The staple food of most Indonesian is rice. On some of the islands in eastern Indonesia, staple food traditionally ranges from corn, sago, cassava, to sweet potatoes, though this is changing as rice becomes more popular. Fish features prominently in the diet: fresh, salted, dried, smoked or paste. Fish is abundant and of great variety: lobster, oyster, prawn, shrimp, squid, crab etc. Coconut is found everywhere and besides being processed for cooking oil, its milk and meat is ingredient for many dishes.
Spices and hot chili peppers are the essence of most cooking, and in some areas they are used generously such as in West Sumatera and North Sulawesi. Each province or area has its own cuisine. West Sumatera is, for example, familiar for its ‘Padang’ restaurants, with their hot and spicy food, spreading nation wide.
Further to the east, seafood is a staple of the daily diet, either grilled or made into curries. In Bali, West Papua and the highlands of North Sumatera and North Sulawesi pork dishes are specialties. As the population of Indonesia is predominantly Moslem, pork is usually not served, except in Chinese restaurants, non-muslim religions and in places serving international cuisine. There is a wide variety of tropical and sub-tropical vegetables all year round. Fruit is available throughout the year. Such fruits such as mangoes and watermelons are seasonal, but most of the other fruits can be bought throughout the year, such as bananas, apples, papayas, pineapples, oranges, etc. Coffee and tea are served everywhere from the restaurants to a small village stalls. There are several breweries which produce local beer. Bali produces ‘brem’ which is a rice wine, and Toraja has fermented drink ‘tuak’. For most people, a meal consists of steamed white rice with side dishes of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables along with a glass of tea.
There is such a rich variety in the Indonesian cuisine that one should sample specialties in each area. However, most common nationwide are “sate” (skewered grilled meat), “gado-gado” (vegetables salad with a peanut sauce), “nasi goreng” (fried rice served at anytime) and “bakmi goreng” ( fried noodles). Chinese restaurants are found all over the country. There are fine restaurants specializing in Continental and Japanese an Korean Cuisines.