How To Host The Perfect Indonesian Dinner Party

Fire up the oven and gather your spices. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to host an authentic and delicious Indonesian dinner party.
overhead shot of Indonesian food spread

Indonesian cuisine is delicious. That’s not just our opinion: Indonesian dishes took the top two spots in a 2017 CNN poll of the world’s best foods (Beef rendang was first, followed by nasi goreng). Whether you’re learning the Indonesian language and want a fun way to put your new skills to use or you simply appreciate the tasty food Indonesia has to offer, consider adding an Indonesian dinner party to your calendar.

We’ve compiled a list of suggested courses (and accompanying recipes) you could make for your very own Indonesian dinner party. But there are, of course, countless incredible dishes to choose from. We’ve also included some helpful Indonesian words and phrases so you can practice the language and make your party the real deal.

Drink: Tuak

palm wine

Like any other country, Indonesia has many popular beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Tuak is a particularly common drink, and variations of it are served throughout the nation. Tuak is a type of palm wine, made by distilling the flower essence or sap of palm trees. Roots, herbs and sometimes dried fruits are mixed in to flavor and sweeten the drink. In some parts of Indonesia, tuak is consumed daily, while in other areas (like among the Batak people of North Sumatra) it’s reserved for special occasions.

This drink could be difficult to find in the United States unless you have an Indonesian grocery in your area. Otherwise, you can attempt to make it yourself or fake it by buying a different type of palm wine. We won’t tell.

Appetizer: Bakwan (Vegetable Fritters)

veggie fritters

Who doesn’t love a little fried food? Indonesians certainly do, especially when it comes to their appetizers. But bakwan is made from vegetables, so it’s healthy, right? Right? Regardless, these delicious veggie fritters are a great bite-sized starter, and you can choose exactly which vegetables you want to include. This bakwan recipe suggests shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, corn and scallions. Mix it all together with spices, flour, egg and water, and then fry dollops of the thick batter in a pan until they’re golden brown.

Main Course: Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

We don’t always jump on every bandwagon, but we have to this time. Rendang won best food in the world in the CNN poll, so it should probably be included in your Indonesian dinner party. Rendang is caramelized beef curry, and it’s worth the effort involved in cooking it.

Leave yourself plenty of time to make this dish, as it takes about three and a half hours from start to finish. This beef rendang recipe breaks the somewhat complex process down step-by-step with accompanying photos. Essentially, the beef is cut into cubes, combined with spices, and then stewed in hot coconut milk for about three hours. Rendang is usually served with rice.

Dessert: Kolak Pisang

Kolak Pisang

As with the drinks, dessert is another part of the meal where palm sugar often comes into play. Kolak is a sweet Indonesian treat made of palm sugar, coconut milk and pandan leaves. There are various types of kolak you can make, but one of the most popular is kolak pisang, which is made with plantains and sometimes sweet potatoes. This sweet and creamy dish only takes about 35 minutes to make and is the perfect finale for your Indonesian dinner party.

Key Indonesian Phrases

I’m hungry — Saya lapar

I’m full — Saya kenyang

Please — Silahkan

Thank you — Terima kasih

You’re welcome — Sama-sama

Enjoy your meal — Selamat makan

Very delicious! — Enak banget!

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