6 Must Try Food and Drinks in Indonesia

Indonesia is a country brimming with sights, shopping, and fabulous food. As a country known for its diverse use of spices, its cuisine is one of the most colorful and vibrant of any in the world. Here is a quick overview of some of the most traditional and popular foods of Indonesia, and some of what you can taste at Go Eat Give Destination Indonesia on March 26th in Atlanta…

 1. Gado Gado

Gado Gado is a traditional Indonesian dish suitable for every foodie, including vegetarians. The dish, translated to “mix-mix,” is a blend of various vegetables, tofu, and tempeh in a peanut sauce. It is sometimes served with crispy crackers as a snack, or on its own as a side or entree with rice.


2. Saté

An Indonesian dish the is well known in the West and is similar to a shish kabob. Sate consists of different kinds of meat roasted over coals on bamboo skewers, and is often times paired with a peanut sauce. The meat may include chicken, beef, pork, tofu, and more. Saté originated in Java and was a creation of the Indonesian street vendors, but has spread around Indonesia and to neighboring countries.


3. Kerak Telor

This dish is a crispy Indonesian “frittata” made with sticky rice, shrimp, coconut, shallots, and spices. Duck or eggs are commonly added to the meal based on the customer’s preference. Kerak Telor is one of the most popular street foods in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and derives from the Betawi culture. The dish also is said to resemble the western omelet though its spice and crispness set it apart.


4. Rendang

Rendang originated in Pandang, a city in Sumatra, and is one of the most flavorful and iconic dishes of Indonesia. It is referred to as “West Sumatran caramelized beef curry” by culinary experts and was named the #1 most delicious food in the world by CNN International readers. The dish is made with beef, which is marinated, in a special curry for hours. Rendang can also be served dry as a soft jerky, but this is reserved only for special occasions.


5. Cendol

Cendol is a traditional Indonesian dessert drink that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or tasted before. The base is made up of coconut milk, palm sugar, and shaved ice, and is mixed with various kinds of jelly noodles. The noodles are made out of red beans, rice, or even grass jelly. Iced cendol with durian fruit and chocolate milk is also popular in Indonesia.


6. Bintang Bir Pilsner

If you ever find yourself in Indonesia during a night out, you’re bound to run into someone drinking Bintang Beer. It was introduced to the country by the Heineken brand during the 1930s under the original name Java Bier, and later took on its’ current name in 2006. Bintang means “star” in Indonesian, and the Bintang bottle features a red star that is reminiscent of the classic Heineken bottle. Additionally, the taste of Bintang is said to be very similar to Heineken with its’ malt and hop flavor.


Lamb and Blueberry Chutney Pastries

This recipe is inspired by Northern Africa where you will often find savory meat pastries. I learned to make Bastilla while volunteering in Morocco last year and fell in love with it. Bastilla is a pastry made with phyllo and layers of spiced ground chicken, omelets, almond paste and powdered sugar. It requires some skill to keep it all together but is not as hard as it looks.

With my bounty of blueberries, I created my own sweet and spicy meat pastry. These make wonderful entrees for that special date night or you can do a smaller appetizer sized version for a party.

Makes:  4 pastries

Total Time: 5 hours (Prep: 1 hour, Inactive: 45 minutes)

For the lamb:

Place chutney in the center of the lamb mixture on phyllo sheets

1 lb lamb, ground

2 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

1 green chili

1 medium onion

3 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper




For the blueberry chutney:

Ground lamb & blueberry chutney stuffed in phyllo pastry

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup water


For the pastry:

1 lb phyllo dough, thawed

1 egg

1 tablespoon water



Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, grind the onion, garlic, ginger and green chili. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the ground lamb and the spices. Mix well and set aside.

To make the blueberry chutney, place a medium saucepan on high heat. Add the oil and let heat. Then fry the cumin seeds for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients. Once the liquid comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool completely before moving on to the next step. The chutney can be prepared ahead of time & stored in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Spread parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Prepare an egg wash by lightly beating the egg with water. Using 2-3 layers of phyllo sheets at a time, brush the egg wash lightly on each layer. Alternate horizontal & vertical sheets so you have 4 solid layers of 2-3 phyllo sheets each.

Place 2/3 cup of the lamb meat mixture in the center of the prepared dough in a circular shape.  With your fingers, create a small dent in the middle of the meat. Carefully place 2 tablespoons of the chutney into this indent. Close the pastry by wrapping the meat with the sheets, in the shape of a pentagon. Make sure to fold even number of sheets on top and under the meat patty, always brushing with the egg mixture. Repeat the process so you have 4 pastries.

Once you have a nicely wrapped pastry, brush the top with more egg. Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until crispy.

Green Papaya Salad

(serves 4-6)

A Thai inspired dish that is common at many restaurants. This is my version of a simple, easy to make, yet flavorful salad that can be had as a side accompanying meats, fish or rice.

