Indonesian dishes with a European influence

The cuisine of Indonesia, like it’s national language has been greatly influenced by outside cultures. Take for instance sate, the small grilled chunks of meat that can be bought for a few thousand rupiah on many streets in Indonesia. Sate was invented in Java, but has it’s roots in the Middle East, with the kebab, featuring beef and goat. The popular vegetable dish cap cay is taken from Cantonese cuisine and so forth. Here is a Jakarta Post article discussing other local dishes with foreign roots.

When recipes and kitchens collide

Suryatini N. Ganie, Contributor, Jakarta

Thanks to today’s global communication and world-wide travel, we can in one day enjoy a European breakfast in Europe, followed closely by a totally different spiced dinner hailing from South Asia. We can talk of delicious authentic dishes and desserts from Amsterdam, before enjoying homemade nasi uduk komplet in Jakarta.

Then the delectable dishes of Amsterdam can be made for dinner the next day, with ingredients bought in a speciality store.

But it was not like this 10 and 20 years ago. Many people were looking for ingredients familiar to them from home, which sometimes were as delicious as the “authentic” stuffs — but of course the result would be a different dish with the same name.

I remember my mother’s pudding hoopyes a Dutch pudding with a flavor of hopjes, which were caramel flavored sweets imported from the Netherlands.

The sweets were actually not for children, because they contained coffee extract and were regarded as taboo for young family members at that time.

But of course, because they were not allowed, they became something very special for us — and so did the desert.

Then my Mama got a hopjes pudding recipe from her close Dutch friend and neighbor and the produced a pudding including less coffee and with some alterations our cook made.

But nevertheless, their altered new recipe became our “authentic” recipe — and this is the one I make today, mostly when I’m feeling nostalgic.

Of course, there will be other recipes in other families, but never mind — I think the Dutch hopjes pudding would be proud to have siblings that have become so loved.

Another story of recipes “morphing” is the Duitsche biefstuk (Duitsch = German, biefstuk = steak).

When the Dutch left Indonesia, Duitsche biefstuk became very much part of our kitchen, but the Dutch version does not have breadcrumbs as the Indonesian version does, and ours has tomato sauce, but there is no trace of it in theirs.

Dutch or Indonesian, however, both are great with hot steamed rice and sambal.

Then there is Norway’s contribution to the kitchens of the Indonesian archipelago. Most Indonesians love fish and one of the most loved fish was in former times a salmon from Norway.

But where to get a real Norwegian salmon some 50-60 years ago? Observing salt water fish, the bandeng (milkfish) seemed the best solution to replace salmon, so zalm, which is Dutch for salmon, became bandeng salmon, using northern Java’s coastal milk fish, spiced with garlic, and green and red tomatoes.

Bandeng salmon literally means “milkfish the salmon way”.

The beginnings of bandeng salmon lead to the preparation of bandeng presto, which translates to bandeng cooked in a pressure cooker until the thorns are soft and edible.

We have in many ways looked to kitchens from afar for new and different additions to our kitchens.

Recently my son had two large seafood pizzas delivered to our home and with them came a handful of mini chili sauces to eat with the pizza. The chile made me remember Antonio, a cook in Bordighera, a marine resort near Genua, who taught me how to properly make and spice up a pizza.

I recalled how he would make pizza picantissimas and pizza rendang, hot and fake, though delicious. I think he would have approved of my son’s order but would definitely have served un vino bianco with the meal.

By the way, there’s something I want to share with you about chili (hot pepper) sauce: chili contains capsaicin, a fast-acting vasilitator that enhances the blood vessels and therefore increases body temperature. A human’s temperature rises and causes perspiration, which the cools the body back down.

I read this in Rebecca Wood’s, “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia” — so for those who want to stay cool, remember harbor no objections to eating chile flavors first.



