Behold, one of the most ethnic cuisines you will ever find.
Authentic Indonesian cuisine uses various blends of spices that can really work wonders with even the simplest of dishes. As major ingredients, they are usually combined to induce a delightful taste that lingers after every bite.
With so many diverse flavour renditions coming from different parts of Indonesia, you’ll be surprised to find that dishes can vary from sweet and salty to spicy and savoury depending on the cooking method. Such is the complex nature of the cuisine.
Upon scouring the island for great Indonesian fare, I found that some of them do come quite close to the real deal back in Indonesia.
Here are some places you can go to in Singapore to savour the very best of Indonesian grub:
Hjh Maimunah has been helmed as one of the best Malay cum Indonesian restaurants where the food is delicious yet affordable.
Established in the 90s, the establishment is still serving traditional, kampung-style cuisine, catering to many different customers till this day.
The signature Sundanese BBQ Chicken ($11 for lunch, $12 for dinner) inspired by West Javanese cuisine is simply the best. This dish boasts many great flavours from ingredients like coconut milk, galangal and kaffir lime leaves that makes it as aromatic as curry but in a grilled chicken form.
Pair this with your Nasi Padang along with other dishes such as the popular Lemak Siput ($5 for a small portion, $7 for a bigger portion) which are soft shell clams doused in coconut milk and you’re in for a treat.
Hjh Maimunah Restaurant & Catering: 11 & 15 Jalan Pisang, Singapore 199078 | Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday (7am – 8pm), Closed on Sundays | Facebook
As one of the longest-surviving Nasi Padang stalls in Singapore, Warong Nasi Pariaman is the place to go to for your Nasi Padang fix. If you haven’t had this dish before, it is basically white rice eaten with other dishes that are usually rich in flavours such as coconut oil, lemongrass and (as with any Indonesian meal), fresh chilli.
One of the great seafood offerings is the Ikan Pangang ($4.50 per pc) which is a charcoal grilled selar fish that is marinated in kicap manis and served with chunks of raw onions along with red and green chilli. Have this with lime drizzled over and a dash of sambal belado and you will be thoroughly satisfied.
Warong Nasi Pariaman, 736/738 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198704 | Opening Hours: 10am – 8pm daily | Facebook
Located right opposite Great World City, IndoChili has received countless of culinary accolades since its inception. With a menu that offers a wide selection of food from across the archipelago, the servings consist mostly of Javanese, Padangnese and Balinese cuisine that is able to cater to any food preferences diners might have. Furthermore, they also grind fresh spices from scratch and make it a point not to add any artificial enhancers in their food.
A popular pick from the menu is definitely the Nasi Goreng Seafood ($12.80) which is basically the Indonesian equivalent of fried rice. The fragrant and flavourful fried rice comes with prawns, squid and a fried egg alongside crunchy vegetables and keropok.
IndoChili: 54 Zion Road, Singapore 247779 | Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday (11.30am – 10pm), Friday & Saturday (11.30am – 10.30pm), Sundays ( 11.30am – 10pm) | Website
What started off as a humble Nasi Padang stall has since transitioned into a full-fledged Indonesian restaurant that sells Ala carte dishes that are whipped up using various cooking styles. The extensive menu features a whole range of dishes made with original recipes that have garnered a loyal following.
Arguably one of the best dishes on the menu, the Ayam Bali ($5.80 small, $14.80 medium) is a boneless chicken thigh that is grilled until the skin is crispy before it is brushed with a kicap manis marinade for that extra bit of flavour. You can opt to have this with rice that will be served in a neatly folded banana leaf, making it more fragrant than regular steamed rice.
Pagi Sore Indonesian Restaurant: 88 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 048470 | Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday (11am – 2.30pm, 6pm – 9.30pm), Closed on Sundays| Facebook
Serving up various Panggang sets, Riverside Indonesian BBQ is a humble stall at Plaza Singapura’s Kopitiam. Highlights on the menu include grilled items like the fish, chicken and squid combinations.
The food is of such superb quality because of the signature black sauce that is drizzled on top of every dish.
Grilled chicken can never go wrong, especially not when the Ayam Panggang set ($5.50) comes with a sweet black sauce that enhances the taste of the succulent meat even further. Together with the curry rice and a huge omelette slice, I’m sure it will be everything you wish for in a panggang meal.
The best part is the extremely affordable price tag.
Riverside Indonesian BBQ: 68 Orchard Road, #06-15/20 Plaza Singapura Kopitiam, Singapore 238839 | Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm daily | Facebook
As one of the oldest Indonesian restaurants, Tambuah Mas brings to you a traditional home-style cuisine from Padang, Sulawesi and Java with all the basic dishes you might find there. Helmed by native Indonesian chefs, it serves up some of the most authentic dishes that have won over many customers who keep coming back even after decades.
