweet than the Thai version, which is a hybrid adaptation. Gado-gado is a popular dish particularly associated with bumbu kacang, and is eaten across Indonesia.
[edit] Coconut milk

Shredding coconut flesh to make coconut milk.

Rendang kambing, a dish cooked with coconut milk

Indonesia is a tropical country with abundant tropical produce such as coconuts. Thus, since ancient times Indonesia developed many and various uses of this plant. The broad use of coconut milk in many Indonesian dishes is another common characteristic of Indonesian cuisine. It is used in many recipes, from savoury dishes such as rendang, soto, sayur lodeh, and opor ayam, to desserts such as es cendol and es doger. Soto is ubiquitous in Indonesia and considered as one of Indonesian national dish.[5]

The use of coconut milk is not exclusive to Indonesian cuisine, since it can also be found in Indian, Samoan, Thai, Malaysian, Philippine, and Brazilian cuisines. Nonetheless, the use of coconut milk is quite extensive in Indonesia, especially in Minangkabau cuisine, whereas in Minahasan (North Sulawesi) cuisine, coconut milk is generally absent, except in Minahasan cakes and desserts such as klappertart.

In Indonesian cuisine, two types of coconut milk are found, thin coconut milk and thick coconut milk. The difference depends on the water and oil content. Thin coconut milk is usually used for soups such as sayur lodeh and soto, while the thicker variety is used for rendang and desserts. It can be made from freshly shredded coconut meat in traditional markets, or can be found processed in cartons at the supermarket.

After the juice (milk) has been extracted from the shredded coconut flesh to make coconut milk, the ampas kelapa (leftover coconut flesh) still can be used in urap, seasoned and spiced shredded coconut meat mixed together with vegetables. Urap is similar to gado-gado, except that peanut sauce is replaced by shredded coconut sauce. Leftover shredded coconut can also be cooked, sauteed and seasoned to make serundeng, almost powdery sweet and spicy coconut granules. Kerisik paste, added to thicken rendang, is another use of coconut flesh. To acquire a rich taste, some households insist on using freshly shredded coconut, instead of leftover, for urap and serundeng. Serundeng can be mixed with meat in dishes such as serundeng daging (beef serundeng) or sprinkled on top of other dishes such as soto or ketan (sticky rice). An example on heavy use of coconut is Buras from Makassar, rice wrapped in banana leaf cooked with coconut milk and sprinkled with powdered coconut similar to serundeng.
[edit] Regional dishes

West Java

A textural specialty of Sunda (West Java) is karedok, a fresh salad made with long beans, bean sprouts, and cucumber with a spicy sauce. Other Sundanese dishes include mie kocok which is a beef and egg noodle soup, and soto Bandung, a beef and vegetable soup with daikon and lemon grass. A hawker favourite is kupat tahu (pressed rice, bean sprouts, and tofu with soy and peanut sauce). Colenak (roasted cassava with sweet coconut sauce) and ulen (roasted brick of sticky rice with peanut sauce) are dishes usually usually eaten warm.

Central Java

The food of Central Java is renowned for its sweetness, and the dish of gudeg, a curry made from jackfruit, is a particularly sweet. The city of Yogyakarta is renowned for its ayam goreng (fried chicken) and kelepon (green rice-flour balls with palm sugar filling). Surakarta's (Solo) specialities include Nasi liwet (rice with coconut milk, unripe papaya, garlic and shallots, served with chicken or egg) and serabi (coconut milk pancakes topped with chocolate, banana or jackfruit). Other Central Javanese specialities pecel (peanut sauce with spinach and bean sprouts), lotek (peanut sauce with vegetable and pressed rice), opor ayam (chicken in pepper and coconut curry), and rawon (dark beef stew).

East Java

The food of East Java is similar to that of Central Java. Fish is popular, in particular pecel lele (deep fried catfish served with rice) and pecel (spicy sauce made from chilli, peanuts, and/or tomato. Food from Malang includes bakwan Malang (meatball soup with won ton and noodles) and arem aream (pressed rice, tempe, sprouts, soy sauce, coconut, and peanuts.


