7 Traditional Christmas Dishes in Indonesia


Food is one of the most important aspects of a culture. Every recipe generally reflects the culture. Food that is served during Christmas is no exception. Indonesian Christmas dishes are quite different to other types of dishes in Indonesia, as it has a hint of European flavor.

Curious? These are the traditional Christmas dishes of Indonesia:

Chicken or Fish with Rica-Rica, Manado 

The word ‘spicy’ in Manado, North Sulawesi has similar meaning to ‘rica-rica’.  This Christmas cuisine is served with chillies or spicy seasoning. People from Manado commonly eat Rica-rica with rice, with additional toppings of fried onions and cucumbers. Add a squeeze of lime to add a fresh taste and neutralize the spicy flavors.

Jaha Rice, Manado | Lomang Batak

As it is implied by its name, this Christmas special is cooked with variety of spice herbs. Made from sticky rice and coconut milk, baked in bamboo stalks covered with banana leaves. The Jaha word is derived from Nasi (Rice) and Jahe (Ginger). Jaha rice is similar to Lemang rice from Java region. It is often served with shredded venison, beef, or Cakalang (skipjack tuna) fish and curry.

Klappertaart, Manado 

Originated from Dutch colonial period, it is a customary to eat this at Christmas.  This tart is made from coconut, flour (wheat flour), milk, butter, and eggs. Apart from Christmas celebration, Klaapertaart is also made for other feasts, including wedding, birthday, events, etc. The flavor of this cake has evolved from original to various taste like Cheese, Chocolate, Blueberry, and Durian flavor.

 Turmeric & Lime Fish, Ambon

Usually this Christmas special is a accompanied by Papeda, one of Indonesian staple foods from the east regions, including Ambon, besides rice. It is made with Mubara or tuna fish and its sauce is seasoned with lime and turmeric. The yellow sauce is a specialty for the people of Ambon and classified as one of mandatory cuisine for Christmas celebration in Ambon.

Kohu – Kohu, Maluku 

Kohu-kohu is one the favorite seafood family dishes in Maluku. What makes this Christmas dish so favorable is the rich amount of protein, mineral, vitamin, and omega 3.  To make Kohu-kohu is pretty simple. It is made with shredded mackerel tuna mixed with finely grated coconut, bean sprouts, eggplant, raw long beans,  lime juice, red onion, cayenne pepper and basil.

Ikan Arsik, Medan
Ikan Arsik

To cook this, you will need to use common carp, or else ‘ikan mas’. This dish is synonymous with the Batak Toba and Minang, as several ingredients needed are only grown in certain districts of Batak highlands.  Other than that, some of the ingredients used include kecombrang (ginger flowers), buah kecombrang (fruit of the ginger flower), bawang Batak (Batak onions) and some asam gelugur (preserved gelugur fruit that has been sliced and dried in the sun). Last but not least is the special ‘andaliman‘, or Sumatran Sichuan pepper.

Kidney Bean Soup, Manado
Kidney Bean Soup, Manado

Sup Brenebon’ or Kidney Bean Soup is also one of the must-have dishes during Christmas in Indonesia. This dish is considered many to be the favorite, as many Manadonese would claim that this is their favorite dish during Christmas. Interestingly, this dish also contains a touch of Dutch flavor. The name is even originated from the word ‘bruine‘ (or brown) and ‘bonen’ (or beans). It is a warm soup that consists of red kidney beans and meat. Seasoned with pepper, cloves, and nutmeg, it becomes a perfect for winter or rainy seasons that generally happens during Christmastime.

Like any special occasion, food is something that is deeply ingrained in the celebration. The cuisines served are also meant to bring people happiness in this joyous celebration. These cuisines are therefore very special and are used to make the occasion more festive than it already is.

Which Indonesian Christmas dish have your tried? Share your comments with us…