While it certainly not the case when travelling everywhere in the world, including your own city, it is not difficult to be a vegetarian in Indonesia. I will say attempting to vegan would be more challenging consider the amount of egg that goes into most dishes, but since the bases of things are mostly coconut milk, it’s not impossible to be vegan, just a bigger challenge.
But I have compiled a list of some awesome vegetarian food that will still give you the Indonesian cultural experience, just without the meat. This list will also exclude seafood. I know that some vegetarians are ok with seafood for their own personal reasons, but I also know that the term vegetarian typically refers to the absence of all meats. While there are meats in a lot of main dishes, there are equally a lot of dishes without any meat.
- Sayur Iodeh: Made with a coconut milk broth, Sayur Iodeh is a kind of vegetable stew. The varieties of it vary a lot place to place and even cook to cook, but usually it is just full of delicious vegetables. It is commonly made with labu siam, which is a gourd, tofu, egg, and chili sauce.
- Bakwan Jagung: This is a corn fritter. The corn has been turned into a patty and fried. You can eat it with rice and chili sauce.
- Tahu Bacem: This tofu that has been marinated in sugar and coconut milk and then fried. It is a sweet treat that proves that tofu does not need to be as boring as it is in the States.
4. Jogja Gudeg: This is made out of a jack-fruit that was boiled down until it was soft. Afterward, it will be marinated with coconut milk and sugar. You usually eat it with side dishes that include a boiled egg or tofu. Its appearance is odd and will look like beef, but it is a strange combination of sweet and savory.
5. Lontong Cap Gomeh: This is another type of coconut milk-based stew. It has a lot of different vegetables in it and is usually served over rice. Tofu and egg are usually added in when it is being served.
6. Mie Tek Tek: A personal favorite, but who am I kidding? I will eat all the food! This is stir fried noodles that is served with eggs and vegetables. It is typically stir fried in a wok and is usually delicious no matter where you get it from.
7. Gado Gado: This may sound simple, but it is peanut sauce that is poured on top of cooked vegetables. It has to be a quality peanut sauce or the flavor of the dish will be completely lost. It is usually eat with rice cakes or crackers. Some of the spices that go with it include garlic, sugar, and shallots, but the recipe will vary place to place.
8. Telur Belado: The Indonesians really like their eggs. Fried boiled eggs are covered in a sweet chili sauce in Telur Belado. The Balado sauce is used often with meats as well, due to its intense flavor. The sauce is comprised of chilies, shallots, garlic, and lime.
9. Sayur Asem: Roughly translated, it means “sour veggies.” It is the equivalent of Thailand’s Tom Yum soup. It is a vegetable soup that is infused with tamarind, which is how it gets its sour flavor. Common ingredients include peanuts, corns, beans, and some good leafy greens. This is really good for you too.
10. Keripik Tempeh Pedas: This dish is made from tempeh that has been sliced, fried, and doused in chili sauce. It is usually served with rice on the side.
If you are vegetarian and trying new foods in Asia, just make sure you are courteous when asking and if it is something you won’t eat, do not make a dirty face over it. You are a guest in their country and it is not up to them to cater to your needs. Make requests and be kind about it. There are plenty of vegetarian options so you have no reason to be frustrated.