Cita Rasa Nusantara

I plan to start a new long, long, ongoing project that has kind of emerged a few previous recipes as well as things I’ve found myself researching for future posts. The idea, as the little subtitle up there says, is to gather and attempt recipes for dishes characteristic of each Indonesian province.

What I’ll do is make a new tag for all these posts so they’re all in one place, and go back and retrospectively change the tags on a few old recipes that fit the bill. As for future entries in this series, I’ll first post the recipe—cobbled together from a few different sources in my usual way—before testing it, then as I slowly get round to trying them out I’ll go back and tweak them based on the experience. I’ll mark them as attempted/unattempted, but just be aware of that going in.

Here’s the plan as it currently stands. Some of these have a few options listed, but I will only be picking one in the final cut.

My philosophy in selecting which dishes to try is as follows, but these criteria are kind of flexible:

  • Looks tasty
    • Looks tasty to me when I look it up, so there’s a strong bias here and you might notice some similarities in choices pop up.
  • Ingredients available
    • Minor substitutions are fine, but I’ll exclude anything that relies on some ingredient I’ll have no chance of finding as an essential component of the dish. For example, Bengkulu’s bagar hiu, which is a shark meat dish, wouldn’t make the cut as the shark is kind of the whole point there. Or Central Kalimantan’s juhu ubut rotan, which uses young rattan shoots. There’s a surpising amount of things available where I am now (like daun walang, a key flavour in Banten’s angeun lada. Who would have expected that?), but not everything.
  • Not the most obvious choice
    • Okay yeah I’ve got sate padang and coto Makassar in here, but I just really like them. And those recipes came about before planning this series. Besides, I think even these aren’t quite so obvious to an international audience as just listing rendang, or bakso, or just some vague recipe for nasi goreng like you often see. Hmm maybe I’ll go back and not have these on this list, let’s see. Anyway, I tried to find something that seemed a bit particular and unique to the province.
  • Representative of the overall trend in flavour profile
    • In NTB for example a lot of the dishes that came up in my search seemed quite sour, with belimbing wuluh popping up a lot, so it seemed important to capture that.
  • Avoid: desserts, snacks, drinks, single-ingredient specialities
    • Drinks are just not the focus of this series (maybe an idea for a future one there…). Desserts are often very similar throughout the country: flour, cocount milk, palm sugar. The presentation may differ or a few different ingredients, but I don’t feel that desserts really capture a particular local flavour profile. They might utitilsie a particular local ingredient, but there’s not a complex, blended whole there. I don’t know. Snacky things are excluded for a similar reason. And by single-ingredient speciaities, I mean for example where some particular type of fish or something is recommended as a local specialty. The focus here is on complete dishes, not showcasing a single ingredient.

My priority for publishing these will initially be provinces I haven’t really heard much about with regards to their food. This is of course entirely subjective, but I feel like you generally get a lot of exposure to like East Java (soto lamongan, sate madura), or West Sumatra of course (there are padang restaurants in pretty much every town throughout the country). But what about Gorontalo? I never see “RM Khas Gorontalo” driving round Jakarta, for example. I can’t recall anyone raving about some famous North Kalimantan dish, or Bangka Belitung. I mean sure, if you live in those places of course this will be different, but I suppose I’m talking about cuisines that aren’t widely known to the general Indonesian population, that aren’t widespread in restaurants and cities throughout the country. Provinces that, if you took one random person out of the country’s 250 million, chances are they wouldn’t be able to name a dish from there.

The five new Papuan provinces that were created in 2022 posed a bit of a challenge, just because all the recipes and lists of dishes you find online have slowly appeared over a decade or so, so the resources aren’t out there yet. Up until last year, these articles would have just put together a list of Papuan food, and if you’re lucky subdivided that into West Papua and Papua provinces. In truth even those lists are all pretty poor and don’t really have any more than an extremely shallow, surface-level approach to the cuisine. They’ll typically list single ingredients that are used throughout all of the eastern half of Indonesia (papeda, sweet potatoes), or tourist snacks from the cities that are clearly more recent Indonesian-influenced imports (kue lontar, abon gulung). I found it more useful to search for specific regions within the provinces, or to search for the food of specific ethnic groups.

Amamaihi|Central Papua

A simple side of toasted sago. (Credit: Ola Ikikitaro)
1 min read

Itik Gambut|South Kalimantan

A sweet and fragrant duck curry. (Credit: ???)
1 min read

Ragit|South Sumatra

Webby bread and a curry for dipping it in. (Credit: Febi Anindya Kirana)
2 min read


A boiled package of fish in spices. (Credit: Titis Prasastiwi)
1 min read

Ni'binögö|North Sumatra

A steamed and barbecued pork package from Nias. (Credit: ??)
2 min read

Empal Gentong|West Java

A rich, savoury, aromatic beef stew from Cirebon. (Credit: Shania Dila)
2 min read