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.


Detox with spices

Often times “spice” is used synonymously with “heat.” Spices are generally used to impart flavors to food, and not all spices are hot. When people refer to spicy food, they are thinking curry, red chili and strong flavors. But the truth is cinnamon and nutmeg are as much as a spice as are cumin and turmeric. There is a reason why spices have been used across cultures for thousands of years. Most spices have some advantages for the body and have been used to treat illnesses, prevent diseases and detox. For example, turmeric is a natural anti septic and Alzheimer’s preventer, while black pepper and curry powder help prevent breast cancer. Continue reading “Detox with spices”

Thandai at the Taste of Atlanta

Taste of Atlanta got a special treat from India today. As part of the “Spice of Life” segment at the “Inside the Food Studio” stage, I talked about different spices and their benefits, and share with participants a very special recipe that many westerners are unfamiliar with. Continue reading “Thandai at the Taste of Atlanta”

Curry Masala

Curry Masala is the only Indian restaurant in Rapid City. “Someone has to serve the vegans, vegetarians and gluten and dairy allergic people” says Al, who is doing the community a service as well as running a successful business in downtown Rapid City. Many of the local patrons are searching for options that are able to meet their diet restrictions, which only Indian cuisine can provide.

There are no frills when it comes to the ambiance or the menu at Curry Masala. Formerly a pizza joint, the space now has few Indian posters and ethnic music in the background of the small but cozy dining area. The menu contains few options which indicate that the ingredients are fresh and everything is made from scratch daily. You won’t find the typical tandoori, tikka masala or naan here (although they are served from time to time). There are one-of-a-kind original dishes that incorporate influences of north and south Indian cuisine.

For appetizer, try the spinach pakora, a delicately fried vegetable fritter served with tamarind and mint chutneys. Entrée selections include rice dishes (biryani, pulao), curries (chicken, beef, fish) and homemade vegetables (cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes). I highly recommend the mango lassi, which is made with mango pulp, buttermilk and cardamoms. It is nothing like you have ever tasted before!

All the recipes are passed by mothers and grandmothers of owners, Al Rodriguez and Justine Ashokar’s families from southern India.

Traditional Indian food is very different than how we know of it here in the west. In Indian households, ingredients are fresh and healthy. Butter, heavy cream, artificial coloring and white flour are never used in home-style cooking. Spice mixtures are made from scratch and attention is given to eating a well balanced diet. Curry Masala has carried on this tradition and offers simply prepared dishes using organic, locally sourced ingredients. It is a real treat for those who wish to eat out but also have to watch their physiological needs. As advertised, Curry Masala offer food that is of good quality, healthy and delicious!

Justine also teaches Indian cooking classes at Curry Masala. If after a lesson you are inspired to go home and try the recipes, you can also buy the spices on site. There is a little storefront at the restaurant. Curry Masala has two locations in Rapid City – a casual cafe on 2050 W. Main St. and a sit town style restaurant at 510 St. Joseph Street.

Not your everyday chicken curry

Chicken curry is a popular dish in India, served at every household and restaurant. The preparation however varies from region to region. The Karwar version of the chicken curry includes coconut and a concoction of spices. These are not your typical out of the box seasoning and a visit to an ethnic grocery store would be required. However, you can prepared the spice mixture ahead of time and store it in an air tight container in the freezer for a long time. 

Preparing the marinade:

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

5 to 6 whole green chilies

2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

Pinch of salt

 Blend all the ingredients in a blender. Add 2 tablespoon water to make a thick paste.

Marinating the chicken:

2 tablespoon plain yogurt

2 lbs chicken pieces (with bones)

Soak the chicken in yogurt and the marinade in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour so the juices get absorbed.

Making your own dry spice mixture:

 12 whole cloves

3 whole cardamoms

12 peppercorns

6 red dried chilies

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

3 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon anise seeds

 Place a wok or large fry pan on medium heat. Once hot, add all the spices and roast for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. The spices would release an aroma once roasted. Do not brown them. Let cool at room temperature. Then use a coffee or spice grinder to grind the spices into a powdery consistency. Store in air tight container until ready to use.

 Finishing the spice blend:

 3 medium onions, coarsely chopped

3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups grated coconut (unsweetened)

2 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

 In a large fry pan, heat the oil. Then fry the onions and coconut lightly. Let cool completely. Then blend with dry spice mixture until thick paste in formed. All steps till this point can be completed ahead of time.

