Indonesian street food is an inseparable part in the scene of Indonesian cuisines. Colloquially known as “kaki lima”, the sheer variety of Indonesian street food makes it something that could take up your whole trip, if you’re serious about it.
Indonesian street food are just too numerous to list one by one not to mention the variations of each region, varieties created due to Indonesia’s diverse ethnicity and culture—so let’s take a glance at some of the most popular ones you could find everyday on the streets, no matter where you are in Indonesia.
What’s “Street Food” in Indonesia?
Street foods are essentially sold by kaki lima’s vendor (pedagang kaki lima).
Pedagang Kaki Lima literally means “Vendors with Five Legs” which refers to both the seller and the pushing carts used by these mobile vendors (these carts have two wheels and one stabilizer wooden foot, plus two legs of the sellers themselves, thus, the name).
Sellers commonly wheel push carts, and while kaki lima sell things as they move around the area, it’s not uncommon to see carts stationed at certain spots, often on pedestrian sidewalks. Certain dagang kaki lima also rides bicycle to sell their items.
A notable example found in Bali is the vendor of kue putu (Indonesian steamed cake, commonly green-colored, with palm sugar fillings and coconut shreds topping).
The carts used by kaki lima often has LPG-powered stoves or steamer pots to prepare, re-heat, or cook the dishes as they are ordered. “Pikulan” is also something commonly used by street vendors, a method in which the sellers carry their food and equipments by using a rod and balancing them on their shoulders.
Bakso vendors commonly sells mie ayam (chicken noodle), bakmi (also a type of noodle), and batagor (a short for bakso tahu goreng or meatball fried tofu).
Bakso is a popular Indonesian meatball or meat paste served in a bowl with a hot broth; often accompanied by hot chili paste and sweet soy sauce separately, that locals often put into their bowl and mix them before eating. There are numerous varieties of bakso both by ingredients and by regions variety.
To name a few, there are bakso urat, bakso tenis, and bakso Malang, bakso telur, bakso ikan, and many others.
This delicious dish topped with rich and flavorful peanut paste is of Chinese origin (as much of Indonesian delicacies are). Siomay generally refers to fish dumpling with vegetables.
The dish is often served with vegetables such as boiled cabbage and boiled potatoes. Hard-boiled eggs and tofus are some of the most common inclusions to the dish. To those who want to eat Indonesian but is sick of eating rice all day long, Siomay is a perfect alternative.
One of Indonesia’s best known “national” dishes, quite renowned and popular overseas, Often served with sweet soy sauce known as kecap manis.
Just like bakso and other Indonesian cuisines, Sate has numerous variations named after the region it’s originated, the sauce, or the ingredients. There is a unique satay originated from Bali, known as Sate Lilit.
Sate Lilit is often made of fish, but it’s also known to be made out of other meat as its ingredients. They are finely minced and grilled on a charcoal, letting the spices and seasonings absorb perfectly into the texture.
Soto is often named after the regions where they originated. One of the most popular soto with a regional namesake is Soto lamongan, in which some said it’s a variation of the Madura soto. Both soto Lamongan and Madura soto has yellow transparent broth, with shredded chicken meat, hard-boiled egg, often topped with fried shallots.
Originated from the South of Sumatera, Pempek is reminiscent of Chinese fishcake. Although Pempek stood out due to the sauce it’s commonly served with; “cuka”, or as the South Sumatran people called it, “cuko”.
Cuko is a rich brown sauce that looks almost black, made of vinegar and palm sugar, seasoned with garlic, chili, and other ingredients. The taste is rich and sometimes spicy. Cucumber is often added to accompany the meal.
Es Kelapa Muda
Closing the list with a super refreshing natural re-hydration method; coconut water, or as the Indonesian called it, “kelapa muda”.
Generally you can find kelapa muda at nearly any corner of the street, often sold by individuals, usually run as a small family business. Kelapa Muda is often served in transparent plastic bags by the street food vendors.
It’s the perfect companion for any meals and a life-saver for the tropical Indonesian scorching hot climate!