Explore the Culture and Cuisine of Indonesia

With an enchanting landscape of over 13,000 islands, cool white sandy beaches, attractive temples of Bali and the pristine lands of Sumatra, Indonesia has something unique to offer to all its visitors. The bustling night markets and the friendliest of locals, make Bali a long-time honey-pot for travellers.

Indonesia is also a paradise for food-lovers, intertwining Chinese, Indian, European and native South-East Asian flavours, Indonesian cooking is brim with global influences. Spicy relishes, fresh herbs and hearty curries all hark to Indonesia’s history as a culinary melting pot.

The Rich Cultural Heritage of Indonesia

Amazing Facts about Indonesia

The first Indonesian holiday destination that comes to one’s mind is Bali. It’s undoubtedly one of the most-sought after holiday destinations for Aussies. Whether you are nursing a Bali holiday nostalgia, or waiting for the opportunity to go, this series of recipes will conjure the sounds, tastes and smells of an authentic Bali holiday, but without the cost of return flights.

The water surrounding the Indonesian archipelago is a crystal clear stretch of unparalleled wonder. Also, the Indonesian cuisine is quite capable of blowing your mind. Here are 9 amazing Facts about Indonesia that are rarely known.

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Rarest rhino

The Javan rhino is an animal that can only be found in Indonesia. Nowhere else will you find this rare and endangered animal. It is the most endangered of all Rhino species.

Land of dragons

In Indonesia, on the island of Komodo, dwells the Komodo dragon, a dangerous big reptile. Komodo dragons live only in the national park of the Komodo Island.

Colour changing lakes

At the top of the Indonesian volcano Kelimutu are situated three miraculous lakes, each of which periodically changes colour from turquoise to green, red and black.

Big on badminton

Indonesians are fanatical about badminton, often winning gold medals at the Olympic Games in this sport.

Islands in the sea

Of Indonesia’s estimated 17,508 islands, only around 6,000 are inhabited by people.

Diverse cultural backgrounds

Indonesia is extremely culturally diverse. In fact, there are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia, each with their own customs, traditions, and dialects.

Frog exports

Indonesia exports 3,000 tons of frogs’ legs to France each year.

Fourth most visited country in the world

Indonesia became popular in the 1900s. Now this beautiful country ranks fourth among the most visited countries in the world.

An overview of Indonesian Culture and Tradition

Marriage customs across the world are so vibrant and diverse, owing to long-held cultural beliefs. In the Western world, for instance, it is traditional for the bride to walk down the aisle and carry her “something blue”. The culture and traditions of Indonesia are so intriguing that you will want to delve deeper into it. In the eastern parts, things are vastly different.

A Balinese marriage is a beautiful painting of of romance, mysticism and unique wedding processions based on interesting Balinese Hindu rituals that are steeped in Asian culture.

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There are two different traditions – the Ngerorod and the Mapadik.

Ngerorod Marriage

This marriage is best described as a dramatic elopement, where the bride is kidnapped by the friends and family of her husband-to-be. As part of the tradition, she fakes distress and pretends to fight off her kidnappers. She is carried off to a place with the groom. Without any luck, the bride’s family returns from a search party, during which time, the groom and bride will be live as though they are married, making offerings to the gods. Days later, an official celebration follows, which is merely a formality as the couple is already considered married in the eyes of the gods.

Mapadik Marriage

This type of marriage is another dramatic, yet practical and more traditional than the Ngerorod marriage. It is a lavish wedding ceremony. Prior to the marriage ceremony, there are a number of visits between the families, where gifts and food are exchanged. Professional musicians and an enormous banquet entertain the guests. Elaborate clothing is worn and post ceremony, the bride and groom feed each other delicious food from the vibrant Indonesian platter. An imitation of their domestic duties is performed whilst being watched and encouraged by their family as a symbolic act of their future life together. Other rituals and blessings are then bestowed upon the couple, followed by the reception.

Cooking Culture of Indonesia

2649167161_ef9236188f_oThe vibrant and diverse cuisine of Indonesia cuisine is said to be heavily influenced by ancient traders who brought along ingredients from their home country, lending Indonesian cuisine its rich variety. Discover the flavourful and colourful aspect of Indonesian cooking and culture.

Indian merchants brought curries and dried spices. The Chinese traders and immigrants contributed soybean, noodles and the technique of stir-frying, while the Arabs introduced kebabs and aromatic spices.With these, Indonesian cooking and culture is as colourful as it can get.


