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Must-Have Indonesian Cookbooks

Must-Have Indonesian Cookbooks

Auli Cinantya
09 August 2023


From Bali's seashores to Minangkabau's tales, these cookbooks weave rich cultural narratives with mouthwatering recipes.


For me, food embodies more than just its taste; it’s a tapestry interwoven with cultural narratives and ancestral legacies. And sometimes, when delving into cookbooks, I can understand the odyssey behind each dish’s narrative. 

Take, for instance, Chef Petty Elliott, who magnifies the spices of her Malukan heritage, or Lara Lee, unraveling her familial roots through her grandmother’s recipes, revealing the intimate interplay of food and lineage.

These cookbooks unveil the treasures of Indonesian culinary diversity, showcasing various regions’ distinct flavors, ingredients, and techniques. 

From the Bali seashore to Minangkabau’s rich stories, these cookbooks offer mouthwatering recipes and thousands of stories that will take you on a culinary journey through the archipelago.

Exploring Essential Indonesian Cookbooks

Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian kitchen, Lara Lee

Lara Lee, a chef and culinary storyteller, takes readers on a delectable journey through Indonesian cuisine with ‘Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen.’ Lee’s upbringing in Sydney fostered a longing for home and sparked a mission to explore her roots. As she traveled from Sumatra to Timor, Lee visited her grandfather’s abandoned home and brought back fond memories while cooking from her grandmother’s recipe books with family members.  Inspired by this joy, Lee journeyed across the archipelago, collecting family stories and beloved recipes. 

‘Coconut & Sambal’ captures Indonesian cuisine’s spectrum, from intricate rendang to delicate tahu telur, demystifying techniques for home cooks. The cookbook is adorned with evocative photographs that transport you to Indonesia’s bustling markets, vibrant streets, and rich culinary heritage.

Hei Minang, Tastemade & KAUM

Straight from the heart of West Sumatra, Tastemade Indonesia, in collaboration with Restaurant KAUM, unveils an array of distinctive Minangkabau dishes previously unfamiliar to many. These culinary creations span from the coastal regions of West Sumatra to Bukittinggi, Payakumbuh, and beyond. Their journey narrates an earnest endeavor to master the art of cooking rare Minangkabau delicacies directly from their place of origin. Guided by this quest, they found themselves in the kitchens of skilled home cooks, who generously shared generations-old culinary knowledge.

The world of Minangkabau cuisine extends far beyond the confines of the familiar Padang restaurants found in major cities outside West Sumatra. Here, the term ‘specific’ suggests specialization, highlighting the signature dishes that distinguish each eatery. This distinctiveness holds for different regions, where every piece of land harbors its own “hidden treasure,” resulting in culinary offerings unique to each locality.

Within the pages of this book, you’ll encounter not only their travel anecdotes but also a curated selection of thoroughly tested recipes. Beyond the written word, vivid photographs and illustrations intricately weave the narrative, allowing you to immerse yourself in this remarkable expedition.

Our Bali Your Bali, Dean Keddell

A culinary journey with a philanthropic spirit, “Our Bali, Your Bali” masterfully marries the art of gastronomy with humanitarian compassion. Authored by Australian chef and restaurateur Dean Keddell, this visually captivating cookbook emerges as a heartfelt endeavor to support Bali’s vulnerable families and children. Immersed in tradition and culture, the book unveils a tapestry of family recipes passed through generations and the delectable creations of local warung chefs in Seminyak. Beyond nourishment, it delves into the intertwined essence of history, ritual, and healing within Balinese ingredients.

Celebrating Bali’s vibrant culinary scene, this coffee table gem showcases the culinary treasures of Ginger Moon Canteen and Jackson Lily’s, blending the essence of Bali with international flavors. Its pages breathe life into the island’s charm, offering readers a culinary voyage that transcends geographical boundaries. Created amid the pandemic’s adversities, Dean Keddell dedicates the book to Bali’s resilient communities, channeling proceeds to five deserving local charities.

Paon: Real Balinese Cooking, Tjok Maya Kerthyasa, I Wayan Kresna Yasa

Straight from the heart of Bali’s traditional home kitchens, “Paon” emerges as an authentic cookbook encapsulating the essence of Balinese cuisine. With over 80 tantalizing dishes accompanied by captivating essays and evocative photography, Tjok Maya Kerthyasa and I Wayan Kresna Yasa, Balinese locals themselves, illuminate the rich tapestry of the island’s life, culture, and gastronomy. A culinary expedition unfolds across its pages, delving into the sacred connection between food and worship, embracing zero-waste cooking, and unveiling Balinese culinary traditions’ profound depth and diversity.

Embark on an immersive journey through rice fields, vibrant food forests, coastal enclaves, and bustling markets across six engaging chapters: Foundations, From the Fields, From the Land, From the Sea, From the Pasar, and Rare and Ceremonial. “Paon” intricately weaves together the threads of Balinese culture, bestowing a profound understanding of Balinese cuisine’s true essence. Beyond a mere cookbook, “Paon” unveils Bali’s untold narratives – from everyday life to modernity and the heart of agriculture. As a pioneering work, “Paon” is an indispensable tome, fusing the realms of Indonesian flavors and cultural exploration like never before.

The Indonesian Table Cookbook, Petty Elliott

Renowned culinary expert Chef Petty Elliott creates a captivating culinary journey in “The Indonesian Table” cookbook. With a profound appreciation for Indonesian culture and cuisine, Chef Petty delves into traditional and contemporary flavors, intertwining heartwarming narratives that reflect Indonesia’s essence.

Published by Phaidon International, this cookbook captures her adventurous spirit and connection to the country. Chef Petty’s narratives accompany each recipe, revealing cultural contexts, ingredients, and techniques, allowing readers to glimpse Indonesia’s diverse culinary landscape.

An iconic highlight is the Rendang Sapi, a sumptuously tender beef stew that echoes Padang’s rich culinary heritage. Chef Elliott preserves time-honored traditions while offering modern kitchen adaptations, embodying the charm of “The Indonesian Table” – an ode to Indonesia’s culinary heritage.

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