Indonesian food on Bali and Flores

Our recent trip to Indonesia was mainly to fulfil our dream of seeing Komodo dragons in the wild (Read about our experiences in this post). We also tried to see manta rays on Nusa Lembongan, although that wasn’t so successful. However, as a bonus add-on, we also managed to consume some great Indonesian food on Flores and Bali and put away several Indonesian beers.

I’m not good to pretend to be any kind of expert on it but this is what Indonesian food on Flores and Bali that we enjoyed. If you want some other dishes, including ones specific to Bali, this Ultimate Bali Food Guide may be interesting too.

To start with, to understand Indonesian food, we need to include a little Bahasa Indonesian lesson along the way. Come on. We are language teachers. They speak Bahasa in Malaysia too, so it will help you in both countries.

Indonesian food in Bali

Let’s start:

Nasi = rice

Goreng = fried

So Nasi Goreng = fried rice

Nasi Goreng

Food on Bali nasi lemak bali Indonesian food

Fried rice is different in every country we’ve eaten it in. It’s never the stodgy dish with clumps of egg that you get from the local takeaway, and we’ve never seen people eat it as the side dish to a main meal. Fried rice tends to be a meal in itself, not something you put curry over.

Vietnamese fried rice is kind of crunchy, whereas in Thailand it’s soft and made with a lot of fish sauce.

In Indonesia, it was darker in colour and has a more smoky flavour, apparently because of the addition of caramelised sweet soy sauce and tamarind paste.

Sometimes the egg is mixed into the fried rice, and sometimes it’s served on top. Nasi Goreng is often also served with pickles, prawn crackers and sambal – a kind of chilli sauce.

Like other Asian countries, it can come with different meats including:

Ayam = chicken

Udang = shrimp

Mi= noodles

Mi Goreng = fried noodles

Mi Goreng

Another common stir-fried dish in Indonesia is Mi Goreng or fried noodles. Much more like Chinese fried noodles than Thai style fried noodles, the dish again includes the sweet soy sauce that is in Nasi Goreng. Yellow wheat noodles are used and fried with vegetables, usually with some kind of meat and egg.

Nasi Lemak

You remember that ‘Nasi‘ means ‘rice’, right? Well, Nasi Lemak is rice cooked in fragranced coconut milk. ‘Lemak‘ apparently means ‘fatty’, which doesn’t sound so good, but in this context means ‘creamy’. Nasi Lemak is served with a variety of small side dishes including sliced cucumber, roasted peanuts and:

ikan bilis =anchovies

telur = egg

sambal = chilli sauce

Food on Bali Nasi Lemak

Nasi Campur

Nasi Campur basically means ‘mixed rice’ and is normal white rice served with different side dishes such as meats, like satay and curry, vegetables, roasted peanuts, boiled egg and of course, sambal. The side dishes vary depending on the region, as well as the place you eat it!

Food on Bali Sambal

Ayam Goreng

Come on, you can work this out for yourself. You know that Ayam means chicken, and Goreng means fried. So Ayam Goreng is…..

Fried chicken! You got it!

Food on bali Ajam Goreng

Not to be mistaken for something you get in a popular fast food chain known for the old soldier and his secret recipe, Ayam Goreng doesn’t have a breadcrumbed or batter coating. Instead, the chicken pieces are marinated in a range of spices including turmeric and galangal before being fried. It’s served with a dipping sauce of sambal and cucumber.

Bakar = grilled

Ayam Bakar = grilled chicken

Ikan = fish

Ikan Goreng = fried fish

Ikan Goreng

Food on Bali Nasi Ikan

Other meats can be served fried, like Ikan Goreng, fried fish. Again, the fish is marinated in spices before frying and this one had rather a lot of chilli sprinkled on it.

Ikan Bakar = grilled fish

Ikan Bakar

Food on Bali Ikan Bakar

Indonesia being a country made up of many islands, has a lot of great seafood. A common way to cook fish is to grill it over a BBQ after marinating it in a mixture of soy sauce and spices (e.g. shallot, pepper, tamarind, galangal etc.). Like many other dishes, it’s served with sambal.

If you are heading to Thailand soon, check out our post on Bangkok street food.


Food on Bali Gado Gado

The term ‘gado’ is not that useful in our Indonesian learning, because it derives from a verb meaning to eat something without rice. Gado-Gado is basically a variety of boiled vegetables like potato, beans and corn, with boiled eggs and tofu and covered in a peanut sauce. It’s served with prawn crackers.


Food on Bali Laksa

Laksa is a kind of noodle soup made with rice noodles and chicken, prawns etc. The soup is spicy and varies depending on the type of laksa – sometimes it’s made with coconut milk, sometimes with sour tamarind and sometimes with both. This is Kris’ favourite kind of noodle soup, and believe me, we have eaten a lot in SE Asia and there are sooo many different kinds. According to CNN, Penang laksa is one of the top 10 foods in the world, so it seems Kris is in some company here.


