Indonesian cuisine was influenced by traders from India, the Middle East, China, and, later, Spain and Portugal. The Dutch, who colonized many of the 6,000 islands that make up Indonesia, adapted the buffet eating style of the native peoples, into the famous rijstaffel (or rice table). Sambals and tempeh, an adaptation of tofu, also originated in Indonesia.
Indonesia is located at the crossroads of the ancient world, astride the great trade routes between the Middle East and Asia. Wave after wave of traders, adventurers, pirates, and immigrants have been drawn by the riches of these Spice Islands. All brought their native cuisine with them.
From India came curries, cucumber, eggplant, and cowpeas. From the Americas, chili, pepper, vanilla, soursop, pawpaw, and pineapple. The Chinese brought the wok and stir-fry, Chinese mustard, and such vegetables as brassica and cabbage. From Arabia arrived Middle Eastern gastronomic techniques and ingredients such as kebab and flavorful goat stews. Peanuts, avocado, pineapple, guava, papaya, tomato, squash, pumpkin, cacao, and soybeans were all introduced by Europeans.
Nature and history have conspired to give Indonesia a culinary tradition as varied and seasoned as its thousands of islands and hundreds of ethnic groups.
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