Indonesian food on Bali and Flores – What Kate and Kris Ate
Our recent trip to Indonesia was mainly to fulfil our dream of seeing Komodo dragons in the wild (Read about our experiences in this post). However, as a bonus add-on, we also managed to consume some great Indonesian food and put away several Indonesian beers.
I’m not good to pretend to be any kind of expert on Indonesian food but this is what we enjoyed.
To start with, to understand Indonesian food, we need to include a little Bahasa Indonesian lesson along the way. Come on. We are language teachers. They speak Bahasa in Malaysia too, so it will help you in both countries.
Nasi = rice
Goreng = fried
So Nasi Goreng = fried rice
Fried rice is different in every country we’ve eaten it in. It’s never the stodgy dish with clumps of egg that you get from the local takeaway, and we’ve never seen people eat it as the side dish to a main meal. Fried rice tends to be a meal in itself, not something you put curry over.
Vietnamese fried rice is kind of crunchy, whereas in Thailand it’s soft and made with a lot of fish sauce.
In Indonesia, it was darker in colour and has a more smoky flavour, apparently because of the addition of caramelised sweet soy sauce and tamarind paste.
Sometimes the egg is mixed into the fried rice, and sometimes it’s served on top. Nasi Goreng is often also served with pickles, prawn crackers and sambal – a kind of chilli sauce.
Like other Asian countries, it can come with different meats including:
Ayam = chicken
Udang = shrimp
Mi Goreng = fried noodles
Another common stir-fried dish in Indonesia is Mi Goreng or fried noodles. Much more like Chinese fried noodles than Thai style fried noodles, the dish again includes the sweet soy sauce that is in Nasi Goreng. Yellow wheat noodles are used and fried with vegetables, usually with some kind of meat and egg.
You remember that ‘Nasi‘ means ‘rice’, right? Well, Nasi Lemak is rice cooked in fragranced coconut milk. ‘Lemak‘ apparently means ‘fatty’, which doesn’t sound so good, but in this context means ‘creamy’. Nasi Lemak is served with a variety of small side dishes including sliced cucumber, roasted peanuts and:
ikan bilis =anchovies
telur = egg
sambal = chilli sauce
Nasi Campur basically means ‘mixed rice’ and is normal white rice served with different side dishes such as meats, like satay and curry, vegetables, roasted peanuts, boiled egg and of course, sambal. The side dishes vary depending on the region, as well as the place you eat it!
Come on, you can work this out for yourself. You know that Ayam means chicken, and Goreng means fried. So Ayam Goreng is…..
Fried chicken! You got it!
Not to be mistaken with something you get in a popular fast food chain known for the old soldier and his secret recipe, Ayam Goreng doesn’t have a breadcrumbed or batter coating. Instead, the chicken pieces are marinated in a range of spices including turmeric and galangal before being fried. It’s served with a dipping sauce of sambal and cucumber.
Bakar = grilled
Ayam Bakar = grilled chicken
Ikan = fish
Ikan Goreng = fried fish
Other meats can be served fried, like Ikan Goreng, fried fish. Again, the fish is marinated in spices before frying and this one had rather a lot of chilli sprinkled on it.
Ikan Bakar = grilled fish
Indonesia being a country made up of many islands, has a lot of great seafood. A common way to cook fish is to grill it over a BBQ after marinating it in a mixture of soy sauce and spices (e.g. shallot, pepper, tamarind, galangal etc.). Like many other dishes, it’s served with sambal.
The term ‘gado’ is not that useful in our Indonesian learning, because it derives from a verb meaning to eat something without rice. Gado-Gado is basically a variety of boiled vegetables like potato, beans and corn, with boiled eggs and tofu and covered in a peanut sauce. It’s served with prawn crackers.
Laksa is a kind of noodle soup made with rice noodles and chicken, prawns etc. The soup is spicy and varies depending on the type of laksa – sometimes it’s made with coconut milk, sometimes with sour tamarind and sometimes with both. This is Kris’ favourite kind of noodle soup, and believe me, we have eaten a lot in SE Asia and there are sooo many different kinds. According to CNN, Penang laksa is one of the top 10 foods in the world, so it seems Kris is in some company here.
Spring rolls are another food that is in many countries in the region, yet differs significantly depending on where you go. In Indonesia, Lumpia are more like the Chinese spring roll that we know than the ones we get in Vietnam. The wrapper is pastry and they are much longer and thicker than the ones in Vietnam (or the ones we had were). The shredded vegetable filling is apparently bound with egg which makes them heavier. Still yum though.
Like in Vietnam, you can also get both fried and fresh lumpia.
Remember what ayam means? So you already know that the main ingredient of this dish is chicken. Ayam Sisit is a traditional Balinese dish of shredded chicken. It’s mixed with spices and herbs.
bir = beer
(you probably could have worked that out)
There isn’t exactly a diverse selection of beer in Indonesia. Bintang is everywhere. Everywhere. Many bars only sell Bintang. It comes in big and small bottles. As it’s owned by Heineken, it’s what you expect, a light lager, but its mild taste is perfect to refresh you on a hot day. It’s actually won prizes, so it can’t be bad.
Which is good, because there isn’t much else.
One alternative is Anker beer. It’s an interesting name, given that one of the main beers in Cambodia are Angkor (obvious reason for the name) and Anchor (with an anchor on the picture). Anker beer is another light lager, only found in Indonesia and one of few beers in SE Asia NOT owned by Carlsberg or Heineken!
When we were enjoying a cold Bintang in a bar in Labuan Bajo, during our trip to Komodo National Park, we noticed others drinking Prost beer. This was probably because it was slightly cheaper and everyone around us was saving their money to spend on diving. Prost is an American beer, from Denver. We didn’t see any other foreign beer while we were in Indonesia.
Feel more confident with an Indonesian menu now? You should be able to decipher a lot of dishes, both there and in Malaysia. Happy eating!
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