While it is all well and good to learn about the amazing dishes of Indonesia, you should also know what goes into the dishes. Understanding the ingredients that go into the dishes will give you a better understanding of the food and where it comes from.
Candlenut: Candlenut is a creamy nut that is oily and round that give a lot of Indonesian food a texture. A comparable nut is the cashew. It gives a subtle flavor to the dishes.
Cardamom: Cardamom is made up of black seeds that can be added in a little amount to a large amount depending on the amount of flavor you are aiming for.
Celery: This is not the standard celery that Americans are used to. Indonesia uses a different kind, often referred to as Chinese celery. It has slender stems and has a smell that you will not find in North American celery.
Chilies: While Indonesian food on the whole are not every spicy, chilies are commonly used in dishes. There is a wide range of chili peppers. The spicier chilies are the smaller ones. The larger chilies are not as spicy. Keeping the chili seeds in will make the dish even spicier than it was before.
Cinnamon: Not the ground cinnamon that you buy from the supermarket, but a cinnamon stick. In stick form it is far more flavorful.
Coconut: Since coconut is a tropical fruit, it is easy to find in Indonesia. Grated, coconut can be squeezed into coconut milk. Coconut milk is in a lot of different recipes as well as desserts.
Coriander: This is a small pale colored seed that has a flavor that resembles an orange. You usually crush them before adding them into a meal.
Yellow galangal: This is a sort of ginger-like root but has an incredibly strong flavor and can be overused very easily. It is usually dried and crushed into a powder.
Lemongrass: A common fragrant herb often used in soup, seafood, as well as meat dishes. Its result is a nice lemony flavor.
Salam leaf: It’s a lot like a bay leaf. It doesn’t taste anything like a bay leaf, but looks a lot like one.
Shallots: Pounded into a paste, shallots are very common in Indonesian dishes. Sometimes they are deep fried and used as a garnish.
Shrimp paste: This is always cooked before being eating, usually by being toasted before being combined into other ingredients. The color for this ingredient varies a lot.
Tamarind: A dark brown pod from the tamarind tree is used to add a sourness to a lot of Indonesian dishes.
Turmeric: This is essential in most Indonesian dishes. It’s a root that is either ground into a powder or dried.
This of course is not all of the ingredients that you are going to find in Indonesian dishes, just some of the ones that you are more likely to come across. This is important if you are attempting to make your own Indonesian food at home. There are some substitutes that you may be able to find that will still result in great tasting food, even if it isn’t 100% authentic.
If you have allergies, be cautious with Indonesian food. They are known for their flavors and spices and while you may have a mild allergy for one thing, it could be intensified with the spice combinations that are found in Indonesian cuisine. If all else fails, make sure you have antihistamines on hand. It is difficult do request that specific spices be removed from the dishes as it can dramatically alter the final taste of the dish.