Top-rated Indonesian Cuisine

Jan 21st, 2012, in Society, by

Indonesian BuffetIndonesian food and drinks are excellent… but not popular. How to change this?

Indonesian Cuisine Highly Rated….
The CNN Go travel magazine recently rated the world’s 50 most delicious foods and drinks; its choices were surprisingly wide-ranging and cosmopolitan.

Indonesian cuisine had three entries; one food, two drinks.

Most Delicious Indonesian Food

Rendang / Spicy Beef Stew
Rendang #11
(Spicy Beef Stew)

Rated above: Popcorn (#50), Potato Chips (#48), Buttered Toast With Marmite (#42), Fish and Chips (#33), Lasagna (#23), Croissant (#21), Kebab (#18), Donuts (#14), Shepherd’s Pie (#12)

Rated below: Ice Cream (#9), Hamburger (#6), Chocolate (#3), Pizza (#2) and Massaman Curry of Thailand (#1)CNN Go

Most Delicious Indonesian Drinks

Es Kelapa Muda Es Cendol
Es Kelapa Muda #19
(Iced Coconut Drink)
Es Cendol #45
(A cocktail of rice flour,
coconut milk, palm
sugar and ice)

Rated Near: Sex On The Beach (#20), White Wine (#18), Lemonade (#17);
Yakult (#48), Guinness Stout Beer (#47), Fanta (#43)CNN Go

…But Perceived As Not Popular
Meanwhile, recently appointed Tourism Minister Elka Mari Pangestu has announced she is considering new initiatives to promote Indonesian cuisine abroad.The Jakarta Post

One proposal is the government gives financial support to Indonesian-themed restaurants in other countries, copying emulating a similar system in Thailand – home of CNN Go’s #1 Most Delicious Food.

Indonesian Restaurant in Singapore Es Teler 77 Melbourne balibali london
Indonesian Restaurants (L to R): “Cumi Bali” in Singapore,
“Es Teler 77” in Melbourne, “BaliBali” in London

However, there are already a significant number of Indonesian restaurants in other countries, without government assistance. Some may question whether this would be an appropriate use of the national budget considering the many other pressing needs of the nation in health, education, infrastructure, poverty reduction, etc.

National airline Garuda Indonesia advertises that it serves rijsttafel (an Indonesian buffet/banquet meal) in executive class on international flights. However, in economy class Garuda seems to only encourage foreign investment and prayer, not foreign appreciation of Indonesian cuisine.

More Opinions Wanted
What incentives could/should Indonesia give (if any) to encourage greater awareness and appreciation of Indonesian cuisine in other countries?

52% of foreign tourists like to sample local cuisine when visiting a country.The Jakarta Post Where do you recommend for the best rendang, es kelapa muda and es cendol? And what other local specialities should they definitely try?

21 Comments on “Top-rated Indonesian Cuisine”

  1. ET says:

    For those coming to Bali I would recommend

    – babi guling. Babi guling, or suckling pig, is one of Bali’s most famed dishes. The pig is stuffed and infused with a spicy concoction typically involving turmeric, coriander seeds, lemongrass, black pepper and garlic, and traditionally spit-roasted. It is to my knowledge however only served in warung or roadside eateries, of which the most famous one is Ibu Oka in Ubud. Only served during the daytime and be prepared for a long wait.

    bebek betutu. Bebek betutu or stuffed duck, roasted in babana leaf and enhanced by a host of pungent roots, herbs and seasonings. Because it is considered a ceremonial dish it is preferably eaten with your fingers instead of cutlery. Some restaurants in Bali offer bebek betutu, with the request you order a day in advance, due to the preparation time. A cheaper version ‘ayam (chicken) betutu’ is also available in markets or specialised warung.

    bebek bengil. Bebek bengil or dirty duck is a dish served in the restaurant of the same name in Ubud, famous because it was the favorite eaterie of former RI president Bu Megawati and of rock star Mick Jagger, who was suspected to have a dwelling in the area. The dish consists of half a duck steamed in Indonesian spices and then fried for a crispy finish. Your choice of sauteed potatoes and a side salad or steamed rice and Indonesian vegetables.

  2. asri says:

    Rendang can be found everywhere in Indonesia, including at non-Padang Restaurants. The taste often not as hot as those at Rumah Makan Padang, but rendang in some Padang restos outside West Sumatra also taste a bit different with the original flavor of rendang. Some fancy (Padang) restaurants not always serve the best rendang. Better rendang sometimes can be found in small RM Padang. In my opinion (based on limited culinary experience and after occasionally got rendang as “souvenirs” from Padangnese friends), the best rendang are homemade rendangs which come from native Padangnese kitchens (preferably those kitchens IN West Sumatra areas 🙂 ). Not only meat rendang, it also can be (dried) egg rendang, potato rendang, or bovine spleen rendang.

