Indonesia culture and dining
Cultural traditions are upheld throughout Indonesia, both within its secluded rural tribes and its megacities. The many unique and culturally diverse performances and festivals organised across the country, including those listed in this guide, have enabled a thriving culinary scene to establish itself across Indonesia.
Since the days of Ancient tribal wars in the rainforests and mountain villages, food has played an important part in developing Indonesia’s national mind-set. Each region and island has its own culinary traditions and staple foods.
International shopping and dining brands are evident across Jakarta and the other major cities, but regional handicrafts that are sold in the towns and villages throughout Indonesia are true specialities. Indonesia, given its significance in the Dutch Empire, also has an influential and important academic heritage.
Indonesia: Award-winning Dining
For millennia Indonesia has welcomed many different cultures and ethnicities from across the world. Unique and unusual dishes, alongside international favourites, can all be found across the country, many now cooked by award-winning food connoisseurs.
Top award-winning restaurants in Jakarta include:
- Namaaz Dining: Focusing on adding a modern culinary twist to Indonesian specialities, served as a 17-course set menu in a modern central Jakarta building, chef Andrian Ishak pays homage to the diverse array of ingredients used throughout Indonesian cooking.
- Arts Café by Raffles: Creating a unique sensory dining experience by utilising sight, smells, sound and taste, Arts Café offers modern art on a plate at the heart of bustling Jakarta.
- Table8: Creating unusual dishes that work, including the “Buddha jumps over the wall soup”, Table8 restaurant brings a uniquely Chinese dining experience to the diners of Indonesia.
Indonesian food is definitely not confined to fine dining; with street stall food a favourite with locals and tourists alike, and sold 24-hours a day. In Bali, after a night of partying, a spicy dish is a welcome reward. As Indonesia was named the Spice Islands when ruled by the Dutch East India Company, it should come as no surprise that spice plays a big part in Indonesian street food. Expect lots of chilli, petai beans, durian fruit, snake beans, and cinnamon.
Indonesia’s many ethnic groups, and the abundance of beach parties and nightclubs, has resulted in many local drink specialities being created. Here are a few of the most common favourites:
- Bandrek – A very sweet hot drink made from coconut sugar, coconut pieces and copious amounts of ginger – Prominent in West Java.
- Kopi Luwak – Locally produced coffee that’s passed through the digestive system of the Civet cat, and then roasted – Found across Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara.
- Brem – A famous alcoholic drink produced from a Southeast Asian alcoholic paste called Tapai – Found only in Bali.
- Dadiah – Produced from buffalo milk, this Sumatran speciality is like a thick yoghurt with a slightly sour taste – Only available in West Sumatra.
The lively beaches of Bali are almost the right of passage for any backpacker visiting Asia. Bali is the indisputable party capital of Southeast Asia, and has been since the 1960s, when it was a favourite with wandering hippies and surfers. In the mega nightclubs of Kuta, on Bali Island, thousands of backpackers can be seen letting their hair down and enjoying the endless flow of cheap alcohol and cheap street foods. Sky Garden in Legian is a complex of nightclubs within a nightclub, offering free-flowing Bintang Beer, lasers, live DJs and an all-you-can-eat buffet on the rooftop terrace.
Jakarta, as the capital and largest city also has a thriving nightlife scene. Alongside heaving nightclubs, Jakarta also plays host to many high-class cocktail and piano bars. KEMIXTRI a gastro-bar inside the Pullman Jakarta Indonesia hotel offers modern cocktails with a relaxed atmosphere and jazz music. Hotel Borobudur Jakarta plays host to an intimate piano and live music bar, often with live piano and woodwind instrument bands gracing guests with their presence.