Indonesian Food Cheat-Sheet: Tips & Translations For First-Timers

Indonesian food can be summed up in two words: delicious and inexpensive. Whether street food or actual restaurant, whether on Sumatra, Java, or somewhere further east, it is pretty hard to go wrong in this culinary country.

I’ve eaten some amazing meals that cost only 15,000 rupiah ($1.50 USD) yet have left me so stuffed I had to get a take-away box for the unfinished portions. The cheapest meal so far cost a mere 7,000 rupiah ($0.70 USD) — a vegetable dish covered in peanut sauce and chili peppers called gado-gago (also known as lotek).

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The ultimate Indonesian food guide for first time visitors to #Indonesia! #travelguide #traveltips #food #foodie #wonderfulindonesia #budgettravel

In Jakarta nine of us had an amazing dinner for a grand total of less than $20 USD

Indonesian food at Bubur Ayam Sukabumi in Jakarta, Indonesia
Eating some amazing Indonesian food with some fantastic friends at Bubur Ayam Sukabumi in Jakarta. (Notice my crutches in the background?) 😉

Yes, here in Indonesia street food is very popular and the street restaurants are known as warung. Some of the larger warung will actually have a little dining area setup. Those ones are the best because you know they always have great food if there are tables out for people to eat at, rather than the vendors with nothing more than a cart on wheels who serve their dishes in a plastic to-go bag. Of course those guys are also amazing, so don’t rule them out too quickly.

Jalan Sosrowijayan in Yogyakarta, Indonesian street food alley
Jalan Sosrowijayan in Yogyakarta

Indonesian street food vendors in Yogyakarta

Indonesian street food chef in Yogyakarta making mie goreng ayam
Street chef dicing up the ayam (chicken) and then preparing the mie goreng (fried noodles)

  Indonesian food cheat-sheet

Tip: Download and save this cheat sheet to your phone or tablet 😉

Indonesian street food cheat sheet by The HoliDaze will help you order exactly what you want to eat

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Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Nasi Taliwang in Sengigi, a delicious baby chicken served with rich and sambal
Taliwang   Whole baby chicken with rice and sambal, a delicious spicy chili sauce

Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Soto Ayam Nasi, the most delicious soup in all of Indonesia
Soto Ayam Nasi   Fantastic chicken/noodle/vegetable soup with rice (which you add into the soup)

Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Ayam Bakar Bumbu Rujak in Lombok
Ayam Bakar Bumbu Rujak   Barbequed chicken with spicy chili sauce and rice

Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Batagor in Bandung
Batagor   Fried fish and tofu topped with peanut sauce, soy sauce, AND chili sauce, plus a dash of lime juice (a famous Bandung dish)

Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Nasi Goreng Ayam Spesial in Jakarta
Nasi Goreng Ayam Spesial   Fried rice with chicken/vegetables + egg (that’s the special part)

Hungry For More?     Ultimate Indonesian Regional Food Guide

Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Bakso Daging, Indonesia's comfort food
Bakso Daging   Meatball and noodle soup; Indonesian comfort food

Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Mie Goreng Ayam
Mie Goreng Ayam   Fried noodles with chicken and vegetables (similar to ramen but much tastier)

Indonesian Food Cheat Sheet: Mie Goreng Ayam
More Mie Goreng Ayam from a different street food vendor just 20 meters away from the one above

Indonesian "take-away" food comes in banana leaves
Take away food is often served on a banana leaf and then wrapped in paper and tossed in a paper bag. This is Nasi Ayam Sambal Ijo (chicken and rice with green chili sauce instead of red — hence the ijo part) 😉

Of course there is more to Indonesian food then just the street vendors and small shanty restaurants. I’ve also tried the Indonesian food at fancy restaurants with much less success. Don’t get me wrong, the food was still good. However…

  Considering that dinner for two at an average 3-star restaurant costs $30 USD yet street food that tastes exactly the same cost less than $3 USD (a whopping 90% discount) it is just was not worth it — unless you are on a romantic getaway or are an avid luxury traveler. Especially for first time backpackers and other budget travelers.

  Notice the prices on the menu below (roughly 11,000 rupiah = $1 USD)  

Indonesian food menu with prices
The menu from Cafe Anna, a restaurant on Lombok and one of my favorites on the entire island

In closing, the food mentioned and photographed here in no way represents the entire Indonesian cuisine. There is much more to be found, especially as you travel the many different regions of this incredibly diverse country. However these are definitely the basics and a great place to start tickling your taste buds.

See More       Ultimate Indonesian Regional Food Guide     You’ve Been In Indonesia Too Long If…

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.


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