POST D: Food, Glorious Food

Food in Indonesia reflects the national identity and pride of the country. Each food practice signifies their richness in culture and conscientious awareness towards diversity, especially in differing religious beliefs.  Indonesians identify very closely to their ethnic foods as it is a significant contributor to their authenticity.

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A typical meal in Indonesia consists of steamed rice, one or two main dishes made of fish, chicken or vegetables, sometimes with soup; all of which are all served together with a common side side of sambal.

One of the many identifiers of the Indonesian food culture would the convenient and easy access to food. The traditional food service would be those served by kaki lima men whereby food is delivered through push carts. This is a familiar sight in villages and towns as they could be spotted in most corners of the streets. These push carts become the ‘sights and sounds of life’ (Cuture Shock, p52) in Indonesia as they are also known for passing local news and gossip whilst providing fresh and inexpensive food.  

The variety and quality of cooked food is considerably a national asset that separates Indonesia from the rest. Both the ingredients and preparation of Indonesian cuisines are reflective of the various countries that lived in the archipelago through the centuries, these tastes were influenced by foreign inhabitants such as Chinese, Indian, Arab, Dutch and Portuguese.

Seriously, with all that mix, how could food not be tasty?

The principle of contrast is an aspect of Indonesian cooking that is one of its greatest appeals. Where there is spicy, is a cool contrast in the palate; this practice lends itself to an exercise especially with the multitude of courses when showcasing a wide variety of food.

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Soup served with crackers and sambal

Having such a variety of beliefs,  it is not surprising that the Indonesian culture has learnt to adapt to the ways of each entity. With Islam being the dominant religion in the country, it has become part of the culture and has effectively harmonised to their lifestyle. Despite being constitutionally recognised as a secular state, serving pork ‘should be on a separate table from the general buffet and never on the same plate with other foods’ (Culture Shock, p.61) if it is being supplied. It is also important to acknowledge the significance of serving certain food such as Ubi, which are root vegetables that includes cassava, sweet potato and taro. These crops obtains a cultural connotation of being a ‘poor man’s food’ therefore serving these to certain Indonesian guests would be discrimination; however it could be served as part of western meals.

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Indonesian buffet

It is impressive to witness the diversity in Indonesia and how the differences were utilised to authenticate such a rich culture.

Almerico, G, 2014. Food and identity. Food and identity: Food studies, cultural, and personal identity, [Online]. 1, 7. Available at:
Camille’s Samui Info blog. 2016. Camille’s Samui Info blog: Food on Wheels; Street food in Surabaya, Indonesia. [ONLINE] Available at:
Draine, C., Hall, B. 1986. Culture Shock! A guide to Customs and Etiquette, Indonesia. 1st ed. Portland, Oregon: Graphic Arts Centre Publishing Company.
Food in Indonesia. 2016. Daily Life. [ONLINE] Available at:
Indonesia | Flickr. 2016. Selling Bakso Malang – traditional food Java, Indonesia | Flickr – Photo Sharing!. [ONLINE] Available at:


One thought on “POST D: Food, Glorious Food

  1. You touched on a really interesting point with regards to all the foreign influences of Indonesia. I did notice in certain bars and restaurants, there was a lingering influence (seemed to be mainly Dutch), through decorations and even the hanging of a small flag being hung. I wonder if colonisation has had a stronger influence on the way and why Indonesians feel passionate about identity through their food. Could it be a reaction against or a celebration of all of these foreign influences?

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