 Cooking the chicken:

 1 small onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

1 teaspoon salt

In a medium size pressure cooker, heat the oil on medium heat. Fry the finely chopped onion till brown in color. Add the marinated pieces of chicken and fry it for 3 minutes. Add the spice mixture and salt to it and fry for another 2 minutes. Add a cup of water and pressure cook for approx. 7 minutes on medium heat. If the whistle blows before 7 minutes take the pressure cooker off the flame.

Serve warm with steamed rice.

An undiscovered gem from southern India

Karwar is a small town on the western coast of India, just south of Goa. It was an ancient site of sea trade visited by the Arabs, Dutch, Portuguese, French and later the British.  Karwar is still known for its pristine beaches and a bustling seaport.

Although a lot of information can be found on Goan cuisine, the cuisine of Karwar is largely a well kept secret. The two happen to have a few commonalities but still differ in taste, flavor and variety. You will not find any cookbooks revealing the regional recipes and the only way to get them is through a native. And so I did! One of my friends happens to be from Karwar. She has also lived in Mumbai and Goa, but is loyal to her Karwari roots. After months of persuasion, she finally let me into her classified kitchen closet in Atlanta where she showed me her stack of whole spices that I had never seen or heard of before. Among these was my new discovery – white kokum phool. Kokum is a small round fruit that has its origins in India. It has a sweet and sour taste, similar to tamarind. It is dried and sold in packet or made into powder. In Karwar cuisine, it is used as generously as salt and pepper.

During the course of the evening, we prepared shrimp fry, fish fry, and coconut chicken curry. The generous hostess had already cooked other side items to go with our banquet style dinner.

The shrimp and fish fry are prepared in the same manner and served as an appetizer.



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Shrimp Fry


1 teaspoon garlic paste

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ lemon

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

½ cup semolina (known as Sooji at Indian stores)

Mix the first four ingredients in a small bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice into the spices and add 1 tablespoon of oil to make it pasty. Rub the spice mixture on the shrimps using the half of the lemon to coat. Leave aside for 5 minutes.

Heat oil in a large fry pan on medium temperature. Spread the semolina on a plate. Lightly coat each shrimp with semolina on both sides, and then add to the hot oil. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Cooking Fusion in your home

In my attempt to stimulate your global palette, this is the second post in a series of Fusion cooking.  These are just some tips that will veer your creativity in the right direction. Keep in mind, there are unlimited possibilities in terms of what you can do yourself!


Trick #2 : Play with spices

Spices have been traded, imported and introduced across borders for many centuries. Some say humans have been using spices since 50,000 BC for medical remedies, food and mummifying. Spice trading was an important activity amongst sailors. Fortunately, we now live in a world where our neighborhood grocery store bestows us the best spices from Asia, Middle East, Europe, Africa and South America – all in one isle!

India is the largest producer of spices in the world, but you need not cook Indian cuisine to enjoy them. Here are some chows and spices from different parts of the world that you can combine to create your own fusion….

Saffron – The sweetness from saffron makes a risotto very flavorful. Use only a pinch in the beginning as it will continue to add color as the risotto cooks. It can also be used with short grain rice or Israeli couscous.

Curry Powder – Use a teaspoon of curry powder as base of soups, before you add stock. It adds a new dimension to your potato leek soup or squash bisque.

Paprika – Sweet and spicy kinds of paprika are sold in Hungary. It is now used to add a little heat in a number of dishes, but the sweet kind can be used more freely. Try a paprika chicken stew using both kinds, but be careful not to go overboard with the spice or you won’t be able to taste anything else.

Cumin Powder – While cumin seeds are lightly roasted and used in some Indian cooking, cumin powder is fine to use straight out of the box. It has a strong peppery fragrance and is best when combined with other spices. You can add it to stews, soup and curries.

Red Pepper – These come in a variety depending on the geographic source and vary in their heat and flavor accordingly. Powdered red pepper should be used to flavor dishes, season meats and add taste. Fry a pinch with oil and roast nuts in the pan for a quick cocktail snack. Rub it on raw chicken or meat along with salt and pepper before you cook. Mix with some crushed peanuts and season fish fillets, then pan fry for a Thai style treat. Sprinkle on breads, add to sauces and don’t be afraid!

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Additionally, spice mixes such as Zatar, Cajun, Garam Masala can be used to season meat and fish and paired with a starch from another cuisine. See Cooks across borders for more ideas.

I am eager to hear from you. What are your favorite spices? Have you had a recipe go wrong by adding too much or too little spice? Please share…