Featuring a wide range of dishes, Indonesia is famous for being a land of delicious food. Beyond the lavish restaurants, we would argue that the magic is truly found in the local streets lined with tempting Indonesian street food.
Street food in Indonesia is also influenced by a long history of culture and traditions. The exotic Indonesian foods on offer will take you on an adventure of sizzling sounds and tempting aromas.
What’s Special About Indonesian Food?
The culinary tradition and diversity of traditional food in Indonesia make it one of the favorite cuisines globally. It has a hint of Chinese and Dutch influence with rich flavors and recipes. You can find many internationally-inspired street foods in Indonesia with different recipes and preparation.
Most street foods include a single meal but some can even be served with more than 3 side dishes. You will find that Indonesian cuisine can delight visitors with new and unique dishes. The following are some of the most popular Indonesian street foods to try.
Most Popular Indonesian Street Food
Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)
Nasi Goreng is the national food of Indonesia. Having fried rice in the morning might sound weird to you, but this is a popular breakfast food in Indonesia. This is partly because a carb-heavy dish is good for laborious work that most locals engage in.
Nasi Goreng doesn’t have one specific recipe. You’ll find different variations across restaurants and local food stalls.
Traditionally, Nasi Goreng is a combination of rice, fried eggs, meat, prawns, shallots, vegetables, and a lot of Indonesian spices. The smoky aroma and caramelized flavor of these fried rice make them stand out from the Asian version of fried rice.
You can enjoy the traditional taste of nasi goreng from Indonesian street food markets. The Jakarta street food version of this dish can even be eaten from the buffet tables at urban dinner parties.
Indonesian Street Food – Rice Dishes
Arem Arem (Stuffed Rice Rolls)
Arem Arem is Javanese-Indonesian street food and snack loved by adults and children. It’s a kind of rice cake wrapped in light green colored banana leaves. The snack is sold on a large scale in Java, reflecting its popularity.
These small-sized rice come in several varieties that feature different fillings. It’s usually made with regular rice cooked in coconut milk, giving it a soft and creamy texture. Then it’s loaded with diced vegetables, cooked minced meat, tofu, tempeh, and oncom.
Arem Arem is typically served as a traditional Indonesian food for family gatherings, birthday parties, meetings, and ceremonies. It’s also a preferred gift to present to loved ones. These Indonesian snacks are commonly enjoyed as a sweet dish after a heavy meal.
Nasi Campur (Mixed Rice)
Nasi Campur essentially means mixed rice, and this Indonesian dish is a famous Jakarta street food. While it’s not any lavish meal, you can be sure this simple yet delicious dish will satisfy your hunger.
Nasi Campur includes steamed or boiled rice accompanying many side dishes. The side dishes include roasted pork, beef, duck, chicken, and different vegetables.
The Balinese version of nasi campur typically consists of tofu, tuna, spinach, beef cubes, veg curry, corn, cucumber, and chili sauce.
Nasi Campur comes wrapped in banana leaves and served with spicy sambal sauce, making a perfect combination. The street vendors cook different dishes and display them on their food stalls for consumers.
Indonesian Street Food – Barbecue And Grilled Food
Sate (Grilled Meat Skewers)
Sate or satay is another delectable Indonesian street food, offering authentic local flavors. If you love the smell and taste of barbecue, this dish will be a treat for you. This street food in Indonesia includes juicy meat cubes and organs wrapped around bamboo skewers.
The meat of sate is first marinated with sweet soy and then skewered. It’s then grilled on charcoal or cooked in the paste of lemon grass and shallots. The tender meat gives a smoky flavor and tastes wonderful with coconut cream and peanut base sauce.
In Indonesia, you can find several versions of satay. The most popular one is Sate Padang, which is considered the king of all sate. Sate Padang originated from Padang, Sumatra, and is made of beef.
Another popular version is Sate Ayam, offering a zesty flavor of chicken on skewers. Every version of satay is unique and delivers different flavors of pure Indonesian cuisine. You can find street vendors selling sate on almost every Indonesian food street.
Ikan Baker (Grilled Fish)
Ikan Baker is a classic barbecued Indonesian street food. It’s an indo-malay seafood rich with flavors. The dish is extremely popular, especially in Maluku and Sulawesi regions of Indonesia, where fishing is the most common profession.
This popular street food in Indonesia is usually made from marinated fish wrapped in banana leaves and grilled on charcoal. It is a perfect match with hot sticky rice. Locals also enjoy it topped with dollops of sambal sauce, salad, and fried shallot by the side.
The grilled fish delivers a wonderful smoky aroma, while the different ingredients and sauces make it sweet, sour, and spicy at the same time. Soy sauce tastes slightly sweet, while sambal gives it a more spicy touch.
Indonesian Street Food – Meatballs
Bakso (Traditional Indonesian Meatballs)
Bakso, also known as Baso, is a delicious meatball loved by every Indonesian. Many locals consider it their first choice when talking about Indonesian street food.
