Typical dishes you should try
The best vegan and vegetarian food in Indonesia
Indonesia - from volcanoes to rainforests and rice terraces to worldfamous hotspots for surfing and diving. In addition to its breathtaking landscape, the largest island nation in the world has a diverse culture and thus also a lot to offer culinarily!
The authentic Indonesian cuisine definitely includes rice, tempeh (fermented soybeans), kejap manis (sweet soy sauce), chili and peanuts.
For authentic and affordable food, you should definitely try the local warungs. These are the local street restaurants where you can find a variety of delicious Indonesian dishes.
However, although the country is known for tofu and tempeh, the search for vegetarian and vegan food can be more difficult depending on the region because meat and fish are a large part of the country's typical cuisine. Where I found it rather more difficult to find varied vegan food on Java, you will have absolutely no problems on the classic tourist destination Bali. Here we actually had the most delicious vegan food of our trip through Indonesia.
To help you find delicious vegan dishes on every Indonesian island, I've put together this guide. Read on to find out how to travel vegan in Indonesia and which dishes and drinks you shouldn't miss!
Nasi Campur is an Indonesian buffet where you can choose from a variety of vegetables, tofu, tempeh and sauces. This dish never gets boring because you can choose a different combination every time. The base is rice, where you can choose between white (Nasi Putih), red (Nasi Merah) and yellow rice (Nasi Kuning). Sometimes there is rice cooked in coconut milk (Nasi Uduk), which is my absolute favorite! The price is based on the number and type of side dishes you choose. The food is always affordable, on average you pay per side dish 6 k / 0,40 €.
PS: Our eyes were once again bigger than the stomach, which is why you can not even see the rice in the above picture due to all the side dishes 😀
The best Nasi Campur in Bali:
Tempeh marinated in sweet soy sauce on a skewer with peanut sauce - what more do you need to be happy?! This is served with rice and often a mixture of cooked carrots and beans with garlic as a side dish. Simply delicious!
The best Tempeh Saté in Bali:
Curry with vegetables, tofu & tempeh
Kare Tahu / Kare Tempe
Indonesian curries are rather mild and often remind me of German stews, as they are mainly seasoned with salt and pepper. In addition, you will find potatoes, carrots and cabbage in it. Especially in the northern mountain regions of Bali, there are always curries with tofu, tempeh and lots of vegetables on the menus, which are a real treat for cooler temperatures.
The best curry in Bali:
Nasi Goreng Vegetarian
Nasi = rice, goreng = fried: this simple dish is THE most classic one in Indonesia. Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, nasi goreng is always good! Besides rice, different vegetables (mostly carrots, green beans, cabbage and bean sprouts) are sautéed with sweet sauce (kejap manis). Usually the fried rice is served with an omelet, but you can easily ask to replace it with fried tempeh, which almost always works. As a side dish, you'll always find cucumber slices as well as rice crackers on your plate. Sometimes the crackers are shrimp-flavored, sometimes not - unfortunately, you can only find out by trying. Last but not least, you should enjoy your Nasi Goreng with lots of sweet and spicy chili sauce.
The same dish is also available with thin wheat noodles, called Mie Goreng (Mie = noodles).
The best Nasi Goreng in Bali:
Vegetables with shredded coconut
Urap Urap can be found mainly in Java. It consists of steamed green beans and bean sprouts mixed with grated coconut. Since Urap Urap is usually only offered as a side dish, you can order e.g. rice and fried tempeh to create your own dish.
The best Urap Urap in Java:
Salad with peanut sauce
Gado Gado is a hearty salad that packs a punch! It is served with potatoes or small balls of sticky rice, bean sprouts, carrots, beans and cabbage with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce. Most of the time you will also find tofu or tempeh and a hard-boiled egg on your plate, but you can easily refuse it. Like nasi goreng, this dish can be found almost everywhere in Indonesia.
In Java you will also sometimes find the dish 'Lotek', which is similar to Gado Gado.
