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Indonesia: Traditional desserts to try

By Umesh Bhagchandani 13 November 2020

Header image courtesy of @kpriscillia (via Instagram)

Long celebrated as the mecca of exotic-flavoured dishes, Indonesia also boasts irresistible desserts. The archipelago offers dozens of ambrosial delicacies that often utilize the country’s homegrown ingredients, such as coconut milk, palm sugar, and rice flours.

Mostly colourful with an explosively sweet taste and decadent textures, many Indonesian desserts pays homage to the Arabic, Chinese, Indian, and Dutch cuisines, modified and adjusted to local palettes. If you’re planning to visit the tropical paradise, don't miss out on these six decadent desserts taste as good as they look.

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Dadar Gulung

The bright green Indonesian rolled pancake can be found easily at any eatery, local market, and street vendor around Java and Bali. The outer layer is made of rice flour, salt, eggs, and coconut milk, while the inside consists of delicious grated coconut, cinnamon, and dark palm sugar, which make for a deliciously oozy filling. The green colour is derived from fresh pandan leaves and the pancake is usually cooked on a flat pan with margarine. Although you can find the same variations in Malaysia and Brunei, Dadar Gulung originally hails from Indonesia.

Onde-Onde

These sweet Chinese-inspired sesame balls are deliciously addictive. While the original version is made from glutinous flour with lotus or red bean paste as fillings, their Indonesian counterpart uses sweetened mung bean paste and is coated with sesame seeds that gives it an extra crunch. It’s believed that Onde Onde has been around since the Majapahit Kingdom era in Central Java.

Bika ambon

You can never go wrong with Bika Ambon. The classic yellow cake is light and spongey, made from tapioca flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, and coconut milk. Fluffy and wholesome, Bika Ambon is prepared by fermenting the dough before baking it in an oven for an hour or two. While it usually comes in pandan or banana flavours, you can find plenty of other variants (chocolate, vanilla, durian) in different areas.

The cake’s origins are hazy—while it is believed to have originated from Medan, North Sumatra, created by Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneurs in the 80s, no one knows  exactly why the delicious cake’s name resembles the Maluku province’s city, Ambon.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

By Scott Dunn 6 November 2020
By Umesh Bhagchandani 18 September 2020

Kolak

A popular appetizer during the Ramadan month, Kolak is a sweet dish that’s prepared from palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaf. The creamy dessert contains a variety of condiments such as banana, pumpkin, cassava, sweet potato balls, along with tapioca pearls and can be served warm or cold. With its fresh coconut base, tropical fruits, and airy pandan fragrance, Kolak is an ideal after-meal dessert that one must try in their lifetime.

Martabak Manis

Derived from the Arabic Murtabak (مطبق), which means “folded pancake”, this popular Indonesian street dessert is easily available on every nook and cranny. It is also celebrated for its decadent, chewy, and buttery flavours. Baked on a pan, the classic Indonesian Martabak uses butter, sugar, crushed peanuts, and chocolate sprinkles as fillings, drenched in condensed milk. While there are a variety of toppings (cheese, chocolate, sesame seeds) and other flavours (matcha, cream cheese, oreo, and nutella), we highly recommend trying the classic one.

Trinity of Ices (Es Campur, Es Doger, & Es Teler)

As a tropical country, Indonesia offers a heap of ice-based desserts to stay cool in its warm climate. Despite a myriad of options, these three shaved ice desserts come highly recommended.

First is the colourful Es Campur, a concoction of fruits, coconut, tapioca pearls, and grass jelly served with shaved ice, syrup, and condensed milk. Next is Es Doger, a Bandung-original which offers surprising flavours thanks to its exotic ingredients, such as tapioca pearls, avocado, cassava, and black rice, along with jackfruit, diced bread,  condensed milk, plus syrup.

Last but not least is Es Teler—this Indonesian fruit cocktail has similar ingredients as Es Doger, but with an addition of coconut meats and pandan leaf that helps the body cool down under the scorching sun.

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Umesh Bhagchandani

Contributor

Business graduate turned writer, Umesh spent the last decade writing for luxury lifestyle magazines in Jakarta that allowed him to travel the globe and live a good life. With Bali as his favourite island and Tokyo as the most magical city, he loves visiting new haunts, local bars, and scouting for the next vegetarian sensation. When he is not writing, he can be found in a movie theatre or at nearby art exhibitions. Find his musings on @cosmiknaga.

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