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Indonesian local favourites are the well-known fried rice (Nasi Goreng), Satay (meat skewers), Beef Rendang, Sambal, and Tempeh (fermented soybean cakes). Rice, being the staple of Indonesia and Southeast Asia, is typically eaten plain, combined with a meat dish, a vegetable dish, sambal and crunches like fried peanuts or fried anchovies. Sometimes, the rice is steamed in woven packets of coconut leaves to make what is called a ketupat. It is also steamed in banana leaves and served as lontong.

Indonesians like their food mildly spicy with a predominance of ginger, garlic and fresh turmeric. Commonly, all the dishes are cooked in advance and later enjoyed at room temperature.

Local Indonesian dishes are named after their main ingredient and cooking method. For example, Ayam Goreng combines the words ‘ayam’ (chicken) and ‘goreng’ (frying), denoting fried chicken.

Traditional Indonesian kitchens have firewood-fuelled kitchen stove. Conventional cooking utensils include the Wajan (wok), Penggorengan (frying pan), Panci (cauldron), knives, types of spoon and fork, Parutan (shredder), and Ulekan and Lesung (stone mortar and pestle). The customary stone mortar and a pestle are used to grind the spices and ingredients into coarse or fine pastes.

With urbanisation, contemporary houses today use liquefied petroleum gas-fuelled stove or an electric stove. The cook wares, plates and containers are made from metals such as iron, tin, stainless steel, aluminum, ceramics, plastics, and glass.

The “Spice Island”

spice-island As with other South-East Asian cuisines, Indonesian dishes weave together sweet, salty, spicy and sour elements in each dish. It is often known as the “Spice Island” as chillis are found in almost every meal! A common use of chillis is in sambal, a traditional chilli sauce used to accompany a meal. Over 300 varieties of sambal can be found across Indonesia featuring peanuts, shrimp paste or even pineapple. Here is a recipe for the most basic sambal.

From tangy kaffir limes to the sweet-salty kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce), the Indonesian pantry can seem very exotic and a bit unfamiliar. Well-stocked supermarkets and Asian stores provide each of these Indonesian pantry basics:

    1. Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce) is a syrupy sauce made from soy sauce and palm sugar. It has a very different flavour to the salty light soy sauce commonly used in Chinese cooking.
    2. It also uses Herbs and Spice like Lemongrass, Limes, Shallots, and palm sugar made from the sap of date palms, adding a flavour and colour similar to that of raw cane sugar. Palm sugar is used to create that all-important sweet balance against the salty and sour elements in Indonesian cooking.
    3. Coconut milk – is traditionally made by grating fresh coconuts and squeezing the pulp with water. Thankfully good coconut milk can be bought from our local supermarkets for use in curries, rice dishes and drinks.
    4. White Pepper – is the seed of the pepper plant with the dark husky outer layer removed. White pepper has a smoother, subtler flavour compared to black pepper.
    5. Kaffir Lime Leaves – are the ovular shaped leaves of the kaffir lime tree. They are widely used across South-East Asia both in the spice mix and added whole to soups and curries.


  1. Chillies – Here is an overview of the Chillies used in the Indonesian Cooking
    • Jalapeno chilli: finger-length chilli with a shiny skin. Is easily found in most supermarkets either in green or red colours. Both the chillies have a similar heat level.
    • Bird’s eye chilli: What they lack in size, they make up for with heat. Also known as ‘scuds’, these are much spicier than their finger-length cousins.
    • Dried red chillies: they are made by drying jalapenos or scuds. When dried, these chillies take on an intense and smoky flavour. They are typically soaked in warm water before being adding to a dish.
  2. The Sauces – In Indonesia, soy sauce is known as kecap (also ketjap), which is a catch-all term for fermented sauces. Kecap Manis is an Indonesian sauce similar to sweet soy sauce – flavoured with garlic and/or star anise. Kecap Manis is sweetened with palm sugar and is used as a condiment. The sauce is thick and has a rich caramel flavour, is not salty at all.

ABC Sauces

ABC Sauces
ABC Sweet Soy Sauce is an authentic, high quality, locally made-in-Indonesia product which is exported worldwide. It is the No. 1 selling Indonesian sweet soy sauce in Australia. The word ‘Manis’ in ‘Kecap Manis’ means ‘sweet’ (pronounced keh-chup mah-nees). Sweetness is one of the main flavours in Indonesian food, and the key ingredient is most definitely the sweet soy sauce.

