Javanese cuisine

Javanese complete nasi gudeg, which consist of gudeg (young jackfruit cooked in coconut milk), fried chicken, egg boiled in coconut milk, and krecek (spiced buffalo skin cracker). Gudeg is one of the most famous Javanese dishes.

Javanese cuisine is the cuisine of Javanese people, a major ethnic group in Indonesia, more precisely the province of Central Java, Yogyakarta and East Java. Though the cuisine of Sumatra is known for its spiciness with notable Indian and Arabic influences, Javanese cuisine is more indigenously developed and noted for its simplicity.[1] Some of Javanese dishes demonstrate foreign influences, most notably Chinese.

Some Indonesians perceive Javanese cuisine as sweeter compared to other Indonesian dishes, because of the liberal use of gula jawa (palm sugar) or kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). Javanese food is categorized into Central and East Javanese food; both simple and non-spicy food, though Central Javanese food tends to be sweeter.[2]

In a wider sense, Javanese cuisine might also refer to the cuisine of the whole people of Java Island, Indonesia; which also include Sundanese in West Java, Betawi people in Jakarta and Madurese on Madura Island off East Java. These ethnic groups have their own distinctive cuisines.

Javanese cuisine is largely divided into three major groups:

There are similarities in these cuisines but the main differences lie in the flavors. Central Javanese cuisine tend to be sweeter and less spicy, while East Javanese cuisine uses less sugar and more chili, possibly influenced by Madurese cuisine or Indian cuisine.


Circa 1865 photograph of fruit and game in Batavia, Dutch East Indies
Tumpeng cone shaped rice surrounded with chicken, omelette eggs, sambel goreng ati (beef liver in sambal), potato perkedel, and tempeh orek.

Rice is an important food crop in Java, dating back to ancient times. The Javanese are known to revere Dewi Sri as the Rice Goddess. Steamed rice is the common staple food, and is served at every meal. Tumpeng, a cone-shaped yellow rice is essential in slametan, Javanese traditional ceremonies. Rice can be processed into lontong or ketupat, or cooked in coconut milk as nasi liwet or colored with turmeric as nasi kuning (yellow rice). Other sources of carbohydrate such as gaplek (dried cassava) is sometimes mixed into rice or replaces rice. Gaplek is usually consumed by poor commoners during hard times when rice is scarce. Tubers such as yam, taro, and sweet potato are consumed as snacks in between meals. Bread and grains other than rice are uncommon, although noodles and potatoes are often served as accompaniments to rice. Potatoes are often boiled then mashed, shaped into discs, spiced, coated in beaten eggs and fried into perkedel. Wheat noodles, bihun (rice vermicelli), and kwetiau are influences of Chinese cuisine. The Javanese adopted these ingredients and made them their own by adding kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and local spices to create bakmi Jawa, bakmi rebus, and bihun goreng. Vegetables feature heavily in Javanese cuisine, notably in vegetable-heavy dishes such as pecel, lotek, and urap.

Coconut milk, peanut sauce, gula jawa (palm sugar), asem jawa (tamarind), petis, terasi (shrimp paste), shallot, garlic, turmeric, galangal, ginger, and chili sambal are common ingredients and spices that can be found in Javanese cuisine. Freshwater fishes such as carp, tilapia, gourami and catfish are popular, while seafood such as tuna, red snapper, wahoo, ray, anchovy, shrimp, squid, and various salted fish are popular in coastal Javanese cities. Chicken, goat meat, mutton and beef are popular meats in Javanese cuisine. Next to common farmed chicken, the ayam kampung or free-range chicken, is popular and valued for its leaner, more natural flavors. Almost 90% of Javanese are Muslim, and consequently, much of Javanese cuisine omits pork. However, in small enclaves of Catholic Javanese population around Muntilan, Magelang, Yogyakarta, and Klaten, pork might be consumed. Few ethnic groups in Indonesia use pork and other sources of protein considered haram under Muslim dietary laws in their cuisine, most prominently Balinese cuisine, Indonesian Chinese cuisine, and Manado cuisine.