1 small green papaya, unripe

3-4 cloves garlic

1 green chili

1 ½ tablespoon sugar

1 lime, juiced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup peanuts, roasted

Peel the papaya with a vegetable peeler and grate into fine shreds. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. In a food processor, puree the green chili and garlic. Add to the shredded papaya. Mix in the sugar and lime juice until evenly distributed. Finally, add the tomatoes and peanuts. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The salad can stay fresh for several hours and does well as left-over for the next day too.

Asian dinner party

I have hosted a good number of dinner parties over the years, ranging in many themes from Moroccan, tapas, global pizza to Hawaiian and game night. This past weekend, I decided to have an Asian inspired dinner party. Each couple brought a dish and I prepared a few things to round out our four-course meal.

We started with a cold Sake since it was a warm evening. It was something I had picked up on my last visit to Hong Kong, a light refreshing drink. The first course was Chicken Chow Fun, which is normally had as a main course. It is fresh thick noodles cooked with chicken and vegetables in a spicy black bean sauce.

The second course was a bok choy salad and a green papaya salad. If you have never tasted green papaya before (as I had not until now), I strong encourage you to try it.  You must buy a green unripe papaya for this recipe (which I have shared with you).

For the main course, I bought whole tilapias (cleaned) and marinated them with a seasoning of olive oil, cilantro and garlic. I let the fishes absorb the flavors in the refrigerator for couple of hours, before wrapping them in banana leaves and grilling them on an outdoor grill. The banana leaves do two things for the fish. They retain the moisture and juices of the fish and give it a steamy affect without burning the meat. Secondly, they release fragrance to the fish allowing for an extra dimension in flavor. I served each person their own whole fish wrapped in banana leaves along with orange infused sticky rice. We took part in communal fish wrapping which made the party even more fun and my guests actually learned something new.

Banana leaves are available at Asian farmer’s markets for about $2-3 per bundle. The bundle I purchased was more than enough for 8 fishes, plus I had a lot left over that I later used as table mats. The key to grilling banana leaves is that you first need to prep them. Either microwave each leaf on high for 1 minute or grill it on an open fire on both sides. The leaves will contract and becoming more flexible for folding.

Our dessert consisted of a coconut gelato with pineapples that were soaked in rum and gently grilled. We wanted to stay with a Asian theme and incorporated all the fruits from the tropics.

Dinner with a Passport

I had the opportunity to attend the two-year anniversary of Dinner with a Passport this weekend. Dinner with a Passport is a foodie group started by Sonia Catalina Viteria, who is originally from Ecuador but now lives in Atlanta. Sonia had friends from all over the world who loved to cook and eat, so she started coordinating a once a month event doing just that. About ten people meet at someone’s home and a different country is picked each month. The hostess prepares dishes from participating countries while the rest of the members help cook and bring drinks.

After two years, the group has 194 members, so this particular event enjoyed the diversity accumulated over time. Every person was asked to bring a dish or drink from their representative country. The result was an international buffet that matched no other! There were original, home-cooked dishes from Greece, Poland, Russia, Peru, India, Ecuador, USA, Mexico, Italy, Japan, Spain and many more!

Scroll through the pictures and see if you can identify some of these dishes…

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Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives



  • 1 whole large chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 large bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup green olives
  • 1/2 half preserved lemon


First rub the salt into the chicken pieces and then wash the chicken in the white wine vinegar and water. Leave for 10 minutes. Rinse and dry and place onto a clean plate.

For cooking, use a Tagine (traditional Moroccan dish) or a deep, heavy bottom casserole dish. Heat the dish on high and add oil to the hot dish heat for 3 minutes until the oil bubbles. Then add salt and chicken. Flip it over after 2 or 3 minutes. Then add saffron,  more salt, 1 onion, garlic, cumin and ginger. Mix all these ingredients into the chicken. Mix everything and try to place the onion under the chicken. Add the rest of the onion on the top then lemon, Two cups of water. Cook in medium heat for 45 minutes. Finally add olives 5 minutes before it is done.

Serve with fresh bread or couscous.

Leela’s Lobster Malai

I spent New Year’s Eve 2011 at the Leela Palace Kempinski hotel in Bangalore. It was a magnificent palace converted into a 5-star hotel, rated as one of the best in India. The architecture and gardens of the property are worth considering a tourist destination itself!

Even their restaurant is rated the best in town. The hotel advertised a special party to celebrate the occassion. At a steep entry fee of $100/ person, you would get access to an open bar, a mile long multi-cuisine buffet, entertainment and dance floor. Since I could not afford to stay there, I decided to splurge for New Year’s Eve at least. The place was adorned in a carnival theme, with colorful drapes and masks of every origin. There were two rooms with buffet tables that would put a King’s banquet to shame. Needless to say, it was worth every penny!

