The best thing about travelling Indonesia, to us, is the food. The cheap eats that we can find in small local places, or better yet from carts and motorcycles lining the streets at night! Our days are focused on meal-times, three mini adventures a day! When we decided to write this post, we found it oddly easy to come up with a list of our favourites, that we both agreed on.
Here you have it, ladies and gents, our top five cheap eats from Indonesia!
Yes, the food that made the Colonel famous. Thickly battered and fried, one crunchy bite and you’ll be hooked. Walk the streets after night fall and you’ll eventually stumble upon a food cart stacked high with the golden brown goodness. It’s noticeably less greasy than much of the fried chicken back home, so you’ll feel less guilty after you eat it. However, the real reason you absolutely must try it is the crunch. IT’S SO CRUNCHY! I’ve had a lot of fried chicken. The American south is famous for the stuff. It’s different here, but just as good. The crunch and the fact that it’ll cost you less than 10k rupiah make it a must try cheap eat while in Indonesia.
Chicken or pork skewered with wooden sticks over red coaled, smokey grills. The smell fills your nostrils and starts your mouth watering well before you’ve reached the seller. After being pulled off the grill, the charred meat it slathered in homemade peanut sauce and chili before being wrapped in brown paper and stapled shut. Finding a sate vendor is easy enough, as it’s a popular dish with locals and tourists alike. The amount of meat on a skewer can vary vendor to vendor, but on average you buy ten at a time. Add a side of rice and your total will come to around 10-20k rupiah for a meal. Sate is a cheap eat that’s abundant and always tasty!
Chicken soup for the soul! This meal I craved long before we returned to Indonesia. I once found a vendor in Ubud, Bali whom I would return to night after night, even if I had eaten dinner already, just to enjoy a bowl or two of his masterful creation. It’s easily differentiated from the many other soups in Indonesia by its yellow broth, which comes from turmeric used in making it. Vermicelli noodles, chicken, and celery leaves, topped off with half a hard-boiled egg and some fried shallots make a winning combination. Soto Ayam is traditionally a little spicy, but if you’re feeling brave you can add some extra sambal (chili) to the soup to kick things up a notch. Some places might add their own touch to the dish adding ingredients like rice or fried potatoes. Truth is I’ve never met a bowl I didn’t finish. A bowl will run you 8-10k rupiah. The impression it leaves on your taste buds will last a lifetime.
Nasi Campur translates as ‘mixed rice’ in English. The two most common places you’ll find this dish are at a warung or by the side of the road in a prepackaged brown paper ‘tepee”. A warung is a small family owned business and may not always mean restaurant. However, the warungs we know and love have windows stacked high with different local dishes. They’ll start you off with a plate of rice and then go to work adding whichever dishes you choose on top. Make sure to grab a packet of home made ‘crispies’ to compliment your meal. Pro tip: Pick one teeming with locals. Locals mean good, clean food and cheap prices. It’s also advantageous to choose a warung with a menu. Because you pay based on what you choose, it’s not uncommon to pick your meal then get charged double what the price really should be. You can walk out of a warung filled to the brim for 10-20k (including an iced tea!). For the plethora of options, and the sheer number of warungs around, you can’t leave Indonesia without trying one. You’re sure to fall in love like so many others before you.
My first taste of Mie Ayam gave me a feeling I’ve felt few times in my life. Other meals that have given me this feeling: Suckling Pig- Ipoh, Malaysia, Shoyu Ramen,- Tokyo, Japan, Franklin Barbecue- Austin, Texas. Those meals have sat alone for three years as my big 3. Mie Ayam rates just below them, but left just as big of an impression. The dish is simple really. Yellow wheat noodles cooked al dente and tossed in oil, soy sauce and garlic, topped with spring onion, Chinese cabbage, crispy wontons, and seasoned chicken. Served with a side of chicken broth to add as you like. It’s a very unassuming dish that will surprise the most seasoned of foodies. The flavors are so simple, yet hit every taste bud in just the right way. Look for a small place specializing in nothing but different variations of Mie Ayam. When it’s the only thing they do, they tend to be very very good at it. My favorite vendor is located in south Bali between the airport and Uluwatu, next to The Hill Hotel. He is ALWAYS busy and the restaurant is full from 5pm when they open to midnight when they close. Basic Mie Ayam costs 8-10k rupiah with other variants costing as much as 15k. Find the right place and the dish will change the way you think about food forever.
What are your favourite Indonesian dishes? Do you cook them at home? Let us know in the comments below!
Where did you find your favourite cheap eats?