In the country, you can find two variants of this dish. One is Indonesian style bakso known as ‘Mie bakso’ and the other one is ‘Bakso kuah’.
Mie bakso is made from beef surimi. The texture of these meatballs feels like the Chinese beef ball or pork ball. You can enjoy these meatballs with the noodles of your choice.
The second variation of this Indonesian street food is known as Bakso kuah which is influenced by Chinese cuisine. It’s made in the same way as Mie bakso but served without noodles.
Dutch Meatballs (Bitterballen)
Bitterballens are famous meat-based Indonesian snacks and street foods similar to a common croquette. The dish is originally a Dutch food that makes its way to Indonesian cuisine.
Bitterballen is traditionally prepared with chopped beef but can also be made with veal, chicken, or mushrooms. Other ingredients that are added to these meatballs are flour, potato, butter, parsley, salt, and pepper. It’s usually shaped in logs and balls.
The crispy exterior and soft gooey center make this Indonesian street food different from other meatballs. This snack is often served with hot mayonnaise and chili sauce.
Indonesian Street Food – Noodles
Bakmi (Meat Noodles)
Bakmi is the main course and staple street food of Indonesia. It’s a Chinese-influenced dish brought to the country by Chinese immigrants.
Bakmi is a wheat noodle dish that comes in several varieties. The most popular one is Bakmi Ayam which contains chicken and light broth with noodles. Similarly, Bakmi Goreng consists of fried noodles with eggs, vegetables, and chicken.
It’s usually served with many other condiments, including cilantro, sambal, and fried shallots. Some people also serve boiled Bakmi with gravy instead of soup.
You can try it anytime and from anywhere in the streets of Indonesia. Street vendors and even five-star restaurants have bakmi on their menus.
Soto Mie (Noodle Soup)
This noodle soup is a popular Indonesian street food with a large fan base in West Java. The dish is known by different names in different Asian countries. In Indonesia, it’s known as Soto Mie.
Soto mie is a spicy noodle soup made of flour, salt, and egg. The noodles are served in a bowl with potato slices, hard-boiled eggs, cabbage, peanut, bean sprouts, meat, offals, and spices.
The hot broth is topped on noodles and enjoyed with other condiments such as sambal, lime juice, or vinegar. You can also substitute soup with rice or vermicelli according to your taste preference. This dish is widely available from cart vendors to street hawkers.
Mie Goreng (Fried Noodles)
Mie goreng is another Indonesian street food influenced by Chinese cuisine. It’s a noodle dish that is modified according to local Indonesian flavors.
In Indonesia, you can find a variety of these egg-fried noodles with different meat options and other ingredients. The most popular version of mie goreng is ‘Mie Goreng ayam’, containing shredded chicken, shrimp, garlic, veggies, and soy sauce.
This classic stir-fried street food in Indonesia is easily found on every street offering different variations. It’s flavorful with a slightly sweet to spicy taste, and is a filling dish to refuel your energy as you hop around all the famous Indonesian landmarks.
Indonesian Street Food – Snacks
Gorengan (Assorted Fritters)
Fritters are one of the favorite street foods of Indonesian locals. They can be sweet or savory with a rich crispy exterior.
Indonesian fritters come in many variations including banana fritters, fried tape, cempedak goreng, bakwan, etc. They are usually made with several ingredients including meat, seafood, banana, tempe mendoan, tahu goreng, oncom, sweet potato, cassava chunk, cassava Tapai, and breadfruit.
Whatever the ingredient, it’s coated with flour batter and deep-fried. This delish food is mostly served as a snack accompanied by fresh bird’s eye chili.
You can easily find this traditional Indonesian food in traveling carts and street vendors everywhere in the country.
Kerak Telor (Egg Crust)
Kerak telor is another well-known street food in Indonesia but it’s not common everywhere. You need to visit the famous spots of the cities if you want to try this traditional Indonesian food. It’s an egg dish loaded with spices.
The traditional omelet dish is cooked on charcoal. It includes rice, an omelet, a variety of seasonings, shallots, and shredded coconut.
Street vendors first grill the glutinous rice with shallots, shredded coconut, and meat. This spicy dish is then topped with dried roasted shrimp and fried shallots and served on paper.
Siomay (Fish Dumplings)
Siomay is a universal street food in Indonesia made with steamed fish dumplings. This light meal is inspired by the Chinese dish ‘Shumai’ and is usually eaten as a snack in Indonesia.
The dish traditionally uses pork but it’s substituted with tenggiri to make a halal version for the Muslim community. Some street vendors also use tuna, mackerel, and prawns. Other variations include cabbage, potatoes, bitter gourd, boiled egg, and tofu.
This light Indonesian street food is cut into bite-size pieces and topped with peanut sauce, soy sauce, and chili sauce. The combination of these three sauces gives it a spicy, sweet, and savory taste at the same time.
Pempek (Fried Fish Cake)
Pempek is a typical Indonesian street food that comes from Sumatra. It’s made from fish, sago, or tapioca. As with other street food in Indonesia, pempek also comes in a variety of other forms.
