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 ($1.00 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 ($0.50 USD) — a vegetable dish covered in peanut sauce and chili peppers called gado-gago (also known as lotek).

Be honest, you want to pin this, yes? Okay, here ya go πŸ™‚

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

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

Travel Tip: Download and save this cheat sheet to your phone or tablet πŸ˜‰

Indonesian street food cheat sheet by The HoliDaze will help you order exactly what you want to eat
Enjoy Food Videos? Derek Eats That!

And Now What You’ve All Been Waiting For…Food Porn!

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 a few steps away from the first one
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 β€” hence the ijo part) πŸ˜‰

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. $1 USD = roughly 14,000 rupiah

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…

Have you visited Indonesia?

What is your favorite Indonesian food?

Enjoy it? Tell a friend
About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." Β  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.

44 thoughts on “Indonesian Food Cheat-Sheet: Tips & Translations For First-Timers”

    • Hi Firsta, thanks for the comment. Nope, actually have not yet tried tongseng — I have not yet been to Surakarta. Is it only available there?

      Just looked up a description and it sounds really good! Might have to add a trip Surakarta to my itinerary now… πŸ˜‰

    • I was just in Bali too! Had nothing but horrible experiences there so I left for Lombok, had a much better time there. Back in Jogja now…absolutely love this city! Best one in Java πŸ˜‰

      But yes, the Ayam Bakar Bumbu Rujak is one of my absolute favorite dishes in all of Indonesia….TASTY! πŸ™‚

  1. Nice overview on popular Indonesian food dishes. If I may suggest, the term “Ayam Kampung” is usually equal with “free range chicken,” or “naturally raised chicken.”

    • Hey Bayu, thanks for the comment and the further information on exactly what ayam kampung stands for…much appreciated! That is one of my favorite dishes here. Someone there is a village without any chickens anymore because I have been gobbling them up like a madman….they’re just so good! πŸ™‚

  2. Hmm you have successfully made me want to go back home and eat my favourite Indonesian food!
    Just to point out, I’m Indonesian and I say “bakso” with the ‘k’ (so not silent) although I don’t know if it’s just me πŸ™‚ – I like it that way too, it makes much more a point “what do you wanna eat?” “baKso!” πŸ˜€

    • Hey Aggy, thanks for the comment. I have heard a few people pronounce it with the ‘k’ but most leave it silent. Actually at the mall last night I noticed the restaurant “BASOOO” and their special is bakso. Unfortunately I’ve found that — at least in my opinion — the bakso from street vendors is far better than at any of the restaurants I have tried.

      Let me know if you return to Indonesia anytime soon. With as much as I love this country, I think I’m going to be here for a while!

    • I completely agree with you! There is nothing better than the local warungs…..mmmmm getting hungry just thinking about them.

      Let me know the next time you come back to Indonesia. I’ve been learning the language and recently have started blogging in Bahasa Indonesia. The country has been treating me well and although I’m always traveling, I always go back to Indonesia in between trips. Let’s cross paths sometime / somewhere πŸ™‚

    • Oh yeah, I love eating at warungs…not only is it inexpensive but also tastier and more authentic. Actually I was just in Seminyak last week with a couple of my Indonesian friends. Shame I didn’t see this comment earlier. Speaking of, any chance you work with travel bloggers that specialize is Indonesia? πŸ™‚

  3. Hey Derek, I am really curious. Since you have travelled extensively in Indonesia, have you tried these food: martabak manis, martabak telur, lumpia, kerak telur, perkedel, and pastel? What is your favorite?

    • Ohhhhh martabak manis….maknyuus! One of my favorites, especially when it is fresh and warm. Think I had martabak telur once at a wedding but am not 100% certain. Lumpia, that similar to the lumpia in the Philippes or is it something different? Never heard of perkedel or pastel though. So out of those my favorite is definitely martabak manis πŸ˜€

  4. Glad that you enjoy our food. Although, as an Indonesian (from southern Borneo_, I think we only go for street food when we’re too lazy to cook or when we’re running low on cash. Street food are usually simple fares and can be boring after a while. Some food are just too complex and you need to go to a proper warung or rumah makan to have them. But I think the best Indonesian food can only be found at homes πŸ™‚

    • Agreed, the best food is always home-cooked. I had some amazing meals at locals homes in Sumatra — gw suka sambal pedas disana! However in the year I’ve spent exploring Indonesia so far, one of my all-time favorite dishes (not just in Indonesia but worldwide) is soto. I love it! Simple, filling, available everywhere AND different everywhere….maknyuus! Simply amazing.

      Haven’t made it out to Kalimantan yet…but hope to next year! πŸ™‚


Leave a Comment