Despite 350 years of Dutch colonialism of the 13,500+ islands making up what was then known as the Dutch East Indies, it was the Chinese, Indian, Arab and Persian influences that had a lasting impact on the culinary gastronomy of a myriad of Indonesia’s dishes. Heavily influenced by Animism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, Indonesia’s diverse cultures are reflected in their varied dishes.


With about 90% of Indonesians being Muslim, Bali is a fascinatingly unique island in the Indonesian archipelago with most of its inhabitants practicing Hinduism. In the eyes of a Hindu-Balinese, life is a continuous cycle of death & rebirth until one attains moksa. Rituals at various stages of a person’s life on this island are important to ensure that one progresses towards this desired state. Offerings in the form of foodstuff are essential with every ritual occasion, producing colourful, highly symbolic art forms that denote a spirit of thankfulness of the Balinese peoples. 

Some forms of offerings:

At the start of the day, simple offerings like cooked rice are made to honour the household spirits.

Gebogan are towering multi-layered offerings constructed around the base of a banana trunk. They are prepared by the women and are offered to the deities at temples. The first layer usually consist of fruits, followed by a colourful assortment of rice cakes and then a canang sari offering topped by an immense display of flowers. (Gabogan pic thanks to Farl from flikr.com)


Gayah or sate gede is an elaborate offering made of meats, this time made by the men. It is said to represent the animal kingdom, complementing the kingdom of plant life represented in offerings like the gebogan made by the women. (Gayah pic thanks to larry&flo from flikr.com)



Daily foods:

Pork, which is a taboo in Muslim societies, are eaten widely in Bali, especially so In festive dishes like the famous bali guling (spit-roasted pig). Lawar is also another classic festive dish that uses the innards of leftover meat offerings/sacrificed animals (pic thanks to joone! from flikr.com).

lawar-lawar bebek

Regional favourites.

In Indonesia, soups fall into 3 categories: sop (a clear Chinese-inspired broth), soto (meatier, usually served as a meal on its own) & sayur (a hybrid within a soup and a stew, with the implement of a variety of vegetables within the gravy that is usually spooned over rice to moisten & flavor the rice).

(pictures from zoyachubby, deku, kkil- all from flickr.com)

sop ubi-beef soup, sulawesi


soto ayam-chicken broth & fried potatoes

sayur lodeh-java

Rice & NoodlesT

he legacy of Chinese immigrants in Indonesia can be found in the tradition of rice & noodles, from the quintessential Indonesian Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice) to Bakmie Goreng (Indonesian stir-fried noodles), rice and noodle dishes in Indonesia are incredibly versatile.

Sweet Treats

A large variety of traditional sweet snacks and desserts are found along street stalls, using tropical ingredients like coconut and rice. Tea & coffee are essential drinks especially in a predominantly Muslim country- an Indonesian specialty with the vast tea & coffee plantations first set up by the Dutch colonialists. (photos thanks to ikaray.com & PopoF from flikr.com)

dadarbmp.jpgdadar-sticky coconut crepes

bubuh injin-sticky black rice pudding

Pikir itu pelita hati.

Thought is the light of the heart – indonesian proverb


ReferencesBasan, Ghillie & Laus, Vilma.The food and cooking of Indonesia and the Philippines. Anness Publishing Ltd: London. 2007.Guthrie, Debbie & Morillot ,Juliette & Toh, Irene (editors). Bali: A Traveller’s Companion. Editions Didlier Millet Pte Ltd: Singapore. 2000.

Mowe, Rosalind (editor).  Southeast Asian Specialties: a culinary journey through Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Konemann: Cologne. 1999




4 Responses to “indonesia”

  1. 1 sylvia
    March 17, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Hey this is interesting! But what is animalism? I have several Indonesian friends but I’ve never asked them about their food. Is it the same as the Indonesian food sold in Singapore?

  2. 2 siti.
    March 18, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Hey thanks! It’s actually animism not animalism. Animism is the belief that all living things in nature, including the animals, trees, plants & rocks have a soul and spirit.

    I think the Indonesian foods here in Singapore are slightly different and are under the guise of the label “Malay” food. Of course, the label is totally ambiguous as within “Malay” foods, there are many variations like Javanese, Boyanese etc (just like Chinese cuisines which have different versions like Hainanese & Teochew etc). Like for instance, it’s hard to find authentic bakso unless you go to an indonesian specialty restaurant in Singapore. And even then, it could be a fusion dish of sorts to suit the differing tastebuds of Singaporeans.

    Have you tried any of the desserts? They are quite common actually. Like the Indonesian kuih dadar is actually almost like the green Peranakan version in Singapore.

  3. 3 mateen
    March 18, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Firsly, good stuff! Interesting and definitely enriching. I was unaware of some of the facts that you brought up, especially with regards to the food that I usually eat! Lol. Anw, as for the contents I think you nailed it. However, in terms of presentation, you need to make it better and more interesting. You design freaking cool blog layouts and I’m very sure, you have yet to maximize your potential for this one. The font is not suitable cos it’s very hard to read, you can get cooler and funkier fonts from http://www.1001fonts.com – that’s where I always get my fonts. On the other hand, perhaps getting video footages of the rituals performed by the Balinese people would make the webby more interesting. Make it more interactive! Engage us – the readers! Like I’ve mentioned, I love all your blog layouts because they are cool and it makes me go – wow! They are unique and eye-catching! So, I really think you should try to improve the layout and design. Nonetheless, it is still good. I think at the end of the day, you should ask yourself if you really like what you see on that webby. Do you feel happy with it? Cos, it is only if you do, then you feel satisfied and we, as readers would be able to see that truckload worth of effort you have put in! feel free to ask me for anything.i’ll be more than willing to help.

  4. 4 siti.
    March 19, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    hey thanks for the comments!

    i actually agree with you abt the fonts.. it IS hard to read, maybe it’s because there’s just so much content.

    and yeah, a video’s pretty cool. great idea! (:

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March 2008


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