The Indonesian diet was once pessimistically described to me as a diet of sugar and oil. This is in reference to the many fried and sugary dishes Indonesian cuisines inherently possesses.
This blog is aimed at dispelling the aforementioned misconception, in order to have a reassuring and fulfilling culinary experience when you travel with your child.
Your a typical Indonesian meal consists of white rice and two sides of meat and vegetables respectively. For the more adventurous travelers a side of sambal (chilli) is also required to have the full Indonesian experience. However, the below dishes/ meals are aimed at complementing your child who are fussy eaters when they travel to Indonesia.
DISCLOSURE: please note these list of meals will not be appropriate for your child should they possess very strict dietary requirements and allergies. This list is intended for children who have no specific dietary requirements or restrictions. It is important that each parent performs their own research before their child consumes any meals/ dishes in Indonesia. Unfortunately (unlike in countries like Singapore and Australia) Indonesia does not adhere to strict guidelines in food labelling and preparation standards as common practice in all eateries. Hence as a parent it is important that you are very vigilant when you choose your eatery (i.e. observe the kitchen’s food preparation standards, always ask questions about certain ingredients that may be allergic for your child, research with your Airbnb hosts or hotel about the safest places to eat, review sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp for the best food safety reviews and the best test- trying the meal before your child consumes it.
The quintessential and national soup dish of Indonesia. Meats can range from chicken, goat and beef. The most common soto dish is soto ayam, which comes in a yellow/ green broth and topped with vermicelli noodles and a side of krupuk (crackers). This is a relatively easy soup dish for your child to consume especially if they are not ready for solids and need their intake of protein and infused vegetables. Soto can also be served with lontong (sticky rice) which ensures the appropriate carbohydrate intake.
My daughter’s favourite dish. Translated, this is Indonesia’s version of ox tail soup. The broth is a healthy blend of spices and vegetables and is often served with a decent serving of celery and carrots to complement the tender oxtail which is easy to digest for your child. Again being a soup based dish, this is very easy for your child to digest and is not spicy in its original incarnation.
When I was a young child, bakso was the only dish I requested. Again an easily digestible soup based dish. This consists of egg noodles and refined meatballs. Other incarnations can include fish balls, tofu and chicken balls. The centrepiece of this dish resonates around the fluffiness of the meatball which your child will enjoy. This dish is so popular that a young Barack Obama considered this his favourite meal growing up in Indonesia. Hence this dish is presidentially approved!!
Essentially, this is an egg based pastry akin to the style of a filled crepe. There is also a sugary version of this dish called martabak manis, however, I suggest avoiding the manis version unless you want your child bouncing off the walls of your hotel. Ensure any sauce poured on the martabak is not spicy. The crispness of the crust and inserts of vegetables and your chosen meat will mimic the taste of regular pizza. However, it is noted that this is not consumed regularly by your child as it is deeply fried, and should be considered a substitute for when your child pines for the local fast food restaurant.
Indonesia’s version of porridge. The popular incarnation is the chicken version which consists of a porridge/ congee like base and topped with strips of chicken, condiments such as soy sauce, chopped vegetables and crumbled crackers. The sloppy nature of the dish mimics most child purees, hence this will be easily digestible for your child.
The best way for your child to eat their vegetables in this soup based dish. A great addition to rice or on its own. Common ingredients are peanuts, young jackfruit, melinjo, bilimbi, chayote, long beans, all cooked in tamarind-based soups and topped with an array of vegetables which commonly include celery, tomato, corn, and long beans. The sweet and sour nature of the dish will entice your child to eat their greens in a fulfilling manner.
Bakmi Goreng/ Mie Goreng:
Indonesia’s preferred form of carbohydrates. When ordering this dish ensure it is the non-spicy version for your child. A fusion of egg noodles, condiments, vegetables and your choice of meats. This stir fry concoction will enlighten your child’s taste buds without the guilt associated with your usual fast food options. This dish is readily available in Indonesia and is a great treat to accustom your child to the tastes of Indonesia.
Indonesia’s national rice dish and its version of the fried rice. Soaked in Kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and blended with a mixture of vegetables and meats. Probably Indonesia’s best-known dish to tourists, it is a staple for any time of the day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). A dish which is made readily quick for your fussy eater who is seeking to appease their hunger. Often eaten with a side of crackers and cucumber which greatly compliments the fried rice.
Quick snacks for your child:
- Lumpia: an Indonesian spring roll which is great savoury treat for your child
- Bakpia: a bean filled mooncake which is a great substitute for your regular baked good.
- Pisang Goreng: fried banana covered in flour coating
- Perkadel: a fried potato treat infused with herbs.
- Krupuk: whether it is the fish, prawn or beef version, a delicious cracker/ chip that can be eaten on its own or as a complement to any dish.
It is important to note that this is not a confined list, there are many treats, dishes and meals which are specific to various cities and regions of Indonesia. I urge you to be very explorative when you visit your next food stall or food court when you are in Indonesia.
Chris & Ariana.