Indonesian cuisine is immensely diverse, as the nation is comprised of around 17,000 islands. Influences come from the Middle East, India, China and various parts of Europe, but these vary according to the Indonesian region.
By
1 Apr 2014 - 9:58 AM  UPDATED 24 Oct 2018 - 12:08 PM

Although the nation’s cuisine differs from island to island, rice is a staple ingredient throughout and is served with most meals as a side dish. Sambals made with different spices and other flavourings are also a popular accompaniment to many Indonesian dishes. There are also a number of other ingredients that are used in many parts of Indonesia, such as peanuts (in peanut sauce), coconut, different types of chillies and palm sugar.

KEY INGREDIENTS

Candlenuts
These waxy nuts are usually ground to thicken Indonesian curries. They must be cooked before eating as they are highly toxic when raw.

Chillies
Many different types of chillies are used in Indonesian cuisine, such as green chillies, birds eye chillies and dried chillies.

Galangal
Galangal is a spice used in many Indonesian dishes. It resembles ginger and has a strong peppery, slightly sour, flavour.

Kecap manis
Kecap manis is an Indonesian variation of soy sauce, but is thicker and sweetened, usually with palm sugar.

Palm sugar
Palm sugar comes from the coconut flower and is used to sweeten Indonesian desserts. It gives a deep caramel flavour, similar to brown sugar.

Salam leaves
Salam leaves are Indonesian bay leaves. You can substitute with curry leaves or bay leaves.

Rice
Rice is a staple in Indonesian cuisine and is served as an accompaniment to most dishes, sweet or savoury.

Terasi
Terasi is an Indonesian variation of shrimp paste made from fermented ground shrimp. It is widely used in Indonesian sambal.

 

COOKING TIPS

• When scoring fish, use a good sharp knife and make sure the incisions don't go all the way through to the bone.

• To check whether a whole fish is cooked, press it lightly just below the head – if it gives, the fish is done.

• When cooking fish in a curry, don't stir or turn it too much, as this can break up the flesh.

• You can make your own cassava flour by drying fresh or frozen cassava in the sun and then grating it.

• When cooking with whole leaves, such as salam or pandan leaf, or spices, such as cinnamon sticks, make sure to remove them from the dish before serving.

 

GLOSSARY

Agar agar
Agar agar is produced from seaweed and used as a vegetarian substitute for gelatine.

Asian eschalot
This is a purple version of the traditional brown eschalot, usually used in Asian dishes and to make curry paste.

Aylesbury duck
This type of duck is primarily bred for meat production. A similar variety that may be more widely available is the Peking duck.

Candied nutmeg
The candied fruit of the nutmeg tree; its flavour is similar to the nutmeg spice, which is made from the seed of the same fruit, but is a little milder.

Candlenuts
These waxy nuts are usually ground to thicken curries. They must be cooked before eating, as they are highly toxic when raw.

Carrabolla (star fruit)
Also known as carambola, this star-shaped tropical fruit has a sweet and slightly sour taste.

Cassava flour
Cassava flour can be bought at shops, but it's preferable to make your own from fresh or frozen cassava: simply dry it in the sun or a very low oven, and then grate.

Galangal
Galangal is a spice used in many Indonesian dishes. It resembles ginger and has a strong peppery, slightly sour, flavour.

Kaffir lime leaves
The kaffir lime is native to Asia and both its fruit and leaves are used in many different dishes to add an aromatic citric taste.

Kecap manis
Kecap manis is an Indonesian variation of soy sauce, but is thicker and sweetened, usually with palm sugar.

Kokonda
Kokonda is a seafood salad made with fish and various spices and seasonings. It is known as ika mata in the Cook Islands.

Mace
Mace comes from the nutmeg tree. While nutmeg is derived from the seed of the tree,  mace is the hard outer shell that covers the seed. It has a more delicate flavour than nutmeg.

Palm sugar
Palm sugar comes from the coconut flower and is used to sweeten many Asian desserts. It gives a deep caramel flavour, similar to brown sugar.

Palm oil
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm and can be found in many Asian and Indian grocery stores.

Pandan
Pandan leaves have a sweet and quite unique flavour, and are used in many Asian dishes, both sweet and savoury. They can be found in Asian grocers.

Sago
Sago is a starch that comes from the palm and resembles small white pearls. It is commonly used to make a sweet pudding with coconut milk.

Salam leaves
Salam leaves are Indonesian bay leaves. You can substitute with curry leaves or bay leaves.

Sambal
Sambal is a type of sauce made with chilli and is commonly found in many different Asian cuisines.

Terasi
Terasi is an Indonesian variation of shrimp paste made from fermented ground shrimp. It is widely used in Indonesian sambal.