Siomay bicycle street hawker in Glodok area, Jakarta's Chinatown.

Chinese Indonesian cuisine (Indonesian: Masakan Tionghoa-Indonesia, simplified Chinese: 印尼中华料理; traditional Chinese: 印尼中華料理; pinyin: yìnní zhōnghuá liàolǐ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ìn-nî Tiong-hôa Liāu-lí) is characterized by the mixture of Chinese with local Indonesian style. Chinese Indonesians, mostly descendant of Han ethnic Hokkien and Hakka speakers, brought their legacy of Chinese cuisine, and modified some of the dishes with the addition of Indonesian ingredients, such as kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), palm sugar, peanut sauce, chili, santan (coconut milk) and local spices to form a hybrid Chinese-Indonesian cuisine. Some of the dishes and cakes share the same style as in Malaysia and Singapore, known as Nyonya cuisine by the Peranakan.

Chinese cuisine legacy

Chinese-Indonesian cuisine
Mie goreng, a Chinese dish completely assimilated into Indonesian mainstream cuisine
Mie ayam, and pangsit goreng, a popular noodle dish in Indonesia
Bakso meatballs
Kwetiau ayam, chicken and mushroom flat noodle with wonton soup and bakso
Nasi tim ayam, steamed chicken rice
Kwetiau siram with beef
Shrimp siomay
Fresh lumpia
Kwetiau goreng with crab

Chinese influences are evident in Indonesian food. Popular Chinese Indonesian foods include bakmi, mie ayam, pangsit, bakso, lumpia, kwetiau goreng and mie goreng.[1]

Chinese culinary culture is particularly evident in Indonesian cuisine through the Hokkien, Hakka, and Cantonese loanwords used for various dishes.[2] 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").[3] Also mi or mie () signify noodle as in mie 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, mie 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.[4]

Chinese influence is so evident in cities with large Chinese settlements since colonial era, especially in Jakarta, Cirebon, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, Batam, Bangka, Palembang, Singkawang and Pontianak. As the result numbers of mi (noodle) and tahu (tofu) recipes were developed in these cities. Chinese influence is so evident in Betawi people (native Jakartans) cuisines that basically was formed as peranakan culture, as the result Betawi people held Chinese Indonesians dishes such as asinan and rujak juhi as theirs. To a certain extent, Javanese in Semarang, Solo, and Surabaya also willingly absorbs Chinese culinary influences, as the result they also considered Chinese-influenced dishes such as mie goreng, lumpia, bakso, and tahu gunting as theirs.

Because food is so prevalent in Chinese culture as Chinese families often allocate their quality time to go eating out—just like banquet customs commonly found in Chinese communities worldwide—many Pecinan (Chinatowns) in Indonesian cities are well known as the culinary hot spots of the city, with rows of shops and restaurants. As Chinese and also native Indonesians establishing their food business, many eating establishments sprung up, from humble street side cart hawker to fancy restaurants offering their specialty. Areas such as Glodok, Pecenongan, and Kelapa Gading in Jakarta, Kesawan, Pusat Pasar, Jalan Semarang, Asia Mega Mas, Cemara Asri and Sunggal in Medan, Cibadak and Gardujati / Gardu Jati in Bandung, Kya-kya Kembang Jepun in Surabaya, and Pecinans in Cirebon, Semarang and Solo teem with many warungs, shops and restaurants, not only offering Chinese Indonesian dishes, but also local and international cuisines.

Adaptation to local cuisine

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 residing 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 East Java, Chinese food there is more salty and savory with a preference of petis shrimp paste. In Medan, North Sumatra and also in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, a more traditional Chinese style can be found. Chinese cuisine in Indonesia also have absorbed local preference of spicy food and local ingredients. For example, it is common to have sambal chili sauce, acar pickles and sprinkle of bawang goreng crispy fried shallot as condiment.

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 taken 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.[5]

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:

List of Chinese Indonesian food

Most of the times, the name of Chinese Indonesian foods are preserved from its original Chinese Hokkien name (e.g. bakmi, bakpau, locupan, lumpia, swikee). However, sometimes the name are derived from the translation of its meanings, ingredients or process in Indonesian (e.g. babi kecap, kakap asam manis, kembang tahu, nasi tim).


Chinese-Indonesian Cuisine
Sapo tahu seafood
Babi hong, pork braised in soy sauce and spices
Sekba, pork offals
Nasi campur Chinese Indonesian version
Swikee kodok oh, frog legs in Tauco soup
Haisom with mushroom

Desserts and sweets

See also


  1. ^ Heinz Von Holzen (2014). A New Approach to Indonesian Cooking. Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd. p. 15. ISBN 9789814634953.
  2. ^ Tan 2002, p. 154
  3. ^ Tan 2002, pp. 155–156
  4. ^ Tan 2002, p. 158
  5. ^ Josh Chen. "Asal Usul Lontong Cap Go Meh" (in Indonesian). Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.