All the secrets of spices in Indonesia

If you are thinking about mastering the preparation of typical meals from Indonesian cuisine, the first and the basic step on that journey has to be the attendance of the course Introduction to Indonesian Spices 101. And if you are wondering where you can have that course… you have come to the right place! Right here, we’ll discuss some of the most powerful and most delicious spices of Indonesia that make this cuisine absolutely divine giving it the ultimately intense and delicate flavour.

Before we start talking about the spices, let’s have a brief introduction to the history of the cuisine. Probably you won’t be surprised to know that the Indonesian cuisine has absorbed numerous and various influences, having a really dynamic history and being a hot spot in Asia for centuries: It was the area of interest for Chinese, Dutch and Indian people. All of them have left some really unique traces in the way of preparing the food in Indonesia, especially with their spices. As the years passed, the mixture of Chinese, Dutch and Indian spices started to be recognized as the typical Indonesian „culture of spices“.


The Popular Spices of Indonesia


The Inevitable Spicy Leaves

No matter which one of them you choose for your meal, you will get a pretty distinctive taste, so let’s see what types of spicy leaves are often used as ingredients of Indonesian meals.

Duan Salam – Spices, Indonesia

Salam Leaves

Also known as Indonesian laurel leaf, Duan Salam represents a type of ingredient that should not be missed if you are preparing a savoury meal. Its unique soft aroma is the reason why this ingredient is really often used in Indonesian cuisine. They are usually kept frozen so that their taste, smell and nutritional benefits can be retained.

Kaffir lime leaves – Spices, Indonesia

Kaffir Lime Leaves

These leaves are locally known as Daun Jeruk Purut have the taste similar to the taste of the bay leaves – they may not give a strong flavour to the meal, but without it, there is no complete pleasure. With its tender fragrance, it boosts the flavor of other ingredients and makes the dish more interesting, especially when added to dishes based on lemon grass. You won’t be wrong if you think of kaffir lime leaves as the backing vocals in the song of your meal.

Screwpine Leaves – Spices, Indonesia

Screwpine Leaves

This spice is the part of the local cuisine not only in Indonesia but in most of the areas in this part of the world, from India to Australia. When it comes to sweet treats, screwpine leaf, also known as Duan Pandan, is definitely a good choice in most of the cases. It can be added to different types of desserts and it is also used because of the soft green shades that it gives to the meals. Additional spice that is commonly combined with the screwpine leaves in order to provide the green color of the food is the suji leaf (also known as Daun Suji).

Chillies – Spices, Indonesia

The Ubiquitous Chillies

If you are cooking an Indonesian dish and you are not sure which ingredient you should add, the magic word for you is – chillies! This powerful spice is the one that makes Indonesian people crazy about food. Basically, it can be mixed into any meal and being a really hot ingredient, you should be really careful when adding it to the meal. If your throat starts burning, eat some rice to dilute the strong flavour a bit. You can get chillies if you cut the cabe from its bush and mash it to make a paste of it. The favorite Indonesian meal made using the chillies is sambal, so if you are offered to taste it, just do it slowly and in small portions. Just in case!

Shrimp paste – Spices, Indonesia

The Shrimp Paste

Also known as Terasi or Belacan, this paste made of shrimps is not the type of spice that should be used in large amounts, since it has a pretty pungent taste and brings the salty taste to the dishes. It is easily recognizable for its dark color and it can be used either raw or grilled.

  • When it is used in the raw form, it is mixed with other spices into a thick paste. After the mixture is made, it should be fried.
  • When it is used in the grilled form, it should not be included into meals that should be fried. It only should be added to the food that is prepared by boiling.

Tamarind – Spices, Indonesia


This common food ingredient, locally known as Asam, can be used in numerous meals to provide a sour taste. It is mostly sold in the small packages in the dried form. Before it is used in a dish based on fish or curries, it should be combined with water.