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Essential in Indonesian Kitchen
Article Index
Essential in Indonesian Kitchen
Indonesian Fish
Indonesian Vegetables
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Bahasa Indonesia

Banana Leaf


Daun Pisang


From the candleberry tree, these nuts look like macadamia nuts and taste like brazil nut. Round, cream colored nut with an oily consistency used to add texture and a faint flavor to many dishes.

For Substitution:

Macadamia, raw cashews




Spice from the ginger family. Seeds are purchased whole, either in or out of their pods, or ground. A straw-colored fibrous pod contains about 8-12 seeds; try to buy the whole pod rather than a jar of seeds as the flavor is more intense.

Small, triangular-shaped pods containing numerous small black seeds which have a warm, highly aromatic flavor. You can buy green or black cardamoms although the smaller green type is more widely available.






Indonesians tend to use the rolled-bark or cinnamon stick instead cinnamon powder.

Shavings of bark from the cinnamon tree are processed and curled to form cinnamon sticks. Also available in ground form. Spicy, fragrant and sweet, it is used widely in savory and sweet dishes.

Cassia (from the dried bark of the cassia tree) is similar to cinnamon, but less delicate in flavor with a slight pungent 'bite'.


Kayu Manis


You can find cloves in many Indonesian dishes and even cookies.

These dried, unopened flower buds give a warm aroma and pungency to foods, but should be used with care as the flavor can become overpowering. Available in ground form. Cloves are added to soups, sauces, mulled drinks, stewed fruits and apple pies.




Instead desiccated coconut, Indonesians mostly use the fresh grated coconut. The young meat are tend to use in cake baking and also drinks.






Coconut Milk

This is not the juice from the inside of a coconut but the liquid extracted from the white flesh. Instead using coconut milk from a tin or a can, Indonesians prefer to "produce" their own santan by grating the coconut and later on mixing it with water; squeezing the coconut mixture to get the coconut milk.

 The white, milky liquid extracted from coconut meat and used to give a coconut flavor to foods. It is available in cans at most grocery stores. Reduced-fat (light) coconut milk can be substituted for regular coconut milk in recipes.

For Substitution:

Moistened desiccated coconut with warm water; squeeze the mixture.











Indonesians normally only use the seeds, but some dishes require the leaves and/or the roots. Whole seeds are usually lightly crushed before use.

Available in seed and ground form. These tiny, pale brown seeds have a mild, spicy flavor with a slight orange peel fragrance. An essential spice in curry dishes, but also extremely good in many cake and cookie recipes.




An aromatic spice with a pungent flavor. Seeds are available whole or ground.

Sold in seed or ground. Cumin has a warm, pungent aromatic flavor and is used extensively in flavor curries and many Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes. Popular in Germany for flavoring sauerkraut and pork dishes. Use ground or whole in meat dishes and stuffed vegetables.



Dried Shrimps/Dried Prawns 





Ebi/Udang Kering

Egg Noodles

There are many types of noodles to be used in Indonesian cooking; amongst the popular ones would be egg noodles.

 Wide, flat pasta made from eggs and flour.



Mie Telur


Almost similar to cumin but with slightly fatter appearance, with licorice-like flavor.






Adas/Jintan Manis


In Indonesia there various flours that are use for either baking or cooking. Most commons are listed below

  1. Wheat Starch
  2. Rice Flour (Mostly used as thickener and to make cakes and desserts)
  3. Corn Starch
  4. Green Bean Starch
  5. All Purpose Flour
  6. Tapioca Starch, which is connected to no. 7
  7. Tapioca Flour
  8. Glutinous Rice Flour


Flours that aren't included on the picture
  • Whole Wheat
  • Sago Flour (for substitute, you can use tapioca flour mixed with a little of corn starch)
  • Bread Flour
  • Cake and Pastry Flour
  • Self-raising Flour




Ragam Tepung

  1. Tepung Tang Mien, banyak digunakan dalam resep Nonya, misalnya untuk bikin bakpao, kue bulan/Mooncake, ataupun dimsum
  2. Tepung Beras
  3. Tepung Jagung/Maizena
  4. Tepung Hunkwee
  5. Tepung Terigu
  6. Tepung Tapioka-starch; pada dasarnya tidak sama persis dengan flour, tapi bisa saling menggantikan
  7. Tepung Tapioka-flour; pada dasarnya tidak sama persis dengan yang starch tapi bisa saling menggantikan
  8. Tepung BerasKetan/Tepung Ketan

Tepung yang tidak terdapat didalam foto

  • Tepung Gandum
  • Tepung Sagu (tidak sama dengan tepung tapioka, tetapi jika tidak ada bisa menggunakan tepung tapioka ditambah sedikit tepung maizena)
  • Tepung Roti, berprotein tinggi sejenis Cakra Kembar
  • Tepung Kue dan Pastry, berprotein rendah sejenis Kunci Biru
  • Tepung mudah mengembang; jarang digunakan di Indonesia, sejauh ini hanya terdapat di kota-kota besar seperti Jakarta.


