Throughout its history, Indonesia has been involved in trade due to its location and natural resources. Indonesia’s indigenous techniques and ingredients are influenced by India, the Middle East, China and finally Europe. Spanish and Portuguese traders brought New World produce even before the Dutch came to colonize most of Indonesia. The Indonesian island of Maluku, which is famed as "the Spice Island," also contributed to the introduction of native spices to Indonesian and global cuisine. The cuisine of Eastern Indonesia is similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine.
Sumatran cuisine, for example, often shows its Middle Eastern and Indian influence, featuring curried meat and vegetables, while Javanese cuisine is rather more indigenously developed. Elements of Indonesian Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine: items such asbakmi (noodles), bakso (meat balls) and lumpia have been completely assimilated.
The most popular dishes that originated in Indonesia are now common across most of Asia. Popular Indonesian dishes such as satay, beef rendang, and sambal are also favored in Malaysia and Singapore. Soy-based dishes, such as variations of tofu (tahu) and tempe, are also very popular. Tempe is regarded as a Javanese invention, a local adaptation of soy-based food fermentation and production. Another soy-based fermented food is oncom, similar to tempe but different fungi and particularly popular in West Java.
Indonesian meals are commonly eaten with the combination of a spoon in the right hand and fork in the left hand, although in many parts of the country (such as West Java and West Sumatra) it is also common to eat with one's hands. In restaurants or households that commonly use bare hands to eat, like in seafood foodstalls, traditional Sundanese and Minangkabau restaurants, or East Javanese pecel lele (fried catfish with sambal) and ayam goreng (fried chicken) foodstalls, they usually serve kobokan, a bowl of tap water with a slice of lime in it to give a fresh scent. This bowl of water with lime in it should not to be consumed; it's used to wash one's hand before and after eating with bare hand. Eating with chopsticks is commonly found in foodstalls or restaurants serving Indonesian adaptation of Chinese cuisine, such as bakmie or mie ayam (chicken noodle) with pangsit (wonton), mie goreng (fried noodle), and kwetiau goreng (fried flat noodle, similar to char kway teow).
A side street dish from Padang, Indonesia
Japanese food: small rice squares usually topped raw fish