From the island of Madura off the East Java coast comes soto Madura (beef soup with lime, pepper, chilli, peanuts, and ginger).


Balinese dishes include lawar (chopped coconut, garlic, chilli, with pork or chicken meat and blood). Bebek betutu is duck stuffed with spices, wrapped in banana leaves and coconut husks cooked in a pit of embers. Balinese sate, known as sate lilit, is made from spiced mince pressed onto skewers which are often lemon grass sticks. Babi guling is a spit-roasted pig stuffed with chilli, tumeric, garlic and ginger.

North Sumatra

Arab, Persian, and Indian traders influenced food in Aceh although flavours have changed to be little like their original form. Amongst these are curry dishes known as kare or gulai, which are rich, coconut-based dishes traditionally made with beef, goat, fish or poultry, but are now also made with tofu, vegetables, and jackfruit. Batak people use either pork or even dog to make sangsang. Another Batak pork specialty is babi panggang in which the meat is boiled in vinegar and pig blood before being roasted. Another batak dish, Ayam namargota, is chicken cooked in spices and blood. Lada rimba is strong pepper used by Bataks.

West Sumatra

Buffaloes are a symbol of West Sumatra and are used in rendang, a spicy buffalo curry. Padang cuisine comes from West Sumatra. Dishes from the region include nasi kapau which is similar to Padang food but uses more vegetables. Amplang dadiah (buffalo yogurt with palm sugar syrup, coconut flesh and rice) and bubur kampiun (Mung bean porridge with banana and rice yogurt) are other west Sumatran specialties.

South Sumatra

The city of Palembang is the culinary centre of South Sumatra and is renowned for its pempek, a deep fried fish and sago dumpling that is also known as empek-empek. South Sumatra is also home to pindang, a spicy fish soup with soy and tamarind. Ikan brengkes is fish in a spicy durian-based sauce. Tempoyak is a sauce of shrimp paste, lime juice, chilli and fermented durian, and sambal buah is a chilli sauce made from fruit.

North Sulawesi

Minahasan cuisine from North Sulawesi features heavy use of meat such as pork, fowl, and seafood. "Woku" is a type of seafood dish with generous use of spices, often making up half the dish. Ingredients of woku include lemongrass, lime leaves, chili peppers, spring onion, shallots, either sautéed with meat, or wrapped around fish and grilled covered in banana leaves. Other ingredients such as turmeric and ginger are often added to create a version of woku.
Foreign colonial influence also played a role in shaping Minahasan cuisine. Brenebon (from Dutch "Bruin" (brown) and "Boon" (bean)) is a pork shank bean stew spiced with nutmeg and clove. Roast pork similar to lechon in the Philippines or pig roast in Hawaii are served in special occasions, especially weddings. Other animals such as dog, bat, and forest rat are also regularly served in North Sulawesi region.

Nusa Tenggara

With a drier climate, there is less rice a more sago, corn, cassava, and taro compared to central and western Indonesia. Fish is popular including sepat which is shredded fish in coconut and young-mango sauce. Lombok's sasak people enjoy spicy food such as ayam taliwang which is roasted chicken served with peanut, tomato chilli and lime dip. Pelecing is a spicy sauce used in many dishes made with chilli, shrimp paste, and tomato. Sares is made from chilli, coconut juice and banana palm pith and is sometimes mixed with meat. Non meat dishes include kelor (hot soup with vegetables), serebuk (vegetables mixed with coconut), and timun urap (cucumber with coconut, onion and garlic).
Meal Times

In western and central Indonesia, the main meal is usually cooked in the late morning, and consumed around midday. In many families there is no set meal time when all members are expected to attend. For this reason, most of the dishes are made so that they can remain edible even if left on the table at room temperature for many hours. The same dishes are then re-heated for the final meal in the evening. Most meals are built around a cone-shaped pile of long-grain, highly polished rice. A meal may include a soup, salad (or more commonly vegetables sautéed with garlic), and another main dish. Whatever the meal, it is accompanied by at least one, and often several, relishes called sambals.

