It is very common to associate certain dishes in a country. In Italy, pasta and pizza are very common. In China, noodle is a daily menu. In Mediterranean islands like Greece and Cyprus, salad is a must. So, how about Indonesia?
An Indonesian meal always contains rice. Traditionally, it’s usually white steamed rice and is served in bigger portion with one or two other dishes, because rice is the main part of the meal and meant to fill you up. If you didn’t see any white steamed rice served, believe me, you will find another rich dishes such as; Nasi Goreng/Fried Rice, Nasi Kuning/Yellow Rice, Nasi Uduk/Fragrant Coconut Rice, or even another form of rice dishes such as Lontong and Ketupat /Boiled RiceCake and Bubur/Porridge :). The use of rice in Indonesian food, is not only for the main course, either rice or rice flour also used a lot as a main ingredients for cakes and dessert such as Kue Lapis/ Steamed Layer Cake, Putu/Steamed Palm Sugar Rice Cake, Serabi/Indonesian Style Pancake.
Indonesian meal will not complete without sambal. It’s such versatile companion for any types of Indonesian meals. There are many varieties of sambal, but actually it’s all about chili. The simplest one made from chili and salt only. Garlic, onion, tomato, sugar, shrimp paste, lemon and many more are added to the chili paste to upgrade the taste of sambal to be more rich and tastier. The best chili for sambal is scud chili or also know as bird’s eye chili. It will give a very strong heat even though you use it in little amount. Sambal terasi or sambal belacan is one of the most famous and favorite sambal from Indonesia, the shrimp paste that added to the chili paste, bring the taste of sambal more exotic and delicious.
Just go to Asian groceries or international food aisle in your groceries store, you will find a lot of type of sambal in a jar or bottle. It’s also available from the less to very strong or extra heat, but for me, home-made sambal is unbeatable, since every family has their own sambal recipe. You can try my recipe here :).
Tempe and Tahu
Tempe (or tempeh) is soy product origin from Indonesia, made from fermented whole soy bean, high in protein, fiber, and vitamin and low in fat. Since it’s made from whole soy bean, it has texture and nutty flavor. In Japan, Indonesian’s tempeh has been produced locally and due to its high nutrition, it is quite popular in Japan
Tahu is Indonesian term for bean curd or Tofu. Tahu is also soy product but origin from China, made from coagulated soy milk. Indonesian Tofu is different with Chinese and Japanese tofu. Indonesian tofu is firm and usually in yellow color.
There are many ways to cook Tempe and Tahu, but deep-fry are the most simple and common way to cook Tahu and Tempe. We called it Tahu and Tempe goreng. Beside as side dishes, just simply eat with raw chili or sambal/chili sauce, Tahu and Tempe Goreng are became delectable snacks or even for appetizer. (But me mindful that for ‘chili-foreign stomach’ that raw chili is not recommended for first time experience for Indonesian’s culinary 🙂
Since long time ago, Tahu and Tempe are the staple source or protein for Indonesia people, even now, these soy-bean product are very popular for vegetarian.
Kerupuk is a puffy savory crisp or deep fried crackers made from tapioca starch, spices and fish, shrimp or vegetables as flavoring. Indonesia has perhaps the largest variety of kerupuk and the most famous around the world is shrimp/prawn crackers. Some type of crackers can be seen here.
Eventhough kerupuk its only as a complementary, but some certain Indonesian dishes such as Gado gado, Soto, Bubur Ayam, Nasi goreng, required kerupuk as a part of the dish.
Coconut milk is one of ingredients that most widely used in Indonesia cuisine. Rendang, Opor, Curry, Soto, and even used in cooking rice and vegetables. It used in vary, from very thick and a lot (such as for Rendang) up to very light just to add some more savory flavor in cooking.
On desert, though coconut milk mostly used for dessert’s sauce or topping, but also used in mixture of dessert itself.
All are delicious, but watch out your cholesterol, so don’t eat it a lot :). Here a list of some dishes using coconut milk.
If you living in Nicosia, Cyprus and want to sample some of Indonesian food, please visit Indo-bite Catering Nicosia, and you will find some of those dishes above on their menu.