Garlic is essential in Indonesian cooking.


Bawang Putih


Fresh ginger root is recommended rather than the dried ones nor the powdered ones. Always scrape the skin off before using.

Available in many forms. Invaluable for adding to many savory and sweet dishes and for baking gingerbread and brandy snaps. Fresh ginger root looks like a knobby stem. It should be peeled and finely chopped or sliced before use. Dreid ginger root is very hard and light beige in color. To release flavor, "bruise" with a spoon or soak in hot water before using. This dried type is more often used in pickling, jam making and preserving. Also available in ground form, preserved stem ginger and crystallized ginger.




Comes from the Ginger family. A common ingredient in Thai and Indonesian cooking. Galangal is generally fresh or ground. The fresh root is woody and needs to be peeled prior to use.










A fibrous, spicy root related to ginger and used to flavor Indonesian dishes


Kunci (Temu Kunci)

Lime Stone Paste





Kapur Sirih

 Lemon Grass

  A herb with a citrus flavor. The bulb end imparts the most flavor. Usually added to a dish in a large piece and removed before serving. Dried lemon grass has different flavor to the fresh one, it is recommended to use the fresh one. You can either pound the stem and bruise the flesh and release the juices, or make cuts down the stem leaving one end intact; usually an Indonesian would tie it in a knot before adding it to the cooking pan. Lemon grass can be used as skewer for satays.

A tropical grass, the thick blades of which are used to add a subtle lemon flavor.



Lesser Galangal OR Kaempferia Galanga

It is been said that today lesser galangal can only be found in Southeast Asia; in Indonesia, beside used for cooking, as lesser galangal tends to have sweet flavor, it is used to make a particular drink called Jamu.

For Substitution:

Soak dried lesser galangal in boiling water for half hour for 2.5 cm (1 inch) fresh root.




Beside the juice, the leaves are also essential to Indonesian cookings. The most important lime type in Indonesian cooking would be Jeruk Purut (Kaffir Lime).

For Substitution:



Jeruk Limau

Mung Bean




Kacang Hijau/Kacang Ijo


You can either use mortar and pestle to grind it, or you can grate it.

Mace & Nutmeg

Both are found on the same plant. The nutmeg is the inner kernel of the fruit. When ripe, the fruit splits open to reveal bright red arils which lie around the shell of the nutmeg - and once dried are known as mace blades. The flavor of both spices is very similar - warm, sweet and aromatic, although nutmeg is more delicate than mace. Both spices are also sold ground. Use with vegetables; sprinkled over egg dishes, milk puddings and custards; eggnogs and mulled drinks; or use as a flavoring in desserts.





Bawang Bombay

Palm Sugar

Dark brown sugar made from the juice of the coconut palm (aren) flower. Sold in hard block; crush it or grate it. The Indonesian gula merah tends to have darker color and richer flavor compare to the Thai, Philippines, and Malaysian palm sugars.

For Substitution:

Brown Sugar









Gula Merah

Pandan Leaf/Screwpine Leaf

It gives beautiful sweet fragrance to your cooking and baking especially for drinks, cakes, and desserts.





Daun Pandan


Used raw and ground to make sauce for satay, or deep fried and ground for cakes and cookies, or deep fried and used as garnish or condiments.

Raw Peanuts

Peanuts that have not been roasted, salted, or flavored in any other way. Raw peanuts are often sold in bulk at grocery stores, food co-ops, and Asian markets.





 Kacang Tanah

Peanut Oil

Just like coconut oil, peanut oil was also used extensively in Indonesian cooking. Today, not so many Indonesians use either oil.

Oil made from pressed peanuts that is used to stir-fry and deep-fry foods.








Minyak Kacang


White pepper is more common to be found in Indonesian cooking compare to the black ones.