ABC Soy Sauce is made of selected yellow soy beans, wheat and palm sugar, blended with other high quality ingredients. The ideal blend of wheat and soybean results in a unique umamu (gurih) flavour of ABC Sweet Soy Sauce. Its thickness and viscosity is the result of the high quality palm sugar processing. Every ABC Sweet Soy Sauce products are processed using natural fermentation, under hygienic condition and modern technology.



Indonesian Roast Chicken Recipe

Here’s an exotic recipe of Indonesian Roast Chicken using ABC Sweet Soy Sauce. Enjoy the succulent taste of roasted chicken with a burst of other flavours served on a banana leaf platter that adds a zing to your taste buds.

Indonesian Roast Chicken Recipe
Cooking Time: 25-40 mins
Serves: 4
Course: Main
Cook Method: Roast

1 x size 14 Chicken

For the Marinade
1⁄2 cup ABC Kecap manis
1/3 cup Coconut Milk
4 Kaffir Lime Leaves, thinly sliced
1 Cinnamon Quill, crushed
1 Green Chilli, finely chopped
1 Tblsp Fresh Ginger, grated
1⁄2 tsp Salt
30g Palm Sugar
1⁄4 tsp Black pepper, freshly ground
To Serve

Banana Leaves, Steamed Rice, Lime Wedges, Mango Sambal

Preparation steps
1. Lay chicken breast side down on a chopping board, using kitchen shears cut along both sides of the backbone.
2. Lay chicken flat and cut through the breastbone to form two halves.
3. Turn chicken over and make a cut in each leg and breast in the thickest part.
4. Place chicken into a shallow dish.
5. Combine marinade ingredients together and mix well. Pour marinade over the chicken and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours up 24 hours. Turn chicken occasionally.
6. Cook chicken on a pre-heated BBQ or Grill basting well for 25 – 30 minutes. If cooking in the oven pre-heat oven 190c and roast for 40 minutes, basting occasionally.
7. Rest chicken 10 minutes before serving on a banana leaf with steamed rice, mango sambal and salad. Drizzle with a little extra ABC Kecap manis.

Other Indonesian Recipes

Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4
Course: Entrée
Cook Method: Blanch / Blend
400g Green beans, topped & tailed
2 Tblsp Roasted Sesame seeds
1 Shallot, finely chopped


¾ cup Roasted Peanuts skin on
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 med Red Chilli, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp Salt
30g Palm Sugar
3cm Piece Lemon Grass, finely sliced
4 cm Piece Ginger, peeled & chopped
1 Lime zested & juiced
¼ tsp Black Pepper, cracked
4 Tblsp ABC Kecap manis
120mls Coconut Milk
¼ cup Water
Toasted shredded coconut to garnish
Shredded Kaffir Lime Leaves and Lime Wedges to garnish
Preparation steps
1. Prepare beans and blanch in boiling salted water 4 minutes then refresh in iced water until required.
2. Using a large mortar & pestle crush the peanuts finely, add the sesame oil, chilli, garlic, salt, palm sugar, lemon grass, ginger, pepper, lime zest & juice until well combined.
3. Add the ABC Kecap manis and coconut milk to the peanut paste and blend until sauce is smooth. Taste and season with salt. Place sauce and water into a small pan and heat over a low heat stirring 2 mins.
4.Combine the drained beans, sesame seeds and shallot in a large bowl.
5. Arrange the beans on a large serving platter and pour over the peanut and coconut dressing.
6. Garnish with toasted coconut and shredded kaffir lime leaves and Lime Wedges.
Cooking Time: 90 mins
Serves: 4
Course: Main
Cook Method: Stir fry
1.5kg Gravy Beef, diced
Salt & Pepper
1 Tblsp Oil
1 lge Onion, thinly sliced
Curry Paste
2 lge Red Chilli, finely chopped
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
2-3cm piece Ginger, peeled & chopped
4cm piece Lemongrass, sliced
4 Kaffir Lime leaves, sliced
¼ tsp Turmeric ground
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper
2 Tblsp Oil
200mls Coconut Milk
4 Tblsp ABC Kecap Manis
¼ cup Water
30g Cashews ground
Preparation steps
1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and brown beef well. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and brown well. Set aside.
2. Using a mortar & pestle or a small food processor blend red chilli, shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, salt, black pepper and oil into a smooth paste.
3. Heat the frying pan over a medium heat and cooking stirring 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, kecap manis, water stir and cashews until liquid boils.
4. Place the beef and onions into a heavy casserole dish and stir in the curry paste and coconut milk. Cover and cook over a low heat stirring occasionally until meat is tender. 1 ½ - 2 hours.
5. Serve curry with steamed rice and cucumber salad garnish with fried shallots and lime.
Cooking Time: 90 mins
Serves: 4
Course: Main
Cook Method: Roast/Grill
1.5kg Pork Belly Strips or Bone in Ribs