Tempeh Penyet / Tempeh Manis
For Tempeh Penyet, pieces of tempeh are marinated in a spicy tomato sauce and fried. If you know the typical Indonesian sweet soy sauce Kejap Manis, you can probably already guess what the second dish is: For Tempeh Manis, tempeh pieces are marinated with Kejap Manis, which is where the name of the dish comes from.
Grilled Tempeh - THE discovery on our trip through Indonesia! You must try this dish if you are a tempeh lover. Tempeh slices marinated in sweet soy sauce are grilled on tiny street grills and served with rice and spicy sauce. Simply delicious and a real bargain, since you get full for about 1 €.
Another, somewhat unhealthier but no less delicious tempeh variation is Tempeh Geprek: Deep fried tempeh with chili sambal.
Vegetables, tofu, rice, peanut sauce
I discovered Tipat Santok at the Sayan Nightmarket in Ubud and immediately fell in love! The street food dish is completely vegan and consists of sticky rice, vegetables, tofu and a sweet and spicy peanut sauce, similar to Gado Gado. Unlike Gado Gado, Tipat Santok is topped with crispy roasted mung beans and peanuts.
Indonesian - english
Don't worry - you don't have to learn the entire language to travel to Indonesia! Just a few words can help you translate most menus and like this you can easily order vegan or vegetarian food even in the most remote regions. Here are a few examples:
Nasi = Rice // Mie = Noodles
Goreng = Fried // Bakar = Grilled // Manis = Sweet // Asin = Salty
Pisang = Banana // Kelapa = Coconut // Jeruk = Orange // Kacang = Peanut // Coklat = Chocolate // Keju = Cheese
Susu = (Condensed) milk // Kopi = Coffee // Teh = Tea
Tahu = Tofu // Tempe = Tempeh // Sayur = Vegetables // Daging = Meat // Ayam = Chicken
Snacks and Sweets
In Indonesia, you can spot these cute little bbqs on many beaches and roadsides: grilled corn that you can have spread with butter and salt or typical Indonesian chili sauce. For just a few cents you get a healthy snack to enjoy the sunset on the beach.
Small, round and golden yellow: Onde Onde are sesame balls filled with a white bean paste and sold as street food on the roadside. They taste slightly sweet, greasy and like sesame seeds - I love them.
Terang Bulan: probably the most powerful pancake in the world! This super delicious steamed pancake is vegetarian and often sold at street stalls or night markets. You can choose from different toppings, such as banana, peanut butter or chocolate. To top it all off, the pancake is properly spread with butter and sweet condensed milk at the end. Cut into small pieces and served in a paper box, you can take the pancake with you or enjoy it directly at the roadside on small colorful stools. It's best to share a portion with others as a dessert to avoid falling into a food coma!
Sweets with coconut
Colorful, sweet and with coconut flakes. In Indonesia, there are various sweets based on pandan, palm sugar and coconut. In Bali, these are also summarized under the term 'Jaja Bali' and often sold at small street food stalls.
Among them you will find, for example, rice flour balls filled with shredded coconut and palm sugar, black glutinous rice with a sauce of palm sugar or Dadar Gulung: a pandan pancake filled with shredded coconut and palm sugar.
Probably the most refreshing drink in Indonesia - freshly squeezed orange juice with ice cubes. The taste of the Indonesian orange is reminiscent of a European tangerine. Usually, Es Jeruk is served with a lot of sugar in it. We always ordered the juice without sugar and found it even more refreshing that way. You can often find Es Jeruk on the side of the road or at street food markets for only 5k / 0,34€ per glass.
Meeting for a cup of tea is a daily business in Indonesia. The favorite is sweetened iced tea, which is based on black tea and a little lemon juice.
Besides the whole coconut that you can drink, there is also the drink 'Es kelapa muda'. This is coconut water with pulp, syrup and ice cubes served in a glass. If you like, you can also order it with orange juice. Whether pure coconut or in a glass, both are the perfect refreshment for hot days in the tropics.
Bali Kopi is black coffee grown directly in Bali. Sometimes there is also Kopi Susu, then the coffee is mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Since the coffee powder is brewed directly in the cup, you should always leave a good sip in the cup, so you do not have coffee powder in your mouth 😉
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