Indonesian dishes Obama and family tried & loved

Former US president Barack Obama, along with wife Michelle and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, have recently ended a 10-day vacation in Indonesia. After touching down in Bali on June 23, the family continued their travels to the ancient city of Yogyakarta before finishing off the trip in Obama’s childhood home of Jakarta.

The vacation was apparently a chance for the 44th US president to take a trip down memory lane, including digging into some old favorite dishes.

Obama lived in Indonesia from 1967 until 1971, during which time his half-sister Maya Soetoro Ng said he enjoyed dishes such as bakso (meatballs), pepes ikan (steamed fish wrapped in a banana leaf) and sambal tempe (fermented soybean cake with chili sauce).

“I have been eating a lot,” Obama said in Jakarta on Saturday when he also delivered the keynote speech at the Indonesian Diaspora Congress before flying off the next day.

Here are seven of the Indonesian dishes Obama and his family had during their stay in the archipelago, according to


Bakso or meatballs with garlic and added spices soup are one of the most popular street food in any Indonesian cities.

During a meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Friday, Obama reportedly finished off a bowl of bakso that was served at the Grand Garden Café, which is located within the compound of the Bogor Botanical Gardens.

Bakso or baso is Indonesian meatball or meat paste is the perfect example of Indo-Chinese acculturation. Bakso is made from beef surimi and is similar in texture to the Chinese beef ball, or fish ball, Bakso is commonly made from beef with a small quantity of tapioca flour and pepper-garlic-salt paste, however, bakso can also be made from other ingredients, such as chicken, fish, shrimp and MSG.

Bakso is commonly made from beef with a small quantity of tapioca flour and pepper-garlic-salt paste, however, bakso can also be made from other ingredients, such as chicken, fish, or shrimp.

Bakso are usually served in a bowl of beef broth, with yellow noodles, bihun (rice vermicelli), salted vegetables, tofu, egg (wrapped within bakso), Chinese green cabbage, bean sprout, siomay or steamed meat dumpling, and crisp wonton, sprinkled with fried shallots and celery. Bakso can be found all across Indonesia; from the traveling cart street vendors to restaurants. Today various types of ready to cook bakso also available as frozen food commonly sold in supermarkets in Indonesia. Slices of bakso often used and mixed as compliments in mi goreng, nasi goreng, or cap cai recipes.


Satay or sate in Indonesian and Malaysian spelling, is a dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat, served with a sauce.

In addition to baksosatay (skewered, roasted meat with peanut and brown sugar sauce). Satay is usually a combination of chicken, beef, goat or mutton. This famous dish was also served  with slices of rice cake at the Grand Garden Café of the Bogor presidential palace. A generous serving of the dish was shared by Obama and Jokowi.

Satay originated in the Indonesian island of JavaIt is available almost anywhere in Indonesia, where it has become a national dishIt is also popular in many other Southeast Asian countries, including MalaysiaSingaporeBruneiThailandPhilippinesEast Timor as well as in Suriname and the Netherlands, as Indonesia and Suriname are former Dutch colonies.

Satay is a very popular delicacy in Indonesia; the country’s diverse ethnic groups’ culinary arts (see Indonesian cuisine) have produced a wide variety of satays. In Indonesia, satay is a popular street food, it can be obtained from a traveling satay vendor, from a street-side tent-restaurant, in an upper-class restaurant, or during traditional celebration feasts. In Malaysia, satay is a popular dish—especially during celebrations—and can be found throughout the country. In Southern Philippines it is known as satti.

Close analogues are yakitori from Japanchuanr from Chinashish kebab from Turkey and the Middle Eastshashlik from the Caucasus and sosatie from South Africa. It is listed at number 14 on World’s 50 most delicious foods readers’ poll compiled by CNN Go in 2011

Traditional snacks

Also called “Klepon” (pronounced Klê-pon) or Onde-onde is a traditional green-coloured balls of rice cake filled with liquid palm sugar and coated in grated coconut.

At the café Obama and Jokowi also enjoyed warm tea and traditional snacks, such as onde-onde (glutinous rice balls), kue mangkok (rice flour cupcakes), talam ubi (steamed sweet potato cake), panada cakalang (fried bread with Manadonese-style tuna fish filling) and lemper ayam (glutinous rice stuffed with chicken meat and wrapped in banana leaves).

Cendol Iced drinks

Indonesia is a very humid and tropical country. A glass of cendol contains all the goodies heaven have to offer during the year long sun-shiny days.

During the Indonesian Diaspora Congress on Saturday, Mr.Obama said he was still on the look-out for es cendol (silky green rice-flour jelly served in coconut milk and palm sugar). Cendol was rated by CNN as the world’s 50 most delicious drinks in 2011.

The origin of cendol is not clear, and this sweet drink is widely spread across Southeast Asia. However, it is suggested that cendol was the invention of Indonesians. The most prevalent and oldest tradition of cendol making can be found in Java. In Banjarnegara, Central Java, dawet is traditionally served without ice.