Lumpia Indonesian spring rolls

Spring rolls are another food that is in many countries in the region, yet differs significantly depending on where you go. In Indonesia, Lumpia are more like the Chinese spring roll that we know than the ones we get in Vietnam. The wrapper is pastry and they are much longer and thicker than the ones in Vietnam (or the ones we had were). The shredded vegetable filling is apparently bound with egg which makes them heavier. Still yum though.

Like in Vietnam, you can also get both fried and fresh lumpia.

Ayam Sisit

Food on Bali Ajam sisit

Remember what ayam means? So you already know that the main ingredient of this dish is chicken. Ayam Sisit is a traditional Balinese dish of shredded chicken. It’s mixed with spices and herbs.

bir = beer

(you probably could have worked that out)

Indonesian beer

There isn’t exactly a diverse selection of beer in Indonesia. Bintang is everywhere. Everywhere. Many bars only sell Bintang. It comes in big and small bottles. As it’s owned by Heineken, it’s what you expect, a light lager, but its mild taste is perfect to refresh you on a hot day. It’s actually won prizes, so it can’t be bad.

Bintang beer in Nusa Lembongan

Which is good, because there isn’t much else.

One alternative is Anker beer. It’s an interesting name, given that one of the main beers in Cambodia are Angkor (obvious reason for the name) and Anchor (with an anchor on the picture). Anker beer is another light lager, only found in Indonesia and one of few beers in SE Asia NOT owned by Carlsberg or Heineken!

When we were enjoying a cold Bintang in a bar in Labuan Bajo, during our trip to Komodo National Park, we noticed others drinking Prost beer. This was probably because it was slightly cheaper and everyone around us was saving their money to spend on diving. Prost is an American beer, from Denver. We didn’t see any other foreign beer while we were in Indonesia.

Prost Beer in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

Feel more confident with an Indonesian menu now? You should be able to decipher a lot of dishes, both there and in Malaysia. Happy eating!

Check out our post on Vietnamese food if you are heading there.

Pin it to drool over later!

Indonesian food in Bali

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18 Responses

  1. Ann says:

    Hi Kate & Kris ,
    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your blogs , between you and D&H you are adding to our wish list of places to visit ( not work you understand !) just curious on the Indonesian food, it looks like it has lots of potential for veggies, but as you are describing them there is always meat or fish included, is that just your preference ? Is it easy for veggies to find good tasty food ?

    • KateandKris says:

      Hey, for some dishes you can have it without meat, like fried rice or fried noodles. Gado Gado is completely veggie too. In a lot of the places, they made the meals fresh, like they do in Thailand, so you can just ask for it without meat. Something to be careful about are the sauces like fish or oyster sauce though.

  2. Josie says:

    I’m with Kris, laksa is my favourite too! As an Aussie my first trip overseas was the same and half the rest of the country – to Bali when I was barely out of my teens! I would have loved to have seen this then, and tried a few different things. There is only so much chicken satay you can eat (although it is very good!) Now, I love nearly all of these foods.

  3. Hi Kate & Kris,
    I haven’t visited Indonesia yet but enjoyed Indonesian food in a restaurant in Munich and also in Kuala Lumpur. I loved the spices. But meanwhile I turned vegan. I think Bali has a large vegan scene and I would enjoy the food there a lot and maybe would find more interesting options than in Germany.
    Cheers, Ricarda

  4. Fiona Mai says:

    OMG I feel so hungry reading this. I’m from Vietnam which is also a Southeast Asian country, but still quite unfamiliar with Indonesian food. After reading your article I think I might need to find out more about these yummy dishes. Maybe planning for a trip to Bali soon!

    • KateandKris says:

      We used to live in Vietnam! Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh. Love the food there too (we wrote a blog on that as well). Would recommend visiting Bali.

  5. Nancy says:

    What an amazing and thorough post! It certainly is helpful to know some basic words so that I don’t need to keep using google translate and I’m happy to know that some of the words will be useful in Malaysia too (Heading there next)

  6. lisa says:

    Hi, I went to Bali and recognize some of the food you mentioned. I am hoping to visit again thank you for the references I will save the post. Your pics are amazing!

  7. C-Ludik says:

    The fresh herbs and multitude of spices are used in Indonesian cooking ! It is truly a huge contributing factor as to why Indonesian cuisine is so flavorful and exciting to eat 🙂 Your post is a good start for a serious Indonesian culinary journey for those who are curious about Indonesian cuisine and how to create. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Amanda says:

    This brought back great memories of a trip to Kaula Lumpar and the food there which was amazing, I still keep promising to learn how to make nasi goreng!

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever had Indonesia food, but it looks delicious! I love Thai and Malay food, so I imagine it’s similar in ingredients and flavor profile.

  10. Eve Kay says:

    Very good choices! I like Nasi Goreng and Gado Gado. Did you try kweh lapis (pretty sure I spelled that wrong, but it means thousand layered cake). My favorite cake in the whole world.

  11. Chiera says:

    This looks absolutely beautiful! I’ve only ever tried Nasi Goreng but what a treat!

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