Traditional desserts in Indonesia, like everywhere else in Southeast Asia, use rice, rice flour, sag palm starch, and brown palm sugar.
What interesting things can be made from these ingredients? Turns out, lots of different things – delicious and beautiful to look at. And very unusual (or should I say, offbeat) in taste.
There are 17,000 islands in Indonesia. They are inhabited by different nationalities with different cultures, if only because on some islands the population is Muslim, on others – the Christian religion, on Bali – Hinduism, and still there are pagan.
Naturally, both food and recipes are different, although they have been passed down from island to island, supplemented with ingredients from local plants.
For example, in Sumatra, where tapioca (Cassava) grows, its roots are used to make different desserts. Tapioca itself is tasteless; they add sugar, coconut milk, or something else.
I was surprised that in Indonesia they also eat sweet porridge.
Did you know that there is black rice? Not brown rice, but black rice. This is what you make sweet porridge with (Black Sticky Rice Porridge). But the porridge is not just rice and green beans.
The porridge is boiled with water and eaten with unsweetened coconut milk added to the porridge.
Another popular porridge is also available as a dessert and main dish. This is very sweet green bean porridge (Green Bean Porridge). It is also eaten with coconut milk.
It is unusual for Europeans to use beans as a sweet dish, but in Asia it is common. There is even an ice cream made of green beans.
A special feature of Southeast Asian cooking is that most cakes are not baked in the oven, but steamed in a special oven. We call sweet pastries by the way they are made – cookies. Indonesian pastries, on the other hand, should be called jam. Because they are steamed in a special steamer. Therefore, to me, they are “cakes.”
In one of the cakes, the pink dough inside resembles our gingerbread. The same dense and ginger flavor, but only slightly sweet. The bright pink color of the dough is given by a natural dye. But the white dough on the outside, in which the pink filling is wrapped, is completely different. It is an unflavored unsweetened dough made of rice flour. The combination of the white hard outer shell and the pink sweet flesh inside is what creates the pleasant effect.
Traditional desserts, of course, are made of sweet rice with various additions. For example, sticky rice with pumpkin. Or sticky rice with sweet coconut milk. Or with crispy, dried tiny shrimp on top. But this is no longer a dessert, not a sweet. Usually, this rice-shrimp snack is eaten for breakfast.
The eco-friendly and durable packaging is a banana leaf.
Of course, it is a simple food, but most importantly, nutritious.
One of the most popular treats is the striped cake (Kue Lapis) . It is consumed both as an independent dish and as part of many other desserts. It is steamed from a mixture of rice flour and sago palm starch. The leaves of the Pandan tree are used to make it green.
The same mixture of rice flour and starch is used to make the shell of the balls, which are filled with ground peanuts and brown sugar inside. The ones dipped in sesame are called Onde Onde and the pink ones are called Mochi. It is said that the preparation of these sweets is borrowed from Japan.
This cake is made with rice flour. It’s sprinkled with coconut shavings on top. Also steamed.
The reciprocal influence of different cultures living in the same region and growing the same crops is fruitful. And for the traveler, it is very interesting to compare dishes tasted in different countries and to speculate and guess what they are made of and how they are made.
Indonesian cuisine, including desserts, is also influenced by European cooking, as the country was a Dutch colony. But we have already tried European desserts, and we are just discovering Asian ones.
Unusual and delicious!
The 10 best dishes of Indonesian cuisine: what to try
Indonesian cuisine is very interesting and diverse: it will please connoisseurs of meat dishes, seafood, vegetarians and even sweet-tooth people. Let us tell you what dishes you must try in Bali and other regions of the country. From popular street food to soups and rice, we’ve compiled a list of the best Indonesian dishes to choose from with descriptions and photos.
Sate | Sate
The most popular dish of Indonesian cuisine, the legendary street food that you must try in Bali. Appetizing miniature kebabs on wooden skewers for every taste. Satay is mostly made of meat, poultry, or seafood (try the shrimp – it’s unbelievably delicious!) with spices added. Vegetarians in Bali can have sake made from vegetables and tofu or fruits. For the more exotic, you can try cobra skewers, tortoise meat, lamb testicles, or even spiced veal skin. Satee is one of the top 50 best dishes in the world according to CNN. The appetizer is the most popular street food in Indonesia, so locals and tourists buy it at markets or outdoor eateries. Feel free to do the same.
Bakso | Bakso.
Another popular street food in Indonesia that every tourist should try. Bakso are meat, fish, or seafood meatballs, sometimes tofu. They are served in broth or as part of a soup with noodles, rice, or vegetables. If you choose to buy bakso in a mobile food cart, which are very popular in Bali, the dish will be “assembled” according to your wishes. You choose the type of meatballs, broth, and filling, and the vendor prepares the meal right in front of you, mixing foods from different pots. For vegetarians in Indonesia, try bakso based on fried tofu (bakso tahu goreng) without broth, but with vegetables and gravy.
