The staple food of most of Indonesia is rice. On some of the islands in eastern Indonesia, staple food traditionally ranged from corn, sago, cassava to sweet potatoes, though this is changing as rice becomes more popular. Fish features prominently in the diet: fresh, salted, dried, smoked or paste. Fish is abundant and of great variety: lobster, oyster, prawns, shrimp, squid, crab, etc. Coconut is found everywhere and besides being processed for cooking oil, its milk and meat is an ingredient for many dishes.


Spices and hot chili peppers are the essence of most cooking, and in some areas they are used generously such as in West Sumatra and North Sulawesi. Each province or area has its own cuisine. West Sumatra is known for its Padang restaurants, found nationwide. Besides the hot and spicy food, these restaurants are known for their unique style of service.

Further to the east, seafood is a staple of the daily diet, either grilled or made into curries. In Bali, Irian Jaya and the highlands of North Sumatra and North Sulawesi pork dishes are specialties. As the population of Indonesia is predominantly Moslem, pork is usually not served except in Chinese restaurants, non-Moslem regions and in places serving international cuisine. There is a wide variety of tropical and sub-tropical vegetables all year round. Fruit is available throughout the year. Some fruits such as mangoes and water melons are seasonal, but most of the other fruits can be bought throughout the year, such as bananas, apples, papayas, pineapples, oranges, etc. Coffee and tea are served everywhere from fine restaurants to small village stalls. There are several breweries which produce local beer. Bali produces "brem" which is a rice wine, whereas Toraja has "tuak". For most people, a meal consists of steamed white rice with side dishes of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables along with a glass of tea.

There is such a rich variety in the Indonesian cuisine that one should sample specialties in each area. However, most common nationwide are "sate" (skewered grilled meat), "gado'gado" (vegetables salad with peanut sauce), "nasi goreng" (fried rice served at anytime) and bakmi goreng" (fried noodles). Chinese restaurants are found all over the country. There are fine restaurants specializing in Continental and Japanese and Korean cuisines.