Unlike many other cities in Indonesia, Bandung doesn’t have such a set food scene, and it can be hard to find ‘traditional’ food that is unique to the city. Instead, Bandung is most famous for its dishes that originated in other parts of Indonesia but which have been given their own ‘Bandung twist’.
Much of the food found in Bandung is Sundanese in origin and although you may find similar dishes across Indonesia, the Bandung varieties are usually unique in their own right even if they can’t claim to be the original version of dish.
Despite its lack of a definitive culinary identity as opposed to other cities like Medan in Sumatra, you definitely won’t go hungry here, and a trip to this part of Java is the perfect opportunity to eat your way around the city.
Here are the recommended 10 best foods to try in Bandung.
Serabi, also known as Surabi, are Indonesia’s answer to pancakes which are made with flour and then cooked in a special clay mould over charcoal to help them keep their shape. Sometimes the pancakes can be flavoured with pandan which produces a pretty pastel green version of serabi. The pancakes are usually thick and more like a mix between a cake and a pancake and are served with a sauce of palm sugar and coconut milk which is drizzled on top to give them a sweet kick. Nowadays some serabi can be served with different toppings like shavings of cheese, chocolate sprinkles, or sliced banana. This is usually a street food and can be found at breakfast time although you can also eat them as a snack at any time of the day. In other parts of Indonesia, serabi may come savoury as well.
Batagor is eaten all over Indonesia although it is said to have originated in West Java and is one of Bandung’s specialities. The name comes from an abbreviation of the ingredients used in the dish, bakso tahu goreng, or fried meatballs and tofu. The dish is usually eaten as a snack rather than a full meal and is served with fried fish balls that are usually encased in a crispy batter or are stuffed inside the chunks of tofu for which this dish is famous. The fish balls and sit alongside shredded cabbage and are doused in a delicious peanut based sauce.
Lotek is a Sundanese dish that is basically another version of Indonesia’s most famous salad, gado-gado. Lotek is made from vegetables like bean sprouts and water spinach, and also includes pillowy chunks of tofu. The salad ingredients are covered in a spicy peanut sauce which is reminiscent of gado-gado although the two dishes use slightly different seasonings in the sauce. Lotek also comes with prawn crackers called krupuk and is served with compressed rice cakes named lontong.
Pisang molen is a quintessential snack found all over Bandung and consists of bananas encased in pastry. The bananas are then deep fried so that the pastry puffs up to provide a kind of crunchy shell around the soft interior. This snack is so popular that many people buy pisang molen as presents to take home at the end of a trip to Bandung although they are best enjoyed piping hot from a roadside stand.
Soto is a kind of soup that is famous across Indonesia and varies according to each region, and Soto Bandung is no different. Many soto recipes call for chicken to be used as the main protein, although Soto Bandung is traditionally made using beef. Unlike some soto dishes like Soto Medan which uses coconut milk to thicken the broth, Soto Bandung is clear and is pepped up with the unusual addition of slices of radish which give it a peppery kick that mixes with the hearty beef stock.
Cilok gets its name from aci which is the Indonesian word for starch. This delicious street food snack is made from tapioca which is rolled into the shape of a ball and then boiled. It may not sound exciting but the balls are then threaded into skewers and served with a spicy dipping sauce that makes this a delicious snack to eat on the go.
Mie Kocok is quite different from many Indonesian noodle dishes and is made from flat noodles that swim in a delicious beef stock. Depending on how it is made it can come served with kikil or cow tendons and tripe. The broth is then spiked with celery leaves and topped with fried onions. Sometimes it can also be made with chicken and may include chicken’s feet or other variations use beef meatballs.
Karedok is similar in many ways to gado-gado and lotek. Essentially it is a salad made up of crunchy vegetables such as beans, bean sprouts, cabbage, and cucumber although it omits steamed potato which is often found in both gado-gado and lotek. The salad is tossed in a thick peanut dressing mixed with chilli and the signature difference when it comes to keradok is the use of basil leaves which add an aromatic herbal hit to the dish.
Another Sundanese favourite in Bandung is gepuk which is a dish of spicy fried beef which is sometimes likened to Indonesia’s famous beef rendang curry. The dish is usually made using beef flank which is pounded to soften the flesh and then mixed with aromatic spices like coriander, lemongrass, galangal and Indonesian bay leaves. The meat is then cooked in coconut milk and is slightly sweet thanks to the addition of palm sugar. Gepuk is usually served with rice and is topped with fried shallots.
Brownies may not immediately sound like a quintessential Indonesian dish but if you are looking for dessert in Bandung then these are not to be missed. The brownies here are steamed rather than baked which means they are incredibly soft and fluffy with a deep hit of cocoa that makes them rich and incredibly moreish. The most famous spot to buy brownies in the city is Amanda Brownies so make sure to come and pick up a box before you leave.