Best Indonesian dishes to try

Indonesia is a vast country, with millions of people of different religions and cultures, which has led to a richness in food. I’ve noticed a lot of people who want to try these delicious dishes, but don’t know what many of them are. So, here is a little run-down of classic Indonesian dishes, as well as my favourites, and how to order them at a local warung (restaurant) if you’re not sure how. Everything I have included can be made vegetarian (you can say “Tidak daging, ikan, ayam” = No meat, fish, chicken. I can’t guarantee that it will work so if you are allergic or very strict, be a bit more careful).

Nasi Goreng

Nasi goreng (fried rice), one of the most popular Indonesian dishes

Nasi goreng means ‘fried rice’ and is one of the most popular dishes in Indonesia. You will find it on almost every menu in the country. Indonesians eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and if you stay in Indonesia for some time, you probably will too! The dish is comprised of fried rice with vegetables and a fried egg (telur) on top.

Mie Goreng

Mie goreng (fried noodles), a very popular Indonesian dish

Mie goreng means ‘fried noodles’ and is also a very popular dish in Indonesia. The dish is fried noodles, usually with some vegetables, and a fried egg on top. Personally, I don’t really order it in restaurants because you can buy a cheap instant noodle packet in the shop for 3k (~ €0.18) which tastes exactly the same and is so easy to make! They have loads of different flavours too.


Lalapan refers to the style of cooking, basically deep fried stuff – tempe (fermented whole soy beans, really delicious!), tofu (tahu), eggplant/aubergine (terong), chicken (ayam), fish (ikan), or duck (bebek), usually. It is very simple and cheap (usually 15-25k [~ €1-1.50] depending on what you order). Your dish comes with white rice, protein of your choice, delicious sambal, eggplant/aubergine, and some cucumber. Lalapan is usually my go-to meal, you’ll find the stalls by looking for any sign that looks like the picture on the left. You’ll notice that most Indonesian people will be eating with their hands, so give it a go too!


Batagor (fried filled dough balls), my favourite Indonesian dish

Batagor is a less well-known Indonesian dish, but it’s one of my favourites. The name comes from a mixture of ‘bakso’ (a meat-ball soup that I haven’t included in my list), ‘tahu’ (tofu), and ‘goreng’ (fried). Batagor are deep-fried balls of dough mixed with tofu or sometimes a meat or fish paste, and covered with peanut satay sauce. My favourite place to get batagor is in Warung Ichwan in Nusa Penida, the Ibu’s (Mama’s) peanut sauce is the best I’ve had.


Gorengan (deep fried things). A delicious Indonesian dish or snack

Gorengan literally just means ‘fried thing’. They are deep fried (you’ll notice a trend here of deep fried things…) snacks that can contain various different things: tofu, vegetables, potatoes. You can usually find them in small pop-up stalls on the side of the road. Get a few chillies with them and munch away: one bite chilli, one bite gorengan – the perfect snack.

Gado-gado / Tipat Cantok

Gado-gado (vegetables in peanut sauce). A typical vegetarian Indonesian dish also found in Bali as tipat cantok

I have put these together because they are similar dishes, but where gado-gado is found throughout Indonesia, tipat cantok is only found in Bali. The dishes are vegetarian, and consist of vegetables and tofu slathered in peanut sauce.


Capcay: an Indonesian dish of vegetable soup

Capcay (pronounced chap-chai) is a vegetable soup usually served with rice. It is one of the few ways of getting some fresh vegetables into you after all of the fried stuff! I’ve found that capcay dishes seem to vary greatly in different warungs. My favourite so far has been in Warung Ceker Ngapak in Munggu. 


Satay - a typical Indonesian dish of protein covered in peanut sauce

You have probably heard of satay before – skewers of protein covered in peanut sauce. It is usually chicken, but you can also get tempe or tofu if you’re vegetarian.

Nasi Campur

The Indonesian dish of Nasi Campur which you can find everyone in Indonesia

Nasi campur (pronounced champurr) means ‘mixed rice’ and can usually be found in a buffet-style warung. You can go up to the glass, and point at the different things that you want. I usually go for yellow rice, some form of tempe, a curry, some tofu, some vegetables, a perkedel (fried corn fritter or potato), and some sambal.


Martabak is a bit like a puffed-up fried omelette, not sure how else to describe it! It’s made from egg, with a filling of your choice. They are usually sold in stalls along the road or in food markets, and you can see them making it right in front of you. 


Sambal is not a dish, but a spicy condiment that is served with almost every meal in Indonesia. There are various forms of sambal, the most popular being a chilli-tomato mix pureed with a pestle and mortar. They can vary in their level of spice, some you could eat spoonfuls, others will blow the roof of your mouth with one lick! In Bali there’s a variation called ‘sambal matah’ which is unlike the chilli-tomato paste. Matah means ‘raw’ in Balinese, so it’s a sambal made up of raw onions, garlic, and chillies, and mixed with some cooked coconut oil – it’s my favourite sambal!

Soto Ayam

Chicken soup with glass noodles, has a nice citrus taste to it. Sometimes you can find it without chicken.


A popular Indonesian dish of Rendang

A classic, rich, Indonesian curry, usually cooked with beef, coconut milk and herbs and spices. Sometimes you can also find vegetarian versions with tempeh or tofu.

Indonesian Drinks

Es Buah

Es buah means ‘Ice Fruit’ – a mix of cubed fresh fruit, jelly, condensed milk, water, sugar syrup, and ice. Sooo delicious but so sweet!

Es Teh

Es Teh means ‘Ice Tea’ – not your normal ice tea, they usually serve it with lots of sugar (gula) so it’s very sweet (manis).

Es Lime

Es Lime means ‘Ice Lime’ – Literally just lime, ice, water, and some sugar syrup if you want it sweeter. So simple but so good.

Pocari Sweat

A canned or bottled isotonic drink that you can get in any of the shops or marts like 7/11, Indomaret etc. Great to quench your thirst or cure a hangover.

Indonesian food is delicious and varied, I hope this short guide gave you some idea of what you can encounter and made it easier for you to order! Let me know how you get on.

If you’re looking to try some local food on Nusa Penida, I have a list of places on my post.

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