Here is a recipe from the web site that I tasted in the buffet. I love lobster and am always looking for ways to incorporate it into ethnic cuisines. Hope you like it too!

Lobster Malai –  Serves 4

Ingredients   Qty.
Large Fresh Lobster : 04 No (600-800 Gm. Each)
Fresh Onion Paste : 250 Gm.
Ginger Julienne : 20 Gm.
Green Chilli Finely Chopped : 15 Gm.
Fresh Coriander Chopped : 15 Gm.
Fresh Coconut Milk (Ist Extract) : 200 Ml.
Fresh Coconut Milk (2nd Extract) : 250 Ml.
Bay Leaf : 02 No
Cinnamon Powder : 02 Gm.
Spice Clove Powder : 02 Gm.
Coconut Oil : 110 Ml.
Turmeric Powder : a pinch
Salt : To taste
Ginger : 75 Gm.
Cumin Power : 08 Gm.


  • Blanch the whole lobster in hot salted water. Take out the meat from the tail and cut length wise slices.
  • Heat oil in a kadai, put chopped green chilli and ginger julienne. Fry for sometime. Add fresh chopped coriander and fry well.
  • Add ginger, cumin powder and sauté well.
  • Add onion paste and sauté till the raw smell goes out.
  • Now add second extract of coconut milk and bring to a boil.
  • Put salt and turmeric powder and reduce the sauce to half.
  • Add cinnamon, clove powder and bay leaf.
  • Add first remove of coconut milk and lobster meat slices and simmer for sometime.
  • Garnish with ginger juliennes and fresh coriander sprig., serve hot with Malabar Parottas or Appam

 I appeared in the local newspaper the next day for being at the Faces and Masks party. You can see my picture on the DNA India web site.

An Introduction to Moroccan Cuisine

Moroccan cuisine is unlike other Arab, African or Mediterranean foods that you may be familiar with. Although it has influences from other regions around it, Moroccan gastronomy offers an interesting offering of meats, vegetables and spices. Characteristic flavorings include preserved lemons, unrefined olive juices and dried fruits. Spices such as saffron, turmeric, cumin and paprika as well as herbs like parsley, cilantro and mint are heavily used.

A typical Moroccan meal starts with a variety of hot and cold salads. Some of these are relatively easy to prepare, such as boiled beets or carrots seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Moroccan salad is a mixture of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Zaalouk is a mixture of crushed eggplant and tomatoes mixed with garlic and spices, served cold. Harira is Morocco’s famous lentil and tomato soup, which is also used to break the fast at Ramadan. Khobz, traditional Moroccan bread is served at all meals. You would see everyone from street peddlers to small stores selling it.

The main entrée is almost always cooked and served in a Tagine, a dome shaped heavy clay dish that is sometimes painted or glazed for decoration. The Tagine has a flat circular base in which you cook the food and a large cone shaper cover that retains the moisture while cooking. Tagine of meat (beef, lamb), chicken and vegetables is most common.  There is also an array of vegetables prepared in Moroccan cuisine. Roasted whole artichokes with peas, diced pumpkin with cinnamon, quince and green beans are a few staples. Although Morocco has a large coastline, seafood is only found in upscale restaurants.

Couscous is one of the most popular entrées found here and is said to be of Berber origin. Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa from west of the Nile Valley. Couscous is made of semolina and wheat flour by rolling it into fine granules. The end result is of almost powdery consistency which is steamed and served at room temperature with vegetables or meat stew, and sometimes seasoned with saffron to add color.

Pastilla is an elaborate preparation of layers of phyllo, eggs, almond paste and ground cooked chicken or mixed seafood. It is then topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar and can be served as an appetizer or entrée.

Desserts traditionally consist of fresh fruits. There are a number of bakeries and patisseries in Morocco but most of these sweets are eaten with tea between meals. Puff pastry, honey, nuts, dried fruits and powdered sugar are common ingredients used to make the traditional desserts which may remind you of baklava but are far more diverse in flavors. Green tea soaked in fresh mint leaves and Copyright Go Eat Givelots of sugar is indispensable throughout the day. The Moroccan tea culture involves pouring tea from a beautiful silver kettle into small glasses and is enjoyed leisurely with friends and family.

For breakfast or snack, a popular item found everywhere is the Msemmen, a crepe made of whole wheat flour with layering of butter and oil. It can be eaten with jam or honey. Pain cake and doughnuts are also served at tea time as snacks. Walking in the Medina’s, you would find vendors selling boiled chickpeas in paper cones, steamed snails by the bowls, caked and dried fruits. Juice stands sell freshly squeezed orange, tangerine and grapefruit juices that cost under $1 per glass. Although alcohol is not permitted in the Muslim religion, a lot of Moroccans drink in the restraints and bars. While liquor stores may not be so common, beer and wine is available at supermarkets.

As appeared in Do It While You’re Young in January 2011.