Having tried so many versions of the traditional Indonesian egg beancurd, I have to say that their Tahu Telor ($10.50) is by far one of the best ones I’ve had. The cubed beancurd fried in crispy eggs is topped with a homemade spicy-sweet dark sauce that truly makes it a dish to die for. As a starter dish, you can’t go wrong with this.
An honourable mention would be the Sop Buntut ($6.50), a spicy oxtail soup that is stewed slowly to perfection. Unlike most oxtail soups that are typically sweet or salty, this one has a tinge of sourness to it that reminds me of the Sayur Asam Soup.
The Ayam Goreng Istimewa ($13) is another worthy contender. Cooked in the traditional Indonesian fried chicken style, it is accented with a crispy golden spice blend that you just can’t get with other chicken.
Tambuah Mas Indonesian Restaurant: The Paragon, #B1-44, 290 Orchard Road | Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm daily | Facebook
Cumi Bali is a family-run restaurant filled with an impressive menu of house specials that have drawn something of a cult following over the years. If you have not gotten the chance to try authentic Indonesian cuisine, this is a good place to start.
Some of the signature offerings that many customers order on a regular basis are the Cumi Bali ($28), a grilled sotong dish, and the Sate Madura ($7), better known as the chicken satay.
The Cumi Bali is flame-grilled until it is smoky and topped off with a sweet black sauce that makes it even more mouth-watering. The humble satay is marinated and grilled perfectly until the meat is tender and let me tell you, it tastes wonderful with the kicap manis marinade.
Just order a few main course dishes like these and pair them with rice and you’re good to go.
Cumi Bali: 66 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088487 | Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday (11.30am – 2.30pm, 6pm – 9.30pm), Sundays (6pm – 9.30pm) | Facebook
With a Dutch Rijsttafel concept, The Rice Table is a restaurant where one can get the opportunity to sample a whole range of Indonesian dishes in just one sitting. Expect to be served a wide array of meat, poultry, seafood and vegetable dishes together with rice and sambal on the side in a lavish buffet style fit for a king.
This affordable all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($17.90 per pax) comes with 14 different dishes served on a food warmer allowing diners to take their time with savouring each dish. Some must-tries includes the most popular Tahu Telor (tofu omelette), Sate Ayam (chicken satay) and Otak (grilled fishcake).
Alternatively, the dinner buffet ($29.49 per pax) is also available with a spread of 20 dishes. If you want, you can also order additional servings of the dishes from the menu.
The Rice Table: 360 Orchard Road, #02-09/10, International Building, Singapore 238869 | Opening Hours: 12pm – 2.30pm, 6pm – 9.30pm daily | Facebook
As the name suggests, Ayam Penyet Ria is an Indonesian restaurant that specialises in penyet food. I must say that this restaurant chain is pretty legit as I’ve tried the outlet that’s based in Indonesia, so rest assured that the penyet is of the same good quality.
For those who are unfamiliar with Ayam Penyet, it is basically smashed fried chicken served with rice and most importantly, sambal chilli.
After a good pounding with a wooden mallet, the crispy deep-fried chicken in the Ayam Penyet ($7.40) is made more tender for consumption. Served on a fresh pandan leaf, each portion comes with a piece of smashed chicken on top of steamed rice with a side of fried tempeh, tofu and blanched vegetables.
And of course, the ever addictive sambal belacan that I simply can’t go without. Do not hesitate to ask for more if it runs out.
You can also opt for the boneless version of this dish and if you want something other than chicken, other penyet options such as Bakso Penyet (beef ball) and Udang Penyet (fried prawn) are available as well.
Wash down that oily goodness with a glass of Teh Botol Sosro ($1.80), an iconic Indonesian drink that I’m sure most have come across if you’ve visited Indonesia. Translating to bottled tea, it is essentially a sweetened version of jasmine tea that is usually served cold. Definitely a refreshing drink after having spicy food.
Ayam Penyet Ria: Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Road, #04-25/26, Singapore 238863 | Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday (11.30am – 1am), Friday – Sunday (11.30am – 3am) | Facebook
Blue Bali will transport you back to Bali with intricately designed furnishings in an intimate outdoor veranda, set against a scenic backdrop.
A hidden gem nestled at the back of the Law campus at NUS in Bukit Timah, you can’t get a more authentic Balinese setting than this in Singapore.
If you are looking to indulge in a feast, try the Jimbaran BBQ Seafood Platter ($90) packed with fresh seafood including a grilled snapper, a succulent cumi doused in sambal, freshly grilled mussels and king prawns together with Balinese rice and a garden salad on the side.
For a less filling meal, they have other cheaper options on their menu as well. With great food and a relaxing picturesque setting, this is definitely the place to go for a retreat.
Blue Bali: 1D Cluny Road, Singapore 259600 | Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday (4pm – 12am), Saturday & Sunday (11am-12am), Closed on Mondays | Facebook
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