Experiencing Indonesian cuisine in Nairobi

Nasi goreng kampung ( fried rice) is a popular Indonesian delicacy that can be prepared in 20 minutes. Photo | Pool

Three years ago, I made a maiden trip to Indonesia where I stayed for 10 days. My experiences, from the ancient temples of Borobudur to the terraced rice fields of Bali have remained etched in my thoughts.

But it wasn’t just the awe- inspiring landscapes and the warmth and kindness of the Indonesian people that captivated my heart. The food, oh my! The food…it was a symphony of flavours and finger licking meals.

One of the many things I recall about my adventures is that rice was a staple that reigned supreme. It was served across all the meals of the day. But what was super interesting was how this simple grain was used to make different types of rice. Across the day, no meal was like the other.

Pisang Goreng ( fried bananas), is a popular Indonesian delicacy that is crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Photo | Pool

Last weekend, Indonesia embassy held its first Indonesia Nairobi Expo, the IndoNEX 2023. Besides the business and education opportunities it offered, to me, this was a great chance to immerse myself yet again in the country’s delicious foods. 

As the chef of the day, Zulfah Nahdliyati, wife to Indonesia’s Ambassador to Kenya, Hery Saripudin explained the ingredients for Nasi goreng (fried rice), a captivating blend of stir-fried rice, deboned chicken, and seasonings, I inched forward to get a closer look of the ingredients so I could try later. One of the key ingredients, I learnt, is sweet soy sauce found in major supermarkets and can be homemade by mixing soy sauce and brown sugar. “The rice must be cold. Once the rice is cooked, spread out on a tray, and refrigerate for 3—four hours,” she said.

At first glance, it may seem like the typical fried rice we make at home. Until you try it! You’d also go for a second serving.

The second dish that I got to enjoy once again is Pisang goreng (fried bananas). When in Indonesia, there was no incentive to learn how to make this dish because it was readily available but, on this day, I was committed to learn how I can give my plantains a tweak with locally available ingredients. Because these are popular dishes in Indonesia, there are specific seasonings for them readily available in Indonesia. The result was crispy bananas on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside. Perfect snack if you ask me.

To make your plantains crunchy, coat the bananas in batter (made of rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, turmeric powder, and water) before deep frying.

“We love to make our food extra. A smile is a secret ingredient too,” one of my Indonesian friends whispered to me.