Chinese Indonesian cuisine

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Mie goreng, a Chinese dish completely assimilated into Indonesian mainstream cuisine
Nasi campur Chinese Indonesian version
Shrimp siomay
Fresh lumpia

Chinese Indonesian cuisine is characterized by the mixture of Chinese with local Indonesian style. Chinese Indonesian bring their Chinese cuisine legacy, and modified some of the dishes with addition of chili, santan (coconut milk), kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), and spices formed a hybrid Chinese-Indonesian cuisine. Some of the dishes and cakes share the same style as in Malaysia and Singapore which are known as the Nonya cuisine by the Peranakan.

Chinese cuisine legacy[edit]

Chinese culinary culture is particularly evident in Indonesian cuisine through the Hokkien, Hakka, and Cantonese loanwords used for various dishes.[1] Words beginning with bak () signify the presence of meat, e.g. bakpau ("meat bun"); words ending with cai () signify vegetables, e.g. pecai ("Chinese white cabbage") and cap cai ("mixed vegetables").[2] Also mi or mie () signify noodle as in mi goreng ("fried noodle").

Most of these loanwords for food dishes and their ingredients are Hokkien in origin and are used throughout the Indonesian language and vernacular speech of large cities. Because they have become an integral part of the local language, many Indonesians and ethnic Chinese do not recognize their Hokkien origins. Some of popular Indonesian dishes such as nasi goreng, mi goreng, bihun, kwetiau, lumpia and bakpia can trace their origin to Chinese influence. Some food and ingredients are part of the daily diet of both the indigenous and ethnic Chinese populations as side dishes to accompany rice, the staple food of most of the country.[3]

Adaptation to local cuisine[edit]

The Indonesian Chinese cuisine also vary with locations. For example, in different parts of Java the dishes are adapted to local culture and taste, in return Chinese Indonesians reside in this region also had developed a taste for local cuisine. In central Java, the food tends to be much sweeter, while in West Java it is saltier. In Medan, North Sumatra a more traditional Chinese style can be found.

Chinese cuisine influences on Indonesian cuisine is evident in Indonesian take on Chinese dishes, such as mie goreng, lumpia, bakso and siomay. However the culinary influences is also took another way around. Vice versa, Chinese Indonesian also been influenced by native Indonesian cuisine. It is believed that Lontong Cap Go Meh is a Chinese Indonesian take on traditional Indonesian dishes. The dish reflect the assimilation among Chinese immigrants with local community.[4]

Because Indonesia is Muslim majority country, some of ingredients were replaced to create a halal Chinese food; by replacing pork with chicken or beef, and replacing lard with palm oil or chicken fat. Most of Chinese eating establishments with significant Muslim native Indonesian clientele would do so. However in Chinatowns in major Indonesian cities where there is significant Chinese and non-Muslim population, Chinese restaurants that serve pork dishes such as babi kecap (pork belly in soy sauce), char siew, crispy roast pork, sweet pork sausage and sate babi (pork satay) are available.

There are different styles of Chinese food in Indonesia:

  • Traditional Chinese food, such as the Teochew, Hokkian, Hakka dishes.
  • Chinese-Indonesian food with recipes borrowed from local Indonesian cuisine, Dutch and other European cuisine.
  • Chinese dishes adapted to the local taste, such as replacing pork with chicken or beef to make it halal.
  • New style Chinese food with chefs from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan.

List of Chinese Indonesian food[edit]

Some of the typical Chinese Indonesian Food:

  • Bakmi, noodles which are adapted to different styles and regions. Each city has its own recipe for noodles or mie, e.g. Bakmi Jawa, Bakmi Bandung, Bakmi Medan, Bakmi Makassar, Bakmi Bangka, etc. 'Bak-Mi' comes from the Hokkien pronunciation for 'Meat-Noodle'.
  • Bakso, Bak-So is the Hokkien pronunciation for 'Shredded-Meat'.
  • Bakwan, Bak-Wan is the Hokkien pronunciation for 'Meat-Ball', usually made from beef.
  • Cap cai, named for the Hokkian word for a mixture of various types of vegetables. Usually served as stir fried mixed vegetables with chicken when ordered as ala carte.
  • Fu yung hai, sometimes spelled Pu yung hai, is a type of omelette filled with vegetables and meat (usually crab meat, shrimp or minced chicken) served in sweet and sour sauce.
  • Kwetiau goreng, fried flat noodle similar to char kuay teow.
  • Laksa, spicy noodle soup of peranakan cuisine, prominent in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesian version are Laksa Betawi and Laksa Bogor.
  • Lumpia, a fresh spring roll of Hokkien/Chaozhou-style origin.
  • Lontong Cap Go Meh, lontong in rich coconut milk with chicken opor ayam, liver in chilli, sayur lodeh, and telur pindang (marbled egg). A Chinese Indonesian take on Indonesian cuisines dishes served during festive Cap Go Meh.
  • Mie goreng, fried noodle with spices and chili darkened with kecap manis.
  • Bihun goreng, fried thin rice noodle with spices and chili darkened with kecap manis.
  • Nasi campur, In Chinese Indonesian version, it is rice with an assortment of Chinese barbecue, such as Char Siew, crispy roast pork, sweet pork sausage and pork satay.
  • Nasi goreng, fried rice with spices and chili, often add kecap manis, but another variant may differ.
  • Nasi Tim, steamed chicken rice served with chicken brooth soup.
  • Pau, which is the Chinese word for 'bun'; sometimes written as Bak-Pau, literally meaning 'Meat-Bun', which is a bun with meat fillings. (Bak is the Hokkien pronunciation for 'meat'.)
  • Sate babi, pork satay can be found in Chinatowns in Indonesian cities, especially around Glodok, Pecenongan, and Senen in the Jakarta area. It is also popular in Bali which the majority are Hindus, and also popular in The Netherlands.
  • Sapo, Sa-Po which is the Chinese word for 'Clay-Pot'.
  • Siomay, similar to Chinese dim sum.
  • Pangsit goreng / kuah, fried wonton or wonton soup.
  • Swikee, frog legs dish.
  • Tahu goreng, fried tofu with peanut sauce or sweet soy sauce with chopped chili. 'Tau-Hu' also comes from the Chinese word for 'Bean-Curd'.
  • Kembang tahu, soft tofu pudding in sweet ginger and sugar syrup.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tan 2002, p. 154
  2. ^ Tan 2002, pp. 155–156
  3. ^ Tan 2002, p. 158
  4. ^ Josh Chen. "Asal Usul Lontong Cap Go Meh" (in Indonesian). Retrieved 29 September 2012. 


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