White pepper comes from ripened berries with the outer husks removed. Black pepper comes from unripened berries dried until dark greenish-black in color. Black pepper is more subtle than white. Use white or black peppercorns in marinades and pickling, or freshly ground as a seasoning. Both are available ground. Green peppercorns are also unripe berries with a mild, light flavor. They are canned in brine or pickled, or freeze-dried in jars. They add a pleasant, light peppery flavor to sauces, pates and salad dressings. Drain those packed in liquid and use either whole or mash them lightly before using. Dry green peppercorns should be lightly crushed before using to help release flavor, unless otherwise stated in a recipe.



Salam Leaf

It is actually very much to say different to bay leaf; however, bay leaf is often recommended as a substitution for daun salam

A subtly flavored leaf of the cassia family.

For Substitution:

Bay leaf



Daun Salam
Salted Soy Beans (Fermented Soy Beans)










Southeast Asian chili paste




Sesame Seeds

High in protein and mineral oil content, sesame seeds have a crisp texture and sweet, nutty flavor which combines well in curries and with chicken, pork and fish dishes. Use also to sprinkle over breads, cookies and pastries before baking.







Shallot/Eschallots/Spring Onions

Very widely used in Indonesian cooking compare to Onion (bawang bombay). They are purplish-reddish and small in size.

A member of the onion family, shallots are widely used in Indonesian cooking. They are peeled and pounded to make spice pastes, sliced and added to food before cooking, and sliced and deep-fried to make a garnish.

For Substitution:

Onion, Spanish onion


Bawang Merah

Shrimp Paste (dried)

Extremely pungent salty paste, usually hard blocks. To most people, the smell of terasi is unbelieveably strong in bad way, however, it is an essential ingredient to many Indonesian hot sauces (sambal) and also cookings. It is usually cooked first or toasted over a fire before used. Use sparingly.



Shrimp Paste (wet-black)

Many East Javanese cooking required this wet shrimp paste.



Shrimp Cracker

Small crackers made from rice flour, wheat, or corn; with shrimp flavor and sometimes sold accompanied with shrimp paste sauce.


Kerupuk Udang

Soy Sauce (light-thin)

It is a bit different to soy sauce that you can find in Western/European countries.


Kecap Asin

Soy Sauce (dark-sweet)

Thicker, darker, and has sweet taste. Most well known brand from Indonesia is Kecap Manis ABC.

For Substitution:

Mixture of dark black Chinese soy sauce with brown sugar.


Kecap Manis

Star Anise

This dried, star-shaped seed head has a pungent, aromatic smell, rather similar to fennel. Use very sparingly in stir-fry dishes. Also good with fish and poultry.





Bunga Lawang/Pekak

Sticky Rice/Glutinous Rice

There are two kinds of sticky rice in Indonesia, white and black. Either is used in cooking and baking





Beras Ketan/Ketan

Stinky Beans/Sator






Sweet Basil Seeds 







From the tamarind tree; it imparts a sour flavor to a dish. The dark brown pod of the tamarind tree contains a sour fleshy pulp, which adds a fruity sourness to many dishes. Packets of pulp usually contain the seeds and fibres. Usually sold as a firm block which must be simmered in water for a few minutes before squeezing out the liquid.

The dark amber pulp of the fruit of the tamarind tree, an evergreen native to Asia. Tamarind can be purchased in pressed cakes and reconstituted with water.




Tender soybean cake









Tofu (bean curd)

Made from soya beans

A processed curd made from soybean milk. Tofu is available in the health food section of larger grocery stores and from food coops. Plain tofu tastes bland, but it absorbs flavor from other foods. It is a good source of protein.





Adds a pungent flavor and gives a strong yellow color to the dish. Scrape the skin before using

A yellow, aromatic spice made from the root of the turmeric plant. Closely related to ginger, it is an aromatic root which is dried and ground to produce a bright, orange-yellow powder. It has a rich, warm, distinctive smell, a delicate, aromatic flavor and helps give dishes an attractive yellow coloring. Use in curries, fish and shellfish dishes, rice pilafs and lentil mixtures. It is also a necessary ingredient in mustard pickles and piccalilli.

For Substitution:

1 tsp powdered turmeric for 2.5 cm (1 inch) fresh turmeric



Vermicelli/Cellophane Noodle

Thin and slightly transparent noodles; almost similar to suhun/soun.

Thin, clear noodles made from mung beans.