Laksa | Laksa
A very popular dish in Bali, which must try connoisseurs of spicy food and seafood. If you have eaten and managed to love the Thai tom yam, you will love it. Laksa soup is made of noodles with shrimp, fish, clams. And most importantly – hot peppers. Sometimes chicken is used instead of seafood. Often greens, some lime juice, and a boiled egg are added to the soup. CNN included Indonesian asam laksa soup (fish noodles) in the top 50 best dishes in the world, ranking it 7th.
In supermarkets throughout Bali, you can buy a seasoning mix for making laksa soup. As well as instant noodles with the flavor of the national dish.
Rendang | Rendang
The legendary rendang is a must-try meat in Bali. Most often the main ingredient of the dish is beef, but sometimes it is made with liver, chicken, eggs. Vegetarian rendang can also be found in Indonesia. Imagine appetizing pieces of beef or any other ingredient stewed in a spicy-spicy coconut milk-based sauce. The flavor is incredible! Add a little rice, fresh vegetables, and an egg and you have a hearty meal that will stay with you in Bali for a long time to come.
Take home a couple of bottles of Coke milk. This product in Indonesia is much cheaper than in Russia.
Nasi goreng | Nasi goreng
The legendary national dish nasi goreng (fried rice) has long been considered a culinary symbol of Indonesia. There are many variations of nasi goreng: with meat, chicken, shrimp, fish, tofu, eggs, and vegetables. They are all good in their own way. Rice is fried in vegetable oil together with “stuffing” and a little spices. Sometimes an egg is beaten into it. It makes a very simple, but incredibly tasty dish. It is especially good to try it in Bali with scrambled eggs and satay, washed down with the local beer. Take street food, it tastes even better.
Krupuk | Krupuk
The most popular Indonesian snack that every tourist should definitely try. They are appetizingly crunchy chips that can be made from flour (rice, bean, corn, or whatever) or based on powdered dried seafood. Sometimes they are generously sprinkled with aromatic spices, but more often they are eaten pure. In Indonesia you can buy this snack in supermarkets, markets, food trucks, and snack shops. It is also necessarily prepared in restaurants of national cuisine, even in the most expensive in Bali. Krupuk chips you can just crunch, and they are also worth trying with one of the local sauces. Indonesians themselves use the snack instead of bread.
Buy a couple of bags of Indonesian chips as a gift for your loved ones. They’ll get you home in your suitcase just fine if you choose a bigger snack (krupuk is made both the size of a walnut and about the size of the palm of your hand).
Siomay | Siomay.
A very popular street food in Indonesia, which is also worth trying at least once in your life. This dish does not look too appetizing, but it tastes great. Siomay is Indonesian dumplings with fish. If you order this street food in a Bali eatery, it is usually served with a portion of potatoes, cabbage, and eggs. You can’t eat siomay without peanut sauce, which makes it delicious. The best siomay is sold by vendors in rickshaws and carts. You can see them from afar by the steaming steamer puffing up the heat.
Nasi uduk | Nasi uduk
This legendary dish was invented on the island of Java and then spread throughout Indonesia. Today it is a favorite food of tourists and locals and is highly regarded in Europe (Asian restaurants often add nasi uduk to their menus). Be sure to try this national dish during your vacation in Bali. Just imagine: the legendary Indonesian long grain rice cooked in coconut milk with aromatic spices, lemongrass and pandanus leaves. It already sounds delicious. Now add to it a filling of meat, seafood, anchovies and peanuts, scrambled eggs or vegetables. A real gastronomic delight!
Martabak | Martabak
A fried pie made of the thinnest dough with a mouthwatering, juicy filling. Most martabak is made in Indonesia in the form of a large flatbread that resembles a puff pastry. But in the street-food shops in Bali, you can often find smaller, neater envelopes. The filling can be anything: eggs with onions, meat, or vegetables. If you have a sweet tooth, you must try the sweet martabak in Indonesia. This is just a fantastic dessert with a huge amount of chocolate, fruit, nuts, condensed milk or something else. In short, this street food will appeal to many, as the variety of toppings even in small mobile stalls is really impressive.
Bubur injin | Bubur injin
The most famous dessert of the national Indonesian cuisine, which is a great success in Bali among tourists from all over the world. It is made on the basis of black glutinous rice, boiled in coconut milk with cane sugar. The latter is not spared (in general, Asians love to make desserts incredibly sweet). Very often black rice pudding is served with fried bananas, mango or other fruits. A great choice for breakfast or as an accompaniment to a main meal. Be sure to try it – it’s a unique dish that is really great in Indonesia.
You can take home a pack of the famous black rice – it will come in handy for culinary experiments.
Before you go, be sure to check out our great guide to shopping in Bali, Jakarta, and other parts of Indonesia. Clothing, jewelry, traditional souvenirs, cosmetics, delicacies – you can easily make a list of the most important purchases. We also wrote a separate article about fruit in Bali.