In eastern Indonesia, such as on the islands of Papua and Timor, where the climate is often much drier, the meals can be centered around other sources of carbohydrates such as sago and/or root vegetables and starchy tubers. Being east of the Wallace line, the ecozone, and hence the flora and fauna, are quite different from those of the islands to the west, and so the food stuffs are, as well.
Feasts: Tumpeng and Rijsttafel

Tumpeng nasi kuning, the cone shaped yellow rice is served during a feast.

Many Indonesian traditional customs and ceremonies incorporate food and feast. One of the best examples is tumpeng. Originally from Java, tumpeng is a cone shaped mound of rice surrounded by an assortment of other dishes. Traditionally featured in selamatan ceremonies, the cone of rice is made by using bamboo leaves woven into a cone-shaped container. The rice itself can be plain white steamed rice, uduk (rice cooked with coconut milk), or yellow rice (rice coloured with kunyit, i.e., turmeric). After it is shaped, the rice cone is surrounded by assorted dishes, such as urap vegetables, fried chicken, semur (beef in sweet soy sauce), teri kacang (little dried fish fried with peanuts), fried prawns, telur pindang (marblized boiled eggs), shredded omelette, tempe orek (sweet, dry fried tempeh), perkedel kentang (mashed potato fritters), perkedel jagung (corn fritters), sambal goreng ati (liver in chilli sauce), and many other dishes. Nasi tumpeng probably comes from an ancient Indonesian tradition that revers mountains as the abode of the ancestors and the gods. Rise cone is meant to symbolize the holy mountain. The feast served as some kind of thanksgiving for the abundance of harvest or any other blessings. Because of its festivities and celebratory value, even now tumpeng is sometimes used as an Indonesian counterpart to birthday cake.

Another Indonesian feast, the Rijsttafel (from Dutch, meaning 'rice table'), demonstrates both colonial opulence and the diversity of Indonesian cuisine at the same time. The classic style rijsttafel involved serving of up to 40 different dishes by 40 male waiters, bare foot but dressed in formal white uniforms with blangkon (traditional Javanese caps) on their heads and batik cloth around their waists. In contemporary Indonesian cuisine, it has been adapted into a western style buffet. It employs a long table with a wide range of dishes, both savory and sweet, served on it. It can usually be found in wedding ceremonies or any other festivities. The layout for an Indonesian wedding ceremony buffet is usually: plates, eating utensils (spoon and fork), and paper napkins placed on one end, followed by rice (plain or fried), a series of Indonesian (and sometimes international) dishes, sambal and krupuk (shrimp crackers), and ending with glasses of water on the other end of the table.


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Avocado shake (jus alpokat) with chocolate syrup

The most common and popular Indonesian drinks and beverages are teh (tea) and kopi (coffee). Indonesian households commonly serve teh manis (sweet tea) or kopi tubruk (coffee mixed with sugar and hot water and poured straight in the glass without separating out the coffee residue) to guests. Since the colonial era of Netherlands East Indies, plantations, especially in Java, were major producers of coffee, tea and sugar. Since then hot and sweet coffee and tea beverages have been enjoyed by Indonesians. Jasmine tea is the most popular tea variety drunk in Indonesia, however recent health awareness promotions have made green tea a popular choice. Usually coffee and tea are served hot, but cold iced sweet tea is also frequently drunk. Teh botol, bottled sweet jasmine tea, is now quite popular and locally competes favorably with international bottled soda beverages such as Coca Cola and Fanta. Kopi susu (coffee with sweetened condensed milk) is an Indonesian version of Café au lait.

Fruit juices (jus) are very popular. Varieties include orange (jus jeruk), guava (jus jambu), mango (jus mangga), soursop (just sirsak) and avocado (jus alpokat), the last of these being commonly served with condensed milk and chocolate syrup as a dessert-like treat.

Many popular drinks are based on ice (es) and can also be classified as desserts. Typical examples include young coconut (es kelapa muda), grass jelly (es cincau), chendol (es cendol or es dawet), red kidney beans (es kacang merah), musk melon (es blewah) and seaweed (es rumput laut).

