Always enjoyed traveling to Surabaya? or Jarkata? Love the culture and the spices in Indonesia? Learn more about the country’s culture, lifestyle and preference to understand how their food is prepared.
OK, so you’re just about to head out on your dream trip to Indonesia. Perhaps you’re planning on visiting Bali. Or maybe you’re going to get more adventurous and visit Yogyakarta to see the beautiful temples, like Borobudur or Prambanan. Or you could be planning on diving Raja Ampat, one of the best places int he world to dive. You’ve seen all the pictures of this, the world’s largest archipelago, so you know it will be beautiful. You’ve probably also heard that Indonesia is a food lover’s paradise and you’re going to have some of the greatest tasting food you’ve ever had! And if you haven’t heard this, you won’t be the first or last person to visit these islands and be surprised at the variety or incredible flavors you’ll experience. But it’s always nice to know what you’re getting yourself into before you go. With this in mind, I’ve developed a quick study for you: Indonesian Food 101.
THE HISTORY OF INDONESIAN FOOD
Hundreds of years ago, Europeans began coming to these mysterious islands in the Pacific ocean looking for spices. In the early 15th century, these Europeans (including the French and Italians!) got tired of eating their fish & potatoes with just salt. They encountered Arab traders who brought them spices with complex flavors – nutmeg, black pepper, curry, and many others. These spices added depth to the bland foods they were used to eating. And even though they were quite expensive, they were addicting. They had to have more, and they certainly didn’t want a middle man jacking up the prices!
The promise of great food prompted explorers and traders to set sail around the world in search of the source of these spices: The mythical Spices Islands. The era of colonization began, lead by the Spanish and the Portuguese.
Just in case you haven’t figured out yet, the Spices Islands refer to Moluccas, the modern Archipelago of Maluku in Indonesia. That hunt for incredible food, started hundreds of years ago by explorers on massively expensive expeditions, continues to this day.
I’m a proud Indonesian who has lived half my life now in the United States. I understand that the vast cultural differences between two completely different cultures can sometimes make it difficult for Westerners to understand the culture of food in other countries, especially one like Indonesia. So, what are the basics? What do you need to know about Indonesian food before you get on that plane?
1. WHAT DOES INDONESIAN FOOD TASTE LIKE?
In the Netherlands, a country that once occupied Indonesia, you can find plenty of Indonesian food in Indonesian restaurants all over the country. And I was surprised that Germans actually recognize Nasi Goreng, or “Asian” fried rice, which can be easily found in their frozen supermarket aisles. Even here in Atlanta, you can get a taste. The majority of my friends here had never experienced Indonesian food until they met me. Over the years, we’ve have a lot of fun introducing them to it when we can. Michael and I enjoy bringing our friends in Atlanta to eat at Batavia Restaurant, our favorite Indonesian food spot in the city. There are actually two Indonesian restaurants here (that we know of), but Batavia is the best, in our opinion. Almost invariably, our friends enjoy it. But before I take someone to eat Indonesian food for the first time, they always ask me how it tastes!
My simplest explanation is that Indonesian cuisine it is a marriage of Indian food (lots of spice mixes, especially curry), and Thai food (boiled in coconut broth). The result is phenomenal – you simply can’t stop eating!
2. INDONESIAN FOOD IS NOT ALWAYS PRETTY
You won’t see too many Indonesian chefs looking closely at their dishes, gently placing a garnish on the rice with a pair of tweezers. In fact, if you see typical Indonesian food on a plate, it probably won’t look all that appetizing! But Indonesians don’t rely on the prettiness of a dish to work up an appetite. They go for smell and taste! So although it is not usually visually attractive, you can rest assured that your food is going to be delicious! You will want more.
Read the full version of the article here.