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).
In Jakarta nine of us had an amazing dinner for a grand total of less than $20 USD
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.
Indonesian street food vendors in Yogyakarta
Indonesian food cheat-sheet
Tip: Download and save this cheat sheet to your phone or tablet 😉
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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)
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.