I’ve now lived in Indonesia for twelve of the last fifteen months – and in all the blog posts I’ve written, I don’t think I’ve talked much about food. You might be thinking to yourself, what is Indonesian food? Do you like it? Can you find any Western food?
Brief answer, Indonesian food is rice + meat, few vegetables, and usually fried. Sometimes noodles (fried). Sometimes rice + meat in a broth. Sometimes it involves peanut sauce.
Yes, I love it. It’s enak sekali.
I’ve been taking pictures of my meals for the last few weeks in anticipation of making a post about food – so here is a photo food tour of what I eat in Indo!
Chicken sate is one of my favorite foods – it’s like a chicken kabob smothered in peanut sauce. SO. GOOD. Cost = Rp 30,000 = $2.23
Cap Cay is one of the few meals that you can get vegetables. Sometimes there is chicken in it but it is usually a big plate of vegetables in a yummy sauce with rice. This one is in a really nice cafe with fantastic AC (big, big plus). Cost = Rp 22,000 = $1.64.
Fried tempe is ubiquitous in Indonesia. It’s a snack, it’s a side, it’s a meal – it’s delicious. My Bahasa tutor taught me to make fried tempe last weekend and I am thrilled to have finally learned to cook something Indonesian! The sauce above is called “ketchup manis” – here, Ketchup is called saus tomat and ketchup manis is like a sweet soy sauce. Fried tempe dipped in ketchup manis is excellenttttt.
Alright, so this is my favorite meal in all of Kendari. I try and go here once a week if I can. Ikan bakar is grilled fish, and as you can see on the left, they serve you the whole damn thing, head to tail. This place thinks I really like rice, so they usually bring me two plates, which I definitely can’t finish. In the bowl on the right is sayur, vegetables in a yummy broth. And in the middle IS THE MOST DELICIOUS PEANUT SAUCE EVER. It has tomato chunks in it and you can mix in chilis, lime, etc. IT’S SO GOOD. I go to this restaurant for the sauce alone. To eat this, you spoon some veggies/broth over the rice, add some peanut sambal, and then dig into the fish – with you hands! Dig in, grab some meat, scoop it up (with your fingers) with some rice, veggies, peanut sauce and shovel the whole thing in your mouth. (Video to come later) So damn good. Total cost = Rp 25,000 = $1.86
Little rice, shrimp crackers that come as a side to everything. Very light, airy and delicious (as long as they aren’t too fishy).
Chicken soup (with rice of course). Delicious. A staple in my diet. Cost = Rp 18,000 (including ice tea) = $1.34
This is what my counterpart served us when we went to her house for lunch one afternoon. The brown broth in the middle was a beef broth mixture, the whiter one is sayur (vegetables) made with jackfruit, there is some chicken in the orange bowl, rice, and of course, sinonggi (bowl on the right of goo). See below…
Sinonggi is bizarre because it is tasteless and shapeless. Some people describe it as liquid glue. Some describe it as snot. Take your pick. You do not chew sinonggi (you couldn’t if you tried). You just literally swallow it. This is not easy to do. However, my counterpart was kind enough to cut it into little pieces for me, which made it much easier to swallow whole. In the end, I’d say I liked it – but it is weird AF.
Nasi kuning (yellow rice) is a common breakfast food. This was a favorite breakfast when I lived in Palangkaraya. Tisia and I would often come here. Yellow rice, noddles, and chicken in a yummy, slightly spicy sauce. Cost = Rp 15,000 = $1.11
This soup is Kendari’s version of Soto Banjar (soup from Banjarmasin). It’s pretty good and satisfies my cravings. However, I really really miss the soto banjar in Palangkaraya. Banjarmasin is only about four hours from Pky (we were evacuated there many, many times) and so there is a strong influence of the Banjar culture in Pky. Thus, the soto banjar is incredible and I literally ate it for breakfast almost every single day (the other days I ate nasi kuning, see above). Cost = Rp 15,000 = $1.11
Cost = Rp 10,000 = $0.74
Nasi goreng is probably the most classic Indonesian dish. Fried rice, sometimes served with an egg, or chicken. Eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It was Spencer’s first meal when he came to visit last year 🙂 Cost = Rp 20,000 = $1.49
I do not like Indonesian desserts. They are spongy, squishy, sugary, and otherwise unappetizing. Unfortunately, Indonesians love to force feed me food, particularly sweets. I do everything I can to avoid it. This was a wedding where I was thrilled to have 20 women pushing plates of sugary sponge cakes at me. Not. I suggested to my ibus that we share a plate so that I could “have room to try them all.” aka could try a tiny bite and then they would finish it for me.
