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If you travel and don’t taste at least the most famous local dishes, you’re not doing it right. Food is as much a part of the cultural experience as it is talking to the actual people living there—and besides, food is always worth enjoying.

Indonesia, the land of spices, has a wide range of different dishes to offer that will make your taste buds bloom. If you like hot and spicy, you’re going to love it. If you don’t… well, make sure you ask for your plate to be less spicy. You will find traces of Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Polynesian or European food, as well as many indigenous dishes.

Here are five dishes that will make you want to pack your things and travel to Indonesia right now… or you know, find an Indonesian restaurant in your area, maybe.

5. Sate
Also written as satay, it’s skewered grilled meat served with peanut sauce. You can have it with chicken, goat, mutton, beef or fish amongst others. Found throughout the country, it can be bought from a street vendor, a tent-restaurant or even in an upper-class restaurant. It’s also a popular dish at celebrations.

4. Siomay
Very similar to the Chinese Dim Sum, these are cone shaped, steamed fish dumplings. Usually they’re made of tenggiri fish meat, but you can also have them from tuna, mackerel or prawn. They’re served with vegetables, cabbage, potatoes or tofu, and topped with peanut sauce, sweet soy sauce, chili sauce and a bit of lime juice.

3. Ketoprak
One of the more traditional dishes, and very popular as street food, ketoprak consists of ketupat, a compressed rice cake, with rice noodles and bean sprouts. It’s mixed with the customary peanut sauce, in a thick and sweet variety. Alongside you can also have kerupuk, deep fried crackers made from starch.

2. Rendang
This is the equivalent of your typical steak, except it’s very spicy. Having its origin in West Sumatra, known for its love for all the spicy things, it couldn’t be any other way. The meat is cooked in coconut milk and a paste of a wide variety of spices, for example ginger, lemongrass, garlic or chili. It requires a lot of time since the meat is going to be cooked until all the liquid is gone. It’s served usually with ketupat (remember what it is?), steamed rice or vegetables.

1. Nasi Goreng/Mie Goreng
And now for the signature dishes. Stirred fried rice accompanied with eggs, prawns (or chicken, or salted dried fish, or goat meat or basically anything you can imagine in terms of meat), chili and vegetables, topped with a sweet, thick soy sauce called kecap. Simple and Chinese-influenced, this can easily be considered Indonesia’s national dish. Nasi is the Indonesian word for rice, what makes Mie goreng the variety of this dish with fried noodles.

And so much for this little guide on Indonesian food. I hope it wasn’t too mouth-watering, and if it was, you know what you have to do! If you need another reason to visit Indonesia, I would recommend you to tune in to Wild Indonesia, premiering in April on NatGeo! An exciting ride awaits you!


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