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Exploring Indonesia’s Famous Street Food

Exploring Indonesia’s Famous Street Food

Auli Cinantya
07 August 2023


From Lombok's Ayam Taliwang to the viral Seblak, Indonesia's street food offers a diverse and delightful culinary journey.


Street food is a beloved culinary treasure in Indonesia, known for its accessibility, affordability, and quick service. Wander through bustling streets, and you’ll be captivated by the vibrant array of flavors and aromas wafting from street vendors and food stalls. 

Indonesian street food is more than just a quick meal; it’s a cultural journey that captures the essence of local traditions. With roots dating back to the Dutch colonial era, street food is a melting pot of Indonesian, Chinese, and Dutch influences. Street vendors, known as pedagang kaki lima, occupy sidewalks and markets, skillfully preparing dishes for customers, keeping the culinary heritage alive. 

Each region and country boasts its own unique street food specialties, reflecting local flavors, ingredients, and culinary traditions. Ingredients sourced from the region’s rich landscapes and unique cooking methods passed down through generations create an authentic taste of Indonesia’s cultural tapestry.

Famous Indonesian Street Food

Ayam Taliwang (Grilled Spicy Chicken) - Lombok

Renowned for its bold flavor and captivating blend of spices, this traditional grilled chicken is marinated with a mix of chili, garlic, and turmeric. Its fiery essence and bursting spices make it a delightful choice for those who enjoy spicy food. Often accompanied by plecing kangkung, a local water spinach dish seasoned with chili and lime, this dish perfectly complements the chicken’s bold taste.

Gado-Gado - Jakarta

This beloved Indonesian salad features a mix of blanched and fresh vegetables such as bean sprouts, cabbage, spinach, and water spinach, along with other ingredients like tofu, tempeh, boiled eggs, and lontong. The vibrant colors and refreshing taste of Gado-Gado are further enhanced by the flavorful peanut sauce, which adds a creamy and nutty dimension to the dish. Its popularity stems from its delicious taste and its ability to cater to different preferences, as one can customize the ingredients to their liking. Whether enjoyed as a light snack or a satisfying meal, Gado-Gado is a ubiquitous street food in Jakarta, easily found in local food stalls and street-side vendors across the city.

Kari Bihun - Medan

As a renowned street food dish, Kari Bihun has become an integral part of Medan’s food culture and is cherished by locals and visitors alike. It is an aromatic noodle soup that features thin rice vermicelli immersed in a rich and fragrant curry broth infused with a blend of spices and herbs. The star of Kari Bihun is the tender and succulent chicken or beef cooked to perfection in the savory curry base. The dish is often garnished with crispy shallots, fried onions, and fresh scallions, adding a delightful crunch and additional layers of flavor.

Kue Pancong - Kalimantan

This delightful traditional coconut pancake originating from Kalimantan stands out from other cakes due to its unique preparation and rich coconut flavor. These pancakes are traditionally cooked in small cast iron pans over an open flame and made from a batter consisting of grated coconut, rice flour, palm sugar, and a pinch of salt. The result is a crispy outer layer with a tender, moist center infused with the natural sweetness of coconut and palm sugar.

Lawar - Bali

Lawar is a vibrant mix of minced meat (commonly pork or chicken) and grated coconut blended with aromatic herbs, spices, and fresh vegetables. Bali also offers seafood Lawar, vegetarian Lawar, and versions made with unique local ingredients like jackfruit or young fern shoots. As a signature dish from Bali, Lawar holds cultural significance, prepared for traditional ceremonies and special occasions.

Mangkuak Sayak - Padang

Mangkuak Sayak is a cherished street food with a delightful combination of flavors, with tender and succulent chicken or beef simmered to perfection in a rich, aromatic curry broth. The exact spice blend may vary among different cooks and regions, but some common spices used in this dish include turmeric, ginger, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, and various chili varieties. Served alongside thin rice vermicelli and garnished with crispy shallots, fried onions, and fresh scallions, this dish offers a delightful crunch and additional layers of flavor that truly showcase the culinary expertise of Padang.

Pisang Epe - Makassar

The name “Pisang Epe” refers to the unique cooking method used for this traditional coconut pancake. “Epe” in the local language means to press or flatten, which describes the way the pancakes are cooked. This traditional coconut pancake stands out due to its unique preparation and rich coconut flavor. Cooked in small cast iron pans over an open flame, these pancakes are made from a batter consisting of grated coconut, rice flour, palm sugar, and a hint of salt. The result is a delectable treat with a crispy outer layer and a tender, moist center, infused with the natural sweetness of coconut and palm sugar.

Pisang Goroho - Manado

Goroho bananas, native to North Sulawesi, are favored for their unique flavor and texture. The bananas are grilled over an open flame until they become tender and develop a slight caramelization, enhancing their natural sweetness. Unlike other banana dishes, Pisang Goroho does not require any additional ingredients or toppings, allowing the true essence of the ripe bananas to shine through.

Sate Klathak - Yogyakarta

As a famous street food in Yogyakarta, Sate Klathak is a must-try for any food enthusiast visiting the region. The skewers are served on a traditional wooden rack called “klathak,” adding a rustic charm to the experience. What sets Sate Klathak apart is how it is cooked—grilled on a bed of hot charcoals made from coconut shells, giving it a distinct smoky aroma. The skewers are loaded with chunks of succulent chicken or beef, marinated with a blend of aromatic spices and a touch of sweetness.

Seblak - Bandung

Seblak, a beloved street food sensation, has taken the culinary scene by storm, especially in Bandung, Indonesia. This spicy and flavorful dish revolves around krupuk mie, crispy deep-fried noodles softened in a piping-hot broth infused with a tantalizing mix of chilies, garlic, shallots, and aromatic spices. The result? An explosion of rich flavors and a delightful play of textures will leave your taste buds craving for more. 

What makes Seblak even more enticing is its versatility. The dish invites creativity, allowing you to tailor it to your liking by adding various ingredients such as eggs, vegetables, meats, and seafood.

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