Looks like confetti cake. Trust me, it’s not.
Grilled corn. Very popular in Indonesia. I would get grilled corn with Tisia all the time last year. So, so good.
From Mack’s Kitchen:
While I love Indonesian food, this year I’ve been experimenting more in my own makeshift kitchen. I have slowly accumulated a fridge, a rice cooker, a blender, a toaster, and as of last week, a small stove! Now I can make anything! So truly, what do I eat on a weekly basis?
Yes, be jealous. I eat avocado toast every morning for breakfast. That or toast with peanut butter and jelly. My toaster was the best thing I’ve bought this year. Sugary cereal worked for a few weeks but I can’t handle that much sugar in the mornings. Last year I had easy access to breakfast options like soto banjar or nasi kuning, but this year there really isn’t anything near/in my school that sells it so I’m on my own. And I am totally okay with that. Cost for 3 avocados = Rp 15,000 = $1.11 –> daily avocado use = 1/2 avocado = $0.18. (<<<This is why I’m never leaving Indonesia.)
I make guacamole a lot (see price of avocados above). I then decided to attempt a burrito bowl. The above was the result of attempt #1 – it was definitely satisfying although lacking some key ingredients and flavors (beans, cilantro, chipotle, peppers, chicken…). I’ve made this a number of times since (see below) and potentially just found black beans today (tbd if they are really black beans). Regardless, I make some version of this several time a week for lunch/dinner.
The ultimate cultural exchange = mac n cheese. I am a rice cooker mac n cheese pro. It is incredibly easy and thanks to my 1.5lb bag of cheese powder, I enjoy this as my dinner at least 3 nights a week. Yesterday, I invited Yuni, my Bahasa tutor, over to make mac n cheese (and she taught me tempe goreng). She loved it. Job done.
So… I am cooking a lot more this year than I did last year – I eat out about half the time and the other time make a quick batch of mac n cheese or a “burrito bowl.” This week, I shall attempt mashed potatoes (it is Thanksgiving after all…)
While some ETAs live in places with easy access to alcohol, we in Kendari do not. We have found three restaurants with beer but I can count the number of beers I’ve had here on one hand. It’s just not something I’m here for. However, as the election results turned sour on that fateful Wednesday morning (we are 13 hours ahead of DC), we opened the emergency beer. It did not make the results any easier to swallow.
(Note: I tried to write a post about the election but couldn’t find the words. Maybe later. See facebook for my immediate response 😭)
Can you find Western food in Indonesia? Yes, definitely. Can you find it in Kendari? Ummm, a few things, namely spaghetti, french fries, and pizza hut.
Cost (juice and spaghetti) = Rp 45,000 = $3.35. The sauce is really sweet so it’s not my favorite but it does the job.
This pizza is NOT found in Kendari. If you are an ETA lucky enough to live in a big city, you will probably have access to Western restaurants and may be able to find incredible pizza like this one. Meanwhile, I’ll drool from over here in Southeast Sulawesi. Cost = Rp 80,000 = $5.96.
Oh, what I would give for a fish taco right now! Again, this can be found in Bandung or Bali or Jakarta, but definitely not in Kendari 😭😭 Cost = Rp 60,000 = $4.47
And that wraps up my food tour. It’s been a pleasure having you along and I hope that it made you either drool or be appreciative of all the diverse and rice-less food options you have wherever you are. So this week, eat a taco or a salad for me… savor every bite and then pay a whopping $15 and cringe while I continue to enjoy my $1-2 meals 😀
Plusses and minuses, right?