Hot sweet beverages can also be found, such as bajigur and bandrek which are particularly popular in West Java. Both are coconut milk or coconut sugar (gula jawa) based hot drinks, mixed with other spices. Sekoteng, a ginger based hot drink which includes peanuts, diced bread, and pacar cina, can be found in Jakarta and West Java. Wedang jahe (hot ginger drink) and wedang ronde (a hot drink with sweet potato balls) are particularly popular in Yogyakarta, Central Java, and East Java.

As a Muslim majority country, Indonesian Muslims also share Islamic dietary laws that prohibit alcoholic beverages. However since ancient times, native alcoholic beverages were already developed in archipelago. According to a Chinese source, people of ancient Java drank wine made from palm sap called tuak (palm wine). Today tuak continues to be popular in the Batak region, North Sumatra where a majority of the people are Christian. A traditional Batak bar serving tuak is called lapo tuak. In Solo, Central Java, ciu (a local adaptation of Chinese wine) is also known. Bottled brem bali (Balinese rice wine) is popular in Bali. Indonesians also developed local brands of beer, such as Bintang Beer and Anker Beer.
[edit] Snacks and street food

Bakso (meatball) seller in Bandung

Krupuks in vaccum tin cans.

In most cities, it is common to see Chinese dishes such as bakpao (steamed buns with various sweet and savoury fillings), bakmie (noodles), and bakso (meatballs) sold by street vendors and restaurants alike, often adapted to become Indonesian-Chinese cuisine. One common adaptation is that pork is rarely used since the majority of Indonesians are Muslims. Another popular Indonesian street food and snack is siomay and batagor (abbreviated from Bakso Tahu Goreng), deep fried fish cake pempek, bubur ayam (chicken congee), bubur kacang hijau (mung beans porridge), satay, nasi goreng and mie goreng (fried rice and fried noodle), taoge goreng/mung bean sprouts and noodle salad, laksa, kerak telor (spicy omelette), and gorengan (Indonesian assorted fritters).

Various traditional crackers is called krupuk, and usually consumed as snack or to accompany main meals. There are wide variations of krupuk available across Indonesia. The most popular ones would be krupuk udang (prawn cracker) and krupuk kampung or krupuk putih (cassava cracker). Another popular types include krupuk kulit (skin cracker), emping melinjo (gnetum gnemon cracker), an also various of kripik (chips or crisps), such as kripik pisang (banana chips) and keripik singkong (cassava chips).

Indonesian street snacks also include iced and sweet beverages, such as es cendol or es dawet, es teler, es cincau, es doger, es campur, es potong, and es puter. Indonesian cakes and cookies are often called as jajanan pasar (market munchies). Indonesia has a rich collection of snacks called kue (cakes and pastry), both savory and sweet. Popular ones include risoles, pastel, lumpia, lemper, lontong, tahu isi, lapis legit, getuk, bakpia, bika ambon, lupis, lemang, kue pisang, klepon, onde-onde, nagasari, soes, and bolu kukus.

Street and street-side vendors are common, in addition to hawkers peddling their goods on bicycles or carts. These carts are known as pedagang kaki lima - (named after the 5-foot (1.5 m) wide footpaths in Indonesia, however some people say they are named 'five feet' after the three feet of the cart and two feet of the vendor!), and many of these have their own distinctive call or songs to announce their wares. For example, the bakso seller will hit the side of a soup bowl, whereas mie ayam is announced by hitting a wood block.

Rambutan for sale at a market in Jakarta.

Indonesian markets abound with many types of tropical fruit. These are an important part of the Indonesian diet, either eaten raw, made into desserts (such as es buah), cooked in savoury and spicy dishes like rujak, fried like pisang goreng (fried banana), or processed into kripik (crispy chips) as snacks like jackfruit or banana chips. Many of these fruits such as mangosteen, rambutan, jackfruit, durian, and banana, are indigenous to Indonesian archipelago; while others have been imported from other tropical countries, although the origin of many of these fruits might be disputed. Banana and Coconut are particularly important, not only to Indonesian cuisine, but also in other uses, such as timber, bedding, roofing, oil, plates and packaging, etc.

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