What I Eat in Indonesia

Adapted from the original “What I Eat” at http://www.neverskipdessertblog.com/what-i-eat/.

–By Mackenzie Findlay–

I’ve now lived in Indonesia for twelve of the last fifteen months – and in all the blog posts I’ve written, I don’t think I’ve talked much about food. You might be thinking to yourself, what is Indonesian food? Do you like it? Can you find any Western food?

Brief answers, Indonesian food is rice + meat, few vegetables, and usually fried. Sometimes noodles (fried). Sometimes rice + meat in a broth. Sometimes it involves peanut sauce.

1) Yes, I love it. It’s enak sekali, very delicious.

2) Rarely.

I’ve been taking pictures of my meals for the last few weeks in anticipation of making a post about food – so here is a photo food tour of what I eat in Indo!

Chicken Sate


Chicken sate is one of my favorite foods – it’s like a chicken kabob smothered in peanut sauce. SO. GOOD. Cost = Rp 30,000 = $2.23

Cap Cay


Cap Cay is one of the few meals that you can get vegetables. Sometimes there is chicken in it but it is usually a big plate of vegetables in a yummy sauce with rice. This one is in a really nice cafe with fantastic AC (big, big plus). Cost = Rp 22,000 = $1.64.

Fried Tempe


Fried tempe is ubiquitous in Indonesia. It’s a snack, it’s a side, it’s a meal – it’s delicious. My Bahasa tutor taught me to make fried tempe one weekend and I am thrilled to have finally learned to cook something Indonesian! The sauce above is called “ketchup manis” – here, Ketchup is called saus tomat and ketchup manis is like a sweet soy sauce. Fried tempe dipped in ketchup manis is excellenttttt.

Ikan Bakar


Alright, so this is my favorite meal in all of Kendari. I try and go here once a week if I can. Ikan bakar is grilled fish, and as you can see on the left, they serve you the whole damn thing, head to tail. This place thinks I really like rice, so they usually bring me two plates, which I definitely can’t finish. In the bowl on the right is sayur, vegetables in a yummy broth. And in the middle IS THE MOST DELICIOUS PEANUT SAUCE EVER. It has tomato chunks in it and you can mix in chilis, lime, etc. IT’S SO GOOD. I go to this restaurant for the sauce alone. To eat this, you spoon some veggies/broth over the rice, add some peanut sambal, and then dig into the fish – with you hands! Dig in, grab some meat, scoop it up (with your fingers) with some rice, veggies, peanut sauce and shovel the whole thing in your mouth. (Video to come later) So damn good. Total cost = Rp 25,000 = $1.86.



Little rice, shrimp crackers that come as a side to everything. Very light, airy and delicious (as long as they aren’t too fishy).

Soto Ayam Lamongam


Chicken soup (with rice of course). Delicious. A staple in my diet. Cost = Rp 18,000 (including ice tea) = $1.34.

Traditional Kendari Food


This is what my counterpart served us when we went to her house for lunch one afternoon. The brown broth in the middle was a beef broth mixture, the whiter one is sayur (vegetables) made with jackfruit, there is some chicken in the orange bowl, rice, and of course, sinonggi (bowl on the right of goo). See below…


Sinonggi is bizarre because it is tasteless and shapeless. Some people describe it as liquid glue. Some describe it as snot. Take your pick. You do not chew sinonggi (you couldn’t if you tried). You just literally swallow it. This is not easy to do. However, my counterpart was kind enough to cut it into little pieces for me, which made it much easier to swallow whole. In the end, I’d say I liked it – but it is weird AF.

Nasi Kuning


Nasi kuning (yellow rice) is a common breakfast food. This was a favorite breakfast when I lived in Palangkaraya. Tisia and I would often come here. Yellow rice, noodles, and chicken in a yummy, slightly spicy sauce. Cost = Rp 15,000 = $1.11.

Soto Banjar


This soup is Kendari’s version of Soto Banjar (soup from Banjarmasin). It’s pretty good and satisfies my cravings. However, I really really miss the soto banjar in Palangkaraya. Banjarmasin is only about four hours from Pky (we were evacuated there many, many times) and so there is a strong influence of the Banjar culture in Pky. Thus, the soto banjar is incredible and I literally ate it for breakfast almost every single day (the other days I ate nasi kuning, see above). Cost = Rp 15,000 = $1.11.


Nasi Goreng


Nasi goreng is probably the most classic Indonesian dish. Fried rice, sometimes served with an egg, or chicken. Eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It was Spencer’s first meal when he came to visit last year 🙂 Cost = Rp 20,000 = $1.49.

Indonesian Desserts


I do not like Indonesian desserts. They are spongy, squishy, sugary, and otherwise unappetizing. Unfortunately, Indonesians love to force feed me food, particularly sweets. I do everything I can to avoid it. This was a wedding where I was thrilled to have 20 women pushing plates of sugary sponge cakes at me. Not. I suggested to my ibus that we share a plate so that I could “have room to try them all.” aka could try a tiny bite and then they would finish it for me.


This looks like confetti cake. Trust me, it’s not.

Jagung Bakar

Grilled corn. Very popular in Indonesia. I would get grilled corn with Tisia all the time last year. So, so good.

Mackenzie Findlay is a second-year English Teaching Assistant placed at MAN 1 Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi. Previously, she taught at SMAN 5 Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. She is a scuba diver, bookworm and a mac’n cheese addict. In her time in Indonesia, she has become an expert mosquito-zapper, tempe-lover, and professional nap-taker. Mackenzie loves working with her students, inside and outside the classroom, as well as the ample free time to practice Bahasa with her Indonesian friends, exercise, and explore the region. She keeps her own blog at www.neverskipdessertblog.com.

2 thoughts on “What I Eat in Indonesia

  1. I’m an Indonesian Fulbrighter who spent my Fulbright years in Boston and had since come back to Indonesia, so I followed your series of pictures of Indonesian food with delight because they mirror my journey in the US in terms of the variety of food and my fondness of a lot of different foods that I found in the US. I was a little surprised to learn that you dip your tempe in kecap manis, sounds horrible to me, but I guess that’s how people in Kendari eat tempe? And the Soto Lamongan, which originated from East Java by the way, looks a bit weird.

    Whenever you visit Surabaya please let me know, I would be more than happy to have you stay in my house (I and my wife live in this small house with one guest bedroom), and take you around Surabaya and introduce you to Surabayan food, including the original Soto Lamongan 🙂 Enjoy your time in Indonesia!

    • Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful comment! This year there are actually two ETAs who live in the Surabaya area–one in Wonokromo and the other in Sidoarjo. We will put them in touch with you. Thanks again for reading!
      The Editors

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