Indonesia consists of over 6,000 islands, which has led to the country being diverse in culture, peoples, and cuisine. Indonesian cuisine should be considered a hidden gem that is tucked away inside South East Asia.
Compared to other Asian countries such as China and Japan, the food from this culture is relatively unknown. That should not be a deterrent to trying it out however, as it does have a lot to offer, from Sumatran cuisine to Polynesian.
The meals that are common in the country have been created over a large span of time, drawing influence from its neighboring countries – making it a veritable feast to explore.
The customs can be quite different from those in the western world and trying out Indonesian recipes can be quite an experience for the casual food eater.
Some of these cultural differences come from how the food is actually eaten. Although Indonesian recipes will only specify how the food is prepared, the food is usually eaten in one of two ways. In some regions of the country, it is common to eat with a fork and spoon. However, unlike in Western culture, the fork is used to push the food onto the spoon, where it is then placed into the mouth.
In other parts of the country, such as in the island of Java, it is increasingly common to eat with the bare hands. This is commonly seen in households as well as in restaurants and food stalls. If eating with the hands, a bowl of water is often served with the meal, however it is not to be used to quench one’s thirst. Alternatively, it is used to wash one’s hands before and after eating the meal.
Like in many other Asian countries, rice is commonly used in Indonesian recipes. Other staples of the area include yam, sweet potato, as well as grains including maize and wheat. In addition to these, many leafed vegetables will be called upon in the recipes. These include spinach, papaya and cassava. They can create a wide variety of dishes ranging from stir fry to curries and soups. Included in many main dishes is meat, with poultry and fish being the most dominant.
Being a predominately Muslim country, Indonesian cuisine will follow the Halal laws in regards to meat. As a result, pork is not commonly found in the area. As the country is near the ocean, it is seafood is also commonly found in marketplaces and restaurants. Fish as well as mussels, crabs and other wildlife that is found in the area is commonly used throughout Indonesia.
Chinese cuisine is of course an important influence, and when travelling the area if you see a restaurant which uses chopsticks you can be sure it is serving food which originated in the Middle Kingdom.