    As for beverages, in addition to es kelapa muda and cendol, there are lots of more tasty choices but I recommend jus sawo (sapodilla juice). It’s so refreshingly good.

  3. timdog says:

    It’s worth noting how these “list features” are put together by travel magazines:

    They are done by a staff writer using a special tool called Google (plus old copy on the magazine’s files), and then some stock photos from image banks.

    Hence Borobudur is the routine “world wonder”, and rendang is ever the Indonesian representative on the food lists…

    The person who wrote this piece has +never+ eaten rendang…

    I reckon a good nasi pecel if pretty damn fine. Rawon too, that’s not half bad either. Soto Kudus, like that too, and yes, babi guling out of Bali…

  4. asri says:

    They are done by a staff writer using a special tool called Google (plus old copy on the magazine’s files), and then some stock photos from image banks.

    .. and so here we should go again with “sate”, “bakso”… LOL

  5. ET says:

    Over the years a real masakan padang has become a staple, if not a favorite of mine. It’s cheap, it’s clean, it’s quick, the choice is enormous and it has never given me the Bali belly. The Javanese variant is even better but in Bali not as widespread.

  6. Chris says:


    Soon after the CNN Go article was published, they did a Facebook poll for the Reader’s Choice Top 50.

    Indonesia’s (patriotic and) large Facebook community voted Indonesian foods into the following positions:

    #1 Rendang
    #2 Nasi Goreng
    #14 Satay

    It is not known whether this will help promote Indonesian food abroad.

    On a similar theme, CNN Go also put together a list of 40 of Indonesia’s Best Dishes last year. The top 5 were:

    #5 Nasi Goreng
    #4 Soto
    #3 Bakso
    #2 Satay
    #1 Sambal

  7. agan says:

    Indo Embassies/Consulates regularly host scholarly/business/cultural events/open house like Lebaran, Christmas, Batik fashion show, Gamelan ensemble orchestra and whatnot.
    Sumptuous smorgasbord of Indo foodstuff- the whole Rijsttafel -are always served at these functions, after all they bring with them excellent chefs as their household cooks.

    Now they can take a step further to promote Indo culinary by participating in local events in the respective host country like streetfair/festival/parade, food bazaar, cooking show, swap chef program with prestigious local culinary schools/restos or even soup kitchen (meal center) volunteer to feed local low income people and this will get them good and free exposure from local media.

    And expenses incurred maybe offset by tax deductible donation from some of the many powerful foreign companies doing business in Indo.

    By the way, referring to the Garuda commercial the voice of male announcer with bule accent says:

    Beginning with a traditional welcome …..”

    Sure what is more traditional than having the announcer speaking with a bule accent in the commercial!
    I believe it would be more authentic experience if the announcer had voice of, say a female with ever exotic Sundanese accent and pronouncing the word Indonesia or Garuda correctly.

  8. Chris says:

    Thanks for your comment Agan,

    I believe they already have such events regularly in Melbourne (see photo below), I don’t know about other places. The one I went to had stands from Indonesian restaurants, bookshops and food shops, plus Garuda auctioned off open-dated return tickets to Bali. It was quite popular, despite entry not being free. No sign of the Indonesian Consulate, though.

    Unfortunately, the traditional dance displays had recorded music at ear-burning (some would say typical Indonesian) volume, so not so many non-Indonesians watched that.

  9. asri says:

    Hi Chris,

    I think Indonesian students in overseas (through PPI/Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia) often participate in such kind of local cultural events by introducing Indonesian cuisines, dances, batik or other kind of Indonesian cultures. Some of them become annual events.

    “Unfortunately, the traditional dance displays had recorded music at ear-burning (some would say typical Indonesian) volume, so not so many non-Indonesians watched that.”

    Yes, that was a bummer. But local authority can be a good solution for that problem. For example in Japan, they’re quite strict with the regulation about what to do and what to sell (food) in such events, so Nasi Goreng and Pisang Goreng become the most popular Indonesian dishes since Japanese’s stomach apparently very sensitive with anything spicy. And the volume of the music for the dance was performed at the normal human being’s scale, otherwise, the Japanese committee will stop it immediately (which somehow almost never happened cuz they make sure beforehand that everything’s in order as instructed).

  10. Epicurina says:

    ‘Rendang Padang’ is the term suggested to address Indonesian Rendang, avoiding confusion with similar dish available in neighbori ng countries. While its true that the best Rendang Padang might comes from family kitchens in Western Sumatera, RM. Sederhana usually has good quality Rendang, and they’re easy to find. Natrabu is another choice, and they seemed to cater for international visitors hence the taste is a bit more mellow here. In Jakarta RM. Garuda is a good bet as well.