Today, however additional ice cubes or shaved ice is commonly added into this dessert drink. This might suggest that in tropical Java, dawet is a traditional sweet dessert drink that predates the adoption of refrigeration technology. The ingredients heavily uses aren (sugar palm) and coconut plants. Traditionally in Java, the green jelly noodle is made from the sago starch extracted from the trunk of aren plant.

In Javanese tradition, dawet or cendol is a part of traditional Javanese wedding ceremony. The dodol dawet (Javanese for “selling dawet”) is performed during Midodareni ceremony, a day before the wedding. After the siraman bridal shower, the parents would sell dawet to the attending guests and relatives. The guest paid the dawet using terra cotta coins that would be given to the bride as a symbol of family earnings. The symbolic meaning was as the parents’ hope that the tomorrow wedding would be attended by a lot of guests, “as plenty as the cendol jellies that being sold.

In 1900s, Indonesian mobile street hawker started selling cendol along Geylang street in Singapore. Cendol of the olden times Singapore were kept in a transparent glass bottle and without any cover. Blocks of ice were placed in the centre of the glass bottle. Cendol was mentioned in 1932 Malaysian writing of Malay Concordance project. In Dutch East IndiesJava, cendol or dawet street hawkers using pikulan (baskets carried with balancing rod) are commonly found in Javanese cities, as can be seen in the old photograph dated from circa 1935.

‘Mie lethek’

Although looks very skethcy, Mi letheg as the local pronounce it is made of natural sun-dried recipe with no added preservatives. Mie lethek is a traditional dish from Bantul, Yogyakarta, that can be served boiled with soup or fried, the latter of which the Obamas chose.

In Yogyakarta, Obama and his family made a lunch stop at the Bumi Langit Restaurant. The family feasted on mie lethek, which literally means dull or ugly noodles. Restaurant owner Iskandar Woworuntu said the dish was one of the group’s favorites.

The color of the Mi letheg is dark brown and unattractive because the production process is completely natural and traditionally processed. It is said to be natural because it does not use bleach, dyes or preservatives. Physically, noodle letheg similar to noodle mi. But letheg noodle is thicker and has a chewier texture compared to noodles made from wheat.

Mi Lethek or letheg derived from raw materials of cassava and tapioca flour is produced with the help of cows. The main ingredients of letheg noodle are grinded and stirred consisting of cassava flour and dried cassava or cassava.

The power of a cow is used to move the cylinder weighing 1 ton as a stirrer of noodle raw materials.

This dough is then steamed on a stove that is still made from clay. After the water content is adjusted, the dough is steamed again, cut and then molded into noodles. To print, it takes a mi printing tool commonly called a pull. This pull is made of wood and requires at least 8 manpower to move it. Each person gets a clear division of tasks. There is a duty as penginjak wooden blocks of diameter 40 cm called munyuk, because the movement is jumping around like an ape. In addition there is also a duty simultaneously to attract wood. Once printed, the noodles are then dried in the tropical sun’s heat

‘Urap,’ soup, chili

Urap is amixed salad vegetables which usually eaten with meat slices and yellow rice

Obama and the family also had urap (vegetables with shredded coconut), gurame fish soup and sambal terong (eggplant with chili sauce) at Bumi Langit Restaurant. The vegetables which are usually used in urap are spinachwater spinach, young cassava leaf, papaya leaf, Chinese longbeansbean sprouts and cabbage. To acquire a rich taste, most recipes insist on using freshly shredded old coconut flesh or serundeng, instead of leftover. The shredded coconut is seasoned with ground shallotgarlic, red chilli peppertamarind juice, galangalsalt and coconut sugar.

The beverages they ordered included a blending of mint and lemongrass with fermented milk and mixed berries, picked fresh from the restaurant’s garden.

Jatiluwih Red Rice

Jatiluwih is Balinese Red rice which is a variety of rice that is colored red by its anthocyanin content. It is usually eaten unhulled or partially hulled and has a red husk, rather than the more common brown.

During a visit to the Jatiwulih rice fields in Bali, Obama and his family bought 2.5 kilograms of red rice, which is known for its pleasant taste, vibrant aroma and high fiber nutritional value. Red rice has a nutty flavor. Compared to polished rice, it has the higher nutritional value of rice eaten with the germ intact.

The red rice brought home by Obama’s family is cultivated in Jatiluwih village of Penebel District, north of Tabanan. Farmeing community of Jatiluwih has the world renowned paddy fields which for hundreds of years been cultivated following the contours of terraced land against the background of spellbinding Mount Batukaru and Mount Agung use traditional Balinese irrigation known as subak,

Obama and family love the non-toxic and organic red rice which is grown from this beautiful lands in Tabanan regency of Bali island.

Bali’s community-based water control management system. Lies at an altitude of 700 meters, the cool atmosphere of more original beautiful Jatiluwih is better than the most well known Tegallalang which has plenty of cafes and souvenir shops. Two routes to Jatiluwih are: Denpasar>Kediri>Tabanan>Penebel>Jatiluwih or Denpasar>Mengwi>Baturiti>Jatiluwih. Jatiluwih has gain acknowledgment from UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage


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