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13 Unique Eating Customs in Indonesia – Habits

by Tri Setiya

Each country must have its own characteristic of each culture. There are even a variety of unique customs that done by the community. Custom is part of the culture that shows how community doing something. As the example is eating custom. Indonesians have a unique custom of eating. You would see the average Indonesians who often do these habits in every meal time, whether it while having breakfast, lunch or dinner. See these following paragraphs of eating customs in Indonesia.

  1. Using no utensil while eating

Don’t be so surprised with this kind of eating custom in Indonesia. It is normal for Indonesians to eat by their hand without using any utensil. By doing this, the experience of eating becomes more enjoyable. You could also lick the food spice that is left in your fingers.

It is recommended to eat using hands when eating the foods with not so many sauce like pecel, fried Lamongan chicken, Sundanese seafood, or Nasi Padang. Never try this method of eating while you eat a dish contains many water or sauce such as Soto Ayam, Mie Ayam, or Meatball. (Read also: Dining Etiquette in Indonesia)

  1. Rice is the most important at all

Rice is the staple food of Indonesians. Therefore, they would say that they have not eaten before they eat rice. Even though they have already eaten sushi, pizza, burgers, chicken, and so on, they will assume they have not eaten before eating rice. Since rice is a mandatory menu in every Indonesian dish, it has become a habit at every meal time. Rice becomes the first menu that is spooned onto the plate, not the side dish. (Read also: Rice Production in Indonesia)

  1. Rice with instant noodle

Although instant noodle is categorized as carbohydrate, Indonesians would add rice while eating it. They would think that the rice is the main food while instant noodle is only the side dish. Actually, this kind of custom is not good for health. Because they are both carbohydrates,  they can increase the spike in blood sugar at the body that trigger diabetes. However, don’t be so surprised while you see Indonesians do the same things.  It is ridiculously unique.

  1. Eating together

Eating is also the media of socialization. You know that Indonesians are typically like to socialite each other. That is why they would like to invite others to eat together. In every event that they have, eating is always one of to do list. In reunite, meeting, or in party, eating is a must. They think that it could be such a pleasure for them to eat together with friends, family, or even working partner.

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  1. Lesehan style

Have you heard about lesehan? Lesehan is the way of eating without sitting on the chair. They usually eat on the floor which is carpeted. There would be a small table on it. In Indonesia, there are many restaurants with this syle are available. This way of eating is considered as one form of togethernes. You could find this famous place in some various cities such as Malioboro area in Yogyakarta, Blok M in Jakarta, or Punclut in Bandung. Go there and try the sensation of eating in lesehan style!

  1. Tofu and tempe are the legendary

This duo of vegetable protein side dish mostly appears at the dinning table. Besides the nutrition, the price that is affordable make the majority of Indonesians always eat tofu and tempe in one plate. Recently, these soybean-based foods are often regarded as home food and less prestigious.

However, these foods are actually categorized as popular and expensive food in Europe. Things you need to be proud of, you can eat tofu and tempe as much as you want without worry about the price. While in Netherlands, to enjoy one piece of tofu only, you need to pay 10 Euro or equivalent to IDR 151.000.

  1. Love to eat innards

 Almost 80% of Indonesians are fond of the innards. The innards such as offal of cows, offal chicken, fish innards such as lungs, heart, brain, intestine, and many others are the favorites. The offal is very tasty. That is why there are so many Indonesian people like to eat this one food. But guys, eating offal like intestine, liver and other bowels can affect to your health. If you eat in large amount and the high intensity, you could get some dangerous diseases as like urid acid and high cholesterol.

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8. Sambal is a must

Sambal is a mandatory topping for the culinary lovers of Indonesia. Sambal is a traditional Indonesian sauce that tastes really spicy. Made of some chilies and others seasoning, sambal is always become the most complimentary while eating. It is certainly not processed by factory, but made in the traditional method by hands. By adding this sauce while eating, the appetite could be increased dramatically. No wonder if there are approximately 300 types of sambal in Indonesia from various regions.

  1. Cracker is a mandatory side dish

The sensation of crunching sounds from crackers is very popular in Indonesia. The savory and crispness from crackers is amazingly delicious. You could find crackers in almost every place to eat in Indonesia, such as Soto stalls, chicken noodle stalls, even in luxurious restaurants. There are some kinds of crackers in Indonesia, ranging from onion crackers, mackerel fish crackers, shrimp crackers, and much more. That is why cracker is the mandatory side dish in Indonesia.

  1. Lalapan

Lalapan is the vegetables that used as the side dish for the complimentary while eating. Usually, lalapan consists of basil, cabbage, cucumber, long bean and sauce. It is eaten together with some types of menu such as fried or grilled chicken, pecel lele, and many others. The most cuisine that popular with lalapan is Sundanese Cuisine. That is why lalapan is also one of the top lists of side dish that must available in Indonesian dining table.

11. It is okay to take the fallen food before 5 minutes

It is actually a popular philosophy of “Belum lima menit” which means it is okay to take the fallen food before five minutes. Many people believe that germs need time to be able to contaminate falling food. For Indonesians, after 5 minutes the microbes are believed to have spread perfectly. But if in America, this is known as the five-second rule. Hence, if the food is falling directly taken, the food is considered as not dirty.

  1. Washing hands using “kobokan” water before eating

 The next unique custom is the use of kobokan in Indonesia. Kobokan is actually a bowl of water put in the dining table which functioned for hand washing. You know that Indonesians typically like to use their hand directly without using any utensil while eating. So, here the kobokan works. They don’t need go to anywhere to wash their hands since kobokan has already been available on their table.

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  1. Take picture before eating is a must

This custom starts booming in millennial era. Since the use of smartphone and social media shows the high rate in Indonesia, taking a picture before eating in Indonesia is a must. Although this is just a sample of justification, you could proof it while you visit some fancy restaurants. There are many youngsters and teens come there for taking picture before eating. For some Indonesians, eating in the fancy place is prestige. That is why they would take some pictures then upload them to their social media.

Those are the eating custom in Indonesia that might make you so surprised. Some of them are typically unique and only happen in Indonesia. While you visit Indonesia, you could try those ways of eating and experience how it could increase your appetite.

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