1 milk fish, scaled, cleaned, 500 g
3 cloves garlic, roughly cut, 15 g
3 green tomatoes, roughly cut, 150 g
1 red tomato, roughly cut, 100 g
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 Tbs margarine or butter
300 ml water

1. Cut milk fish into 2 parts.
2. Mix garlic, green tomato, red tomato and milk fish, season with salt, margarine or butter and pour in water. Let come to the boil and simmer on lower flame for 1 hour or put in a pressure cooker for at least 30 minutes.

Makes: 4 servings


500 g beef fillet
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp ground pepper or to taste
1 egg, beaten, 50 g
100 g bread crumbs
150 g margarine or butter, for frying

1. Cut beef fillet in slices of 1 cm. Coat with salt and pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes.
2. Dip beef fillet in beaten egg and then in bread crumbs. Fry quickly on both sides until golden brown. Take from flame and drain. Serve with mixed salad and rice.

Makes: 4 servings.


200 g granulated sugar
1 liter water
100 ml sweet condensed milk
10 g coffee powder
1 package colorless gelatin powder
A pinch of salt

For the sauce:
100 ml sweet condensed milk
300 ml water
2 egg yolks, 40 g

1. Heat 100 g sugar until dissolved and caramelized. Add water, sweet condensed milk, coffee powder, gelatin powder, salt and remaining sugar. Let come to the boil over lower flame whilst stirring until sugar is dissolved. Take from flame.
2. Take a suitable pudding form, rinse with cold water and pour in mixture of step 1. chill in the refrigerator until set.
3. Mix sweet condensed milk, water and egg yolks. Let come to the boil over lower flame whilst stirring until thickened. Take from flame and serve with pudding.

Makes: 6 servings.

The ‘Original’ Recipes


2 salmon, 400 g; Water; 10 g salt, in each 1 liter water.

1. Clean and scale salmon and cook enough water with a pinch of salt every 100 g for 2 minutes so that the fish will be staying red colored;
2. Take fish from pot and put onto a suitable plate near the window or where air circulates to have the fish still red colored;
3. Serve with parsley sauce, hot mayonnaise, diluted butter or stock. If you want to serve the fish cold take cold mayonnaise.


850 ml milk; 160 g granulated sugar; 90 g corn meal or custard; 75 g granulated sugar; 150 ml coffee extract; 1 hen’s egg, 50 g; For the sauce: 750 ml milk; 35 ml corn meal or custard; 1 hen’s egg, 50 g; 45 g granulated sugar; 1/4 tsp ground vanilla.

1. Bring milk to the boil over low flame;
2. Heat granulated sugar until dissolved and caramel colored. Take from flame and pour into milk;
3. Mix corn meal or custard with granulated sugar, coffee and egg;
4. Add little by little into the milk mixture whilst stirring to avoid lumps;
5. Take from flame and put into a suitable pudding form with has been rinsed with some tepid water, let cool and harden;
6. Make the sauce: Mix milk, corn meal or custard, egg, granulated sugar and vanilla. Bring to the boil over low flame and then serve with the pudding; Makes: 12 servings.


400 g minced beef; 1 onion, chopped, 100 g; 50 ml milk or cream; 2 tsp salt or to taste; 1 tsp ground pepper or to taste; 1 tsp ground nutmeg; 100 g margarine or butter, for frying; 3 Tbs milk powder; 100 ml water; 1/2 tsp salt or to taste; 1/2 tsp ground pepper or to taste;

1. Mix beef with onion, milk or cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Form into flat rounds and make cross like cuttings on the meat;
2. Heat margarine or butter and fry the flat meat rounds until brownish. Take from flame but leave the margarine or butter in the pan;
3. Lower flame and add mixed milk powder, water, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil; 4. Serve fried flat meat rounds with fried potatoes and stewed vegetables of your liking;

Makes: 4 servings.

The most famous foreign inspired Indonesian dish (apart from my bbq with sambal) is Rijtstaffel, the Dutch ‘rice table’, featuring a many small plates of Indonesian items. Many Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam will serve Rijtstaffel and the sight is impressive, the whole table covered with plates of food. Here is Bali you can ask around for the best Rijtstaffel (usually you have to order 1 day in advance). Warung Enak in Ubud is supposed to do a good one.