Among all, pempek kapal selam is the favorite of natives. It consists of a chicken egg wrapped inside pempak cake. Then, it’s deep fried and sprinkled with shrimp powder, and added with cuko.
In Indonesia, pempek is always served with this thick and dark sauce, known as Cuko. This sauce is made of chili, pepper, garlic, sugar, and vinegar. The drizzling sauce over pempek gives a spicy, sweet, and sour taste to it.
Tauge Goreng (Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts)
Tauge Goreng is a savory and must-try Indonesian street food. It’s the specialty of street food Jakarta. The dish is a pure vegetarian treat without any addition of animal-based ingredients.
The cook will prepare it in front of you on a small stove. It’s stir-fried in boiled water instead of cooking oil. Then, a slice of tofu, stir-fried tauge, yellow noodles, ketupat, or lontong rice cake is added.
Finally, a very spicy oncom-based sauce is drilled over it. This spicy sauce is what gives the dish an earthly nutty flavor.
You can easily find this Indonesian street food in every nook and cranny of the city. It’s commonly sold on Pikulan by street vendors.
Indonesian Street Food – Salads
Asinan (Pickle Salad)
Asinan is a widely-eaten Indonesian street food with captivating aromas and flavors. It’s a kind of pickle loaded with different veggies and fruits. This salad is a prominent Jakarta street food known as Asinan Betawi.
The crunchy salad comes in several versions including different ingredients. It’s usually made by preserving varieties of veggies and fruits in salty water. Then, cream, tamarind sauce, and peanut sauce are added to spice it up.
Asinan is enjoyed as a snack and is available throughout the day. It serves as a great light snack option after lunch as well.
Rujak (Fruit Salad)
Rujak or Rojak is a salad dish originating from the Javanese region of Indonesia. It’s a common delicacy in many Asian countries including Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. This Indonesian street food is thought to be the oldest dish in Java.
It also holds traditional values for prenatal ceremonies or tujuh bulanan. The Javanese people believed that the flavor of salad indicates the gender of the unborn baby. If the salad tastes sweet, there will be a baby girl and if it is spicy, it means a boy.
That said, the salad features hints of tangy, sweet, spicy, and fruity flavors. The most popular version of this salad includes a mixture of colorful fruits including pineapple, apples, kedondong, papaya, and mango. It’s served with spicy palm sugar dressing.
Indonesian Street Food – Desserts
Martabak (Stuffed Pancakes)
Sweet Martabak is a delicious pancake dessert with a spongy texture. It’s known as the king of Indonesian street food because of its high demand. The pancake is usually made sweet but its savory version is also famous among food lovers.
The sweet variant of this pancake is known by the name Martabak Manis. It’s filled with chocolate, peanuts, durians, or cheese. You can taste it in Indonesia food street, where it’s served topped with vanilla, peanuts, Nutella, and sprinkles.
Savory Martabak is made of white flour dough which is filled with eggs and meat of your choice. The stuffed dough is then fried and cut into squares. It is then topped with chilies and coriander and enjoyed with a spicy curry dip.
Serabi Solo (Indonesian Pancake)
Serabi solo is an alternative form of pancakes. This Indonesian street food has a crispy crust on the sides. It’s made with rice flour, coconut milk or coconut cream, and sugar to give a rich and sweet taste.
The pancakes are served with a variety of toppings including chocolate, fruit slices, or sugar. They are traditionally served with a brownish coconut sugar syrup, called kinca.
The traditional Indonesian food, Serabi Solo has different recipes in different provinces of Indonesia. The variations reflect the importance of catering to the local taste of these provinces.
Cendol (Iced Sweet Dessert)
Cendol is another widely available street food in Indonesia. It’s a beloved dessert in many South Asian countries including Indonesia. The dessert is a kind of iced delicacy rich with sweetness and distinct flavors.
This colorful Indonesian street food gives rich flavors of green rice flour jelly, coconut milk, and palm sugar syrup. Then, it’s topped with diced jackfruit, sweet red azuki beans, or durian. The dessert is served in a tall glass with palm sugar syrup at the bottom.
There are several variations of this dessert. The most popular version is Javanese es dawet ayu.
You can try it from Central Java or anywhere in Indonesia. This smooth and creamy confectionery is a fancy treat for sweet lovers to delight their taste buds.
Discovering Traditional Indonesian Street Food
Indonesian street food features a diverse collection of Indonesian, Chinese, and Dutch cuisine. It offers ready-to-eat dishes including snacks, desserts, and fruits, and is one of the most exciting facts about Indonesia for foodies!
The delicious street food of Indonesia offers a range of flavors at very reasonable prices. Common dishes often have a strong and spicy taste. Peanut sauce and coconut milk are the main ingredients in most traditional Indonesian food.
In Indonesia, you will find vendors and hawkers selling local food on carts, stalls, or bicycles. Vendors usually cook or heat food in front of customers.