Just like any other country, Indonesia has a wonderful selection of traditional snacks which are close to the hearts of locals. The snacks to be found in the many regions of Indonesia vary wildly, but in this article, we will focus on ten unique traditional snacks that can be found in East Java. As a result of intraregional migration, you may be able to find some of these snacks outside East Java, so do give them a taste test if you happen to chance upon them.
Also referred to as the “red tortoise cake”, kue tok is a type of traditional Indonesian sweet. As the name suggests, it has a red, oval-shaped, soft and sticky glutinous rice flour skin and has a sweet filling inside. It is quite similar to the Japanese mochi.
Known for being wrapped in banana leaves, this snack can easily be found in many places in Indonesia. It consists of shredded meat (often chicken) wrapped in glutinous sticky rice, hence making it the perfect on-the-go meal. Lemper is very similar to bakcang (Chinese zongzi) and resembles Japanese onigiri which also contains meat wrapped in rice.
Apem is a traditional snack made from rice flour by mixing eggs, coconut milk, sugar, salt, tape (fermented cassava) and then grilled or steamed. Shaped like a pancake but thicker, apem is generally made for tahlilan (a prayer ceremony held on the death of a family member) or megengan day (an Islamic event usually before Idul fitri). It is soft, spongy and definitely addictive. It is more fragrant and tastier if sprinkled with chopped jackfruit or pandan leaves.
This is a rolled, thin layer of bright green-coloured pancake made of pandan leaves with fillings of grated coconut and palm sugar. The pandan leaves give it its aromatic fragrance and beautiful colour. This snack is usually found on street stalls and in traditional markets.
These cakes are made with the basic ingredient of glutinous rice. The name wajik comes from the diamond-like shape and ketan means glutinous rice. These glutinous diamonds are generally made with brown sugar to give the classic dark brown colour. It’s a snack which is difficult to find in cities, but if you are lucky, you can find it in the traditional market or occasionally on street stalls.
This is a traditional street snack which comes from Mojokerto. It is made from fried or boiled wheat flour or glutinous starch. It is chewy, crispy, and sphere-shaped. The surface is usually coated with white sesame seeds. The most common onde-onde is made of glutinous flour with mung bean paste filling inside. With a variety of fillings, colours and types, onde-onde is a classic Indonesian snack.
Available in a variety of colours from brown, all the way to pink, this sponge-like cake needs roughly 14 ingredients. It is slightly rough in texture. Its dough is made of a mixture of flour, rice flour and tapioca, yeast, egg, coconut milk, sugar and salt. The traditional kue mangkok is slightly brown due to the use of palm sugar. Other traditional variants use fermented cassava or sweet potato. Kue mangkok is usually served with grated coconut on top.
A traditional snack with colourful layers of soft rice pudding. In Indonesian, the word lapis means layers. This steamed layered cake or pudding is quite popular in Indonesia, and can also be found in the Netherlands due to the colonial links. Kue Lapis is also very popular in neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, where it’s called kuih lapis. It’s delicious, sweet, spongy and a bit sticky.
Sometimes called kue pisang (banana cake), nagasari is a traditional steamed cake made of coconut milk, rice flour, and sugar, which is then used to make a sort of batter to wrap the bananas. This is one of the snacks which are commonly sold as jajan pasar meaning snacks found in traditional markets. Nagasari has a pudding-like texture.
Though it’s not as “jiggly” as jello, it is soft and somewhat bouncy.
This is a grilled cake made from young coconut, glutinous rice flour and sugar. It has a round, flat shape with a semi-burnt surface. Originating from the city of Babat, this snack plays a vital role in the economy of the region.
Dying to try these traditional East Java snacks yet? Visit your nearest traditional market to see if you can find some of them. Don’t forget to bring along a bottle of plain water as most of these snacks are very sweet!