Living in a country that has endless variety of food and drinks, Indonesians do eat out, but the majority does not go to restaurants. The local food scene relies heavily on street food. Indonesians savour the delicious meals offered by ubiquitous street vendors day and night for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Street food is a quick meal sold by a vendor with a push cart, basket, at a stall, or possibly at a store where customers can see the preparation of food clearly. It provides a close connection between the customer and the street food, unlike having a plate of food in a restaurant.
The types of food offered vary from a simple fried tofu to a much more complicated dish like gudeg (raw jackfruit cooked in a Javanese traditional way that originated from Yogyakarta). In big cities like Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang and Medan, the street vendors offer many a traditional food from various regions in the archipelago. But in smaller cities, they are usually of the local cuisine. The most commonly found street food is bakso or meatballs that are usually served in a bowl, like soup, with noodles, bean curds (tofu), eggs, and/or fried meat.
Another popular soup-like street food is soto. It is mainly comprised of broth and vegetables. The meats most commonly used are beef and chicken, but there are also sotos with mutton and pork. It is usually accompanied by rice or compressed rice. Sotos are differentiated by the ingredients in them, such as soto ayam (chicken) and soto kambing (mutton).
There are many sotos in Indonesia, as different regions and ethnicities have their own ways of preparing the cuisine, such as soto Madura (from East Java), soto Betawi (from Jakarta), soto Padang (from West Sumatra), so to Bandung (from West Java), soto Banjar (from South Kalimantan), and coto Makassar (from South Sulawesi).
The other popular delicacy often sold by street vendors is satay. It is a dish consisting of chunks or slices of dice-sized meat (chicken, goat, lamb, beef, pork, or fish) on bamboo skewers, which are grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, then served with various spicy seasonings, mostly made of ground nuts. Satay may have originated in Java or Sumatra, but is very popular outside Indonesia too. Similar to soto bakso and soto, there are many types of satay from sate Madura to Padang, sate lilit, sate susu, kulit, sate Ponorogo and many more.
Nasi goreng (steamed rice stir-fried with eggs, meatballs, chicken/beef/shrimp, assorted vegetables and often with sweet soy sauce seasoning) is also very popular along with nasi rawon (rice served with dark beef soup) originally from East Java. The dark colour comes from the meaty seeds of kluwak nuts. Usually served with uncooked mung bean sprouts and salty duck eggs, pecel (a mixture of vegetables and traditional crackers with spicy peanut paste). Madiun and Blitar in East Java are popular for their pecel and gado-gado (a mixture of vegetables, crackers and rice with peanut flavoured sauce). The taste is sweet in Eastern Java and salty in Western Java.
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