Sambal tempeh penyet kemangi.

Compared to the spicy and curry-like cuisine of Sumatra that is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, Javanese cuisine is more indigenously developed, and some show foreign influences, such as from China. Javanese cuisine in different areas show different foreign influences. For example, Chinese influences in Semarang, Yogyakarta, and Cirebon; Indian and Arabic influences in Surabaya, Lamongan, and Gresik; and European influences in Solo and Malang.

Javanese cuisine may also have contributed and influenced foreign cuisines. Javanese botok, for example, has influenced the South African bobotie dish. Because of the dispersion of Javanese people outside of Indonesia, the Javanese cuisine has influenced the cuisine of Johor in Malaysia and the cuisine of Suriname. The influence of Javanese cuisine has contributed significantly to the food of Johor. Malaysian-Javanese dishes such as nasi ambeng, soto ayam, pecel, tempe, and sambal tempe are popular in Malaysia.[3]


Food display in Warung Tegal.

Javanese households usually purchase fresh ingredients from the local market every morning, cook and serve them in the late morning to be mainly consumed for lunch. The leftovers are stored to be heated again for family dinner. Other than homemade family dishes, Javanese cuisine are served from humble street side carts and warungs, to fancy restaurants in five-star hotels. Small family-run warungs are the budget options for street food, serving everything from family dishes for full meals, or snack foods. The popular simple Javanese cuisine establishments are the budget food of Warung Tegal, which are mainly established by Javanese from Tegal city, and the Angkringan street side carts in Yogyakarta and Solo that sold cheap sego kucing and various wedang (hot beverages).

Central Javanese cuisine

The food in Central Java is influenced by the two ancient kingdoms of Yogyakarta and Surakarta (also commonly known as Solo). Most of Central Javanese dishes are indigenously developed, however in coastal cities such as Semarang and Pekalongan, notable Chinese influences can be seen, such as lumpia (spring roll) and bakmi Jawa. While in royal court of Surakarta, the European influences can be seen, such as bistik Jawa and selat Solo. Many of Central Java-specific dishes contain the names of the area where the food first became popular, for example:


Soto Bangkong, a variant of soto from Semarang. It is a chicken soup with rice vermicelli and tomato, served with potato perkedel, fried tempeh, and satay of cockles and chicken intestines, with lime and krupuk (crackers).




Ayam goreng Kalasan with kremes, seasoned fried chicken with crispy fried flour granules.


Nasi liwet warung in Solo.


Frying tempeh mendoan.

Refers to Javanese cultural region of Western Central Java bordering West Java, including Banyumas, Tegal, Brebes, Cilacap, Kebumen, and Purwokerto regencies.

Other Central Javanese cuisine

East Javanese cuisine

The East Javanese cuisine is largely influenced by Madurese cuisine - Madura being a major producer of salt, hence the omission of sugar in many dishes. Many of the East Javanese dishes are also typically Madurese, such as soto Madura and sate Madura, usually sold by Madurese settlers. Notable Arabic and Indian cuisine influence also can be found such in the coastal cities of Tuban, Gresik, Surabaya, Lamongan, and Sidoarjo, due to the large number of Arabic descendants in these cities. Although there are many dishes with town names attached to them, local versions of these are available in every town. The most popular town-associated dishes are:


Pecel, boiled vegetables served with peanut sauce.



Rujak cingur, specialty of Surabaya.



Bakso Malang, meatball and fried wonton soup from Malang, East Java. Sometimes also called bakwan Malang.

Other East Javanese cuisine

Common Javanese dishes

Street-side Javanese chicken satay vendor near Borobudur.
Gorengan ("fried snacks") in a market at Dieng Plateau, Central Java.
Nasi kuning with urap, fried beef, anchovy and peanuts, potato and shrimp in sambal.

These are the common Javanese dishes, which can be found throughout Java regardless of the location.


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