Satay and sambal: 12 foods every Indonesian visitor needs to try
(CNN) — As the world’s largest archipelagic nation, Indonesia is filled with different cultures and influences spread out over 1,904,569 square kilometers (735,358 square miles).
This makes it a huge challenge to try to summarize the flavors of the country in just a few paragraphs.
“Indonesian food culture is based on regional cooking among 17,500 islands, 38 provinces and 700 dialects,” says Indonesian cookbook author William Wongso.
“Flavors of Indonesia are very diverse. From Aceh (the westernmost province of Indonesia) to West Sumatra (also a western province), it’s only about a 1.5-hour flight, yet their food and taste profiles are totally different.”
The 75-year-old author of “Flavors of Indonesia: William Wongso’s Culinary Wonders.” says that even though he’s been traveling and eating around Indonesia for decades, he still hasn’t tasted every local dish.
For example, chefs in the Moluccas on the eastern side of Indonesia, once nicknamed the “Spice Islands,” prefer using fresh spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Aceh, on the other hand, frequently incorporates dried spices thanks to the influence of India, Arabia and China.
Padang (or Minangkabau) cuisine in West Sumatra uses lots of coconut cream, chiles, shallots and some curry spices, as well as ginger and galangal with aromatic herbs such as turmeric leaves, kaffir lime