Not hundreds. Not thousands. Not even 17,000. Nope. Experts state that “more than 17,000 islands make up Indonesia.”
Either they lost count or they simply wanted an even number. Regardless, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world with over 300 languages spoken. And, guess what? 11,000 of those islands are uninhabited.
I wonder, if I’m really nice, if they’ll let me have one?
Hmm. Maybe not.
Of course, I’ll be happy to settle for a few Indonesian meals.
The food is rich, highly spiced, and incredibly flavorful. We’ve already dabbled in Indonesian food on this Adventure, as their influence stretches far into neighboring countries.
We made bakso noodle soup [recipe], an amazing concoction that is also enjoyed in East Timor. The soup is a masterful balance of clean, fresh flavors, punctuated by a spicy pop from the beloved sambal (hot sauce).
Almost a year ago we made Sayur Lodeh with rempah [recipe], a fragrant shrimp coconut curry served with lontong (rice steamed in banana leaves) [recipe]. The rempah is made with lemongrass, cashews, ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Absolutely intense in the best possible way.
Other common Indonesian dishes include satay – skewered beef [recipe], chicken, or pork – with peanut dipping sauce [recipe]. The meat is marinated in a savory blend of garlic, ginger, onion, and kecap manis, their beloved sweet soy sauce. It’s so thick it pours like molasses, sluggish even on a hot day.
A crowd-pleaser is Indonesian fried rice (nasi goreng) [recipe] – typically a simple dish seasoned with little more than onion, garlic, and kecap manis. The rice can be served any time of day but is particularly beloved in the morning with cow’s eyes (a.k.a. fried eggs) on top.
If you crave a fresh salad, Indonesia has plenty of those. One favorite is gado gado [recipe], made with boiled potatoes, eggs, young jackfruit, green beans, and more. Served chilled with peanut sauce, it’s at once filling and refreshing.
Desserts are as fresh as the fruit in season, although many other confections abound.
As you drift from island to island, you’ll delight in discovering local variations and specialties. One of the most popular places in Indonesia is Bali. I first read about Bali in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love.” She says they typically ask you three questions upon meeting you in Bali:
Where are you going?
Where are you coming from?
Are you married?
The most important questions in the world, if you ask me.