5 Tblsp ABC Kecap Manis
1 Lime zested & Juiced
1 Sweet Red Chilli, chopped
1 Tblsp Ginger, grated
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
30g Palm Sugar
1 tsp Sesame Oil
2 tsp Lemongrass, finely chopped
1 Tblsp Oil
Preparation steps
1. Place the Pork belly strips into a large plastic bag.
2. Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a large mortar and pestle or small food processor and mix well.
3. Pour marinade over the Pork and marinate the strips in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or up to 24 hours.
4. Place the Pork strips into a large shallow baking dish, bake in the pre-heated oven 40 minutes turning and basting frequently.
5. Serve sticky pork with wedges of lime, rice and salad.
Cooking Time:
Serves: 4
Course: Main
Cook Method: Simmer
300g beef shank, dice cut
1 onion, make a large chop
2 liters of water
1 celery stalk
1 cinnamon
1 lemongrass
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 turnip cut in half, thin slices
3 tablespoons of ABC Sweet Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
1 tomato, dice cut
Add Salt and Sugar to taste
1 teaspoon of peppercorn
3 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
Preparation steps
1. Bring the water to boil. Add the beef and onion. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beef is tender (30-45 minutes). Add Celery.
2. Sauté the garlic, peppercorn and nutmeg until fragrant. Add cinnamon, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Add sautéed ingredients to the soup and return to boil.
3. Add turnip until cooked. Add ABC Sweet Soy Sauce and tomato. Add salt and sugar to taste. Remove from the heat.
4. Serve in a bowl. Add spring onion, fried shallot and fried soybean as a complement. Add ABC Sweet Soy Sauce and a squeeze of limejuice.
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 13-17
Course: Entrée
Cook Method: Grill
250g of minced lamb
1 teaspoon of curry powder
½ minced onion
Salt and Sugar to taste

Basting Sauce:

1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of ABC Sweet Soy Sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper powder

Dipping Sauce:

5 cloves of shallot
1 tomato, diced
5 pieces of chili, chopped
5 tablespoon ABC Sweet Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 kaffir lime leaves, crushed
Preparation steps
1. Prepare beans and blanch in boiling salted water 4 minutes then refresh in iced water until required.
2. Using a large mortar & pestle crush the peanuts finely, add the sesame oil, chilli, garlic, salt, palm sugar, lemon grass, ginger, pepper, lime zest & juice until well combined.
3. Add the ABC Kecap manis and coconut milk to the peanut paste and blend until sauce is smooth. Taste and season with salt. Place sauce and water into a small pan and heat over a low heat stirring 2 mins.
4.Combine the drained beans, sesame seeds and shallot in a large bowl.
5. Arrange the beans on a large serving platter and pour over the peanut and coconut dressing.
6. Garnish with toasted coconut and shredded kaffir lime leaves and Lime Wedges.
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4
Cook Method: Fry
4 thick flesh fish portions or tails
½ cup ABC Kecap Manis
½ cup Cornflour
¼ cup Rice flour
¼ tsp Chilli powder
¼ tsp Flaked salt
¼ tsp White Pepper
Oil to shallow fry


1 tsp Oil
1 Shallot, finely chopped
4cm Ginger, peeled and finely sliced
½ cup ABC Kecap Manis
1 Lime zested & juiced
1 Tblsp Oil
2 Kaffir Lime leaves, shredded
1 sweet Chilli, finely chopped
4cm Ginger, finely sliced
2 cloves Garlic, finely sliced
1 Shallots, finely chopped
3 Spring Onion, finely sliced
To Serve ABC Kecap Manis to serve
Preparation steps
1. Lay fish flat on the board and make two small cuts in the thickest part of the portion or tail.
2. Pour the ABC Kecap manis into a shallow dish.
3. Combine the flours, chilli powder, salt and white pepper together and place on a large shallow plate.
4. Brush or coat the fish portions in the kecap manis then dust the fillets well with the coating mixture. Allow to stand 10 minutes.
5. Combine the sauce ingredients together in a small pan and bring to the boil.
6. Heat the oil in a large wok or fryer and fry the fish 4-5 minutes on each side until fish is cooked through. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
7. Serve crispy fish on banana leaves, garnish with sautéed topping ingredients accompany with steamed rice and salad.


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