Rice and Spices

Find out about two of the main ingredients used in Indonesian cuisine...


Known across the world as the "Spice Islands", Indonesia's wet and volcanic Maluku island group historically produced mace, nutmeg, cloves and galangal for export and domestic use. Lemongrass, black pepper, turmeric, shallot, cinnamon, candlenut, coriander and tamarind were most likely introduced to the country from India while ginger, green onions and garlic came from China.

Spices, along with other imports such as soy sauce and chilli (from the Americas), have played a big role in shaping the country's culinary culture.


Rice has formed the staple diet of the archipelago since around 2000BC where meals consisted of rice with fish, fruit and vegetables. Trade with the Chinese around this time saw tea, noodles, mustard and cabbage introduced to the area along with the Chinese method of stir-fry. Indonesia's national dish Nasi goreng (fried rice) is directly linked to Chinese influences.

Rice is a major part of the cuisine in the country and is often found in desserts and beverages. The two most common types of rice are nasi putih, which is a long-grained rice, and nasi ketan, glutinous rice, which is often used in making desserts, cakes and sweet snacks.