Spiced nasi kuning
rice shaped into the ceremonial tumpeng
cone and topped with dried beef adom
With 17,000 islands to choose from, Indonesian food is an umbrella term covering a vast variety of regional cuisines found across the nation, but if used without further qualifiers the term tends to mean the food originally from the central
parts of the main island Java
. Now widely available throughout the archipelago, Javanese cuisine consists of an array of simply seasoned dishes, the predominant flavorings the Javanese favor being peanuts, chillies and sugar.
All too often, many backpackers seem to fall into a rut of eating nothing but nasi goreng
(fried rice), and perhaps other commonly available Javanese dishes, but there are much more interesting options lurking about if you're adventurous and take the trouble to seek them out. In West Java, Sundanese
many fresh vegetables and herbs are commonly eaten raw. Padang
in Sumatra is famous for the spicy and richly-seasoned cuisine of the Minangkabau people, which shares some similarities to Malay cooking in neighbouring Malaysia, and eateries specializing in the buffet-style nasi padang are now ubiquitous across the nation. Both the Christian Batak peoples
and the Hindu Balinese
are great fans of pork, while the Minahasa of North Sulawesi
are well known for eating almost everything, in particular dog and fruit bat, and a very liberal usage of fiery chillies even by Indonesian standards. Tamed Muslim-friendly versions of all three can be found in the malls and food courts of many Indonesian cities, but it's worth it to seek out the real thing especially if you happen to be in these regions. And by the time you get to Papua in the extreme east of the country, you're looking at a Melanesian diet of taro and sago.