    As with Es Kelapa it’s quite ubiquitous hence I don’t recall anyone standing out: a good quality young coconut and good quality of sugar are all that you need. There are some small varieties between places though: in Jakarta sellers are fond of using light palm sugar syrup that tasted almost like honey only darker, while in Denpasar, Bali, it’s cane sugar syrup with a slice of lime.

    For Es Cendol, Elizabeth is the market leader in Bandung and might be available in Jakarta as well. In Bali the Es Dawet is a better known alternative, though its virtually the same drink with Es Cendol.

  11. agan says:

    I’m just thinking out loud here is Rendang or its variant Gulai, Kalio or other famous Indo foods such as Tempeh burger and hearty Karedok salad or Rujak appetizer (sweet-tangy tropical fruit salad) available in a prepackage frozen form like a microwavable TV dinner meal box?
    Wouldn’t they make great sample gifts for your foodie friends abroad to promote greater awareness and appreciation of Indonesian cuisine worldwide?

    If not then start making your own and bring them to Shark Tank reality TV show to get financing. And If you package them with MRE specs, I bet the Army and the outbackers would love ‘em too.
    Do you think then vegemite and Bedarra Island’s green ant ice cream stand a chance? Exactly.

    Now, should you ever be successful and rich off this you know you owe me big time, buddy 🙂

  12. gendut says:

    One suggestion for drinks:
    Avocado juice with the chocolate and other toppings! You can find them at any Indonesian restaurant. Always missed and talked about by my friends from other countries after a trip to Indonesia.

  13. pattimahal says:


    I don’t think you can beat a good ayam bakar presto, mango juice with burned brown sugar and condensed milk mixed in, maybe some crunchy rempeyek or how about a full nasi uduk experience?

    I’m also a sucker for those Es Teler 77 otak-otak!

  14. agan says:

    More NEWSFLASH :

    Last week on Jan 25, 2012 thousands students from every public school in Wash. DC had Indonesian food in their breakfast and lunch menus as part of Indonesian Food Day program sponsored by Indonesian Embassy and District of Colombia Public schools.
    The students were also exposed to Indonesian culture by participating in various cultural interactive activities such as traditional dance, song, gamelan, angklung and workshop to make Klepon that yummy green round shaped dough stuffed with palm sweet.

    On the menu (as seen in the flyer):

    Curried Chicken
    Fragrant Brown Rice w/ Fresh Lemongrass (Nasi Uduk)
    Indonesian Steamed Vegetables
    Baked Sweet Plantains

    Baked White Fish w/Coconut Milk
    Brown Rice
    Indonesian Cole Slaw (sayur orak arik)

    Indonesian Meatball Stew (semur bola daging)
    Diced Red Potatoes
    Whole Wheat Dinner Roll

  15. indomanado says:

    I think in general Indonesia need to learn how to brand them selves abroad. Around the world culture shows are nice but soon forgotten.

    I think big companies like Indomie and even Bintang should take the lead to promote and be more aggressive. Having a huge domestic market who is happy to spend and spend made lots of Indonesian companies stay idle in here.

  16. aaaditya says:

    Indomie is I believe quite famous in the Asian food stores even in Australia and North America… it is even the leading brand for noodle in Nigeria and some other countries..
    there is a new show entirely dedicated to Indonesian food in Asian Food Channel!

  17. indomanado says:

    Indo mie is quite the major brand in Holland for noodles in the toko s( shop for Indo’s living in Holland) and some supermarket chains, but yeah Holland is not like a major country in population. Even though it’s fast food it would spark interest, brand Indonesia as a country, the language as well and ultimately it’s wonderful food.

  18. Mark says:

    Nasi goreng still the best and favorite Indonesian food.

  19. tik tok says:

    how about ‘RANDANG’ from west sumatera…it worldclass food too !

  20. Chris says:

    AirAsia has got “The Sexy Chef Farah Quinn” to promote unique Indonesian cuisine on its flights:

    Farah Quinn Nasi Minyak Palembang

    I don’t remember too many celebrity chefs putting their name on a budget airline’s menu before.

    Other thoughts:

    – Does anyone ever eat anything on AirAsia anyway? Whenever I have flown, it seems no one else wants to pay Rp90 000 ($9) for checked baggage, so they bring way too much cabin baggage on board.

    – How do people in Palembang (one of the more “conservative” areas of Indonesia) feel about being associated with “the sexy chef” when FQ was born in Bandung?

  21. timdog says:

    Did I ever tell you that story about how I stood next to Farah Quinn at a pedestrian crossing on Orchard Road once, but was too shy to say hello?
    Ah, I think perhaps I did…

    I have eaten on AirAsia X a couple of times, and it was passable. A lasagne or something like that.

    And I’m sure the people of Palembang (not one of Indonesia’s more attractive cities) are delighted! I know I would be…

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