Batam: Melayu’s Archipelagic Food Heritage

RIAU ISLANDS – Recognized as an archipelago in Indonesia, no wonder if there are over 3,000 islands nestled from the south of Singapore to the Sumatra eastern coast. Even though its existence came in 2004, it becomes the center of Malay-Indonesian community as well as the existence of modern Malay language. Because of the interconnected geographical facet, several of the culinary traits are influenced from Malaysia.

1.  Gulai Siput Sedut

Becoming one of specialties in Riau Islands, the main ingredient used is snail that perhaps sounds quite exotic for most non-local visitors. In Malay language, the food is known as Lengkitang Rokan. As snail is well-known as the pest of rice field, it is a dilemma for people whether at least to try the dish or even to cook it. Though snail dishes are not really famous in Indonesia, this type of snail curry has its distinctive flavor especially while combined with Indonesian spices.

Gulai Siput Sedut


2. Gonggong 

You’ve never really to Batam, Bintan, or Tanjung Balai in Riau Islands province unless you have tried gonggong, a famous quote from one of medias in Indonesia who adore the dish pretty much. Gonggong also uses snail-like sea creature similar to the snail curry that is probably quite a challenge for among food lovers, not only about the taste but also the art of eating it. Using a toothpick to take out the flesh from the shell within a very short period of time is a must, otherwise it falls down as the flesh is more tender than common snails.



3. Mie Tarempa

Judging from the way it looks, this menu is just like an ordinary noodle dish that is indeed too ubiquitous in Indonesia. However, if going through the taste, the sensation of tuna fish in the broth will get you hooked up. Tarempa, one of Anambas sub-district in Riau Islands, is believed to be the ancestry of its presence. Known as Siantan noodles, it consists of yellow noodles made with wheat flour, bean sprouts, egg, and shredded fried tuna fish marinated with chili and soy sauce.

Mie Tarempa


4. Mie Siam Kuning

It is one of Singaporean-Malaysian dish found in Indonesia, referred as Mee Siam in Singapore. As most Indonesian types of noodles are thick and chewy, bee hoon (vermicelli) takes the extra significance (thanks to its thin texture) of the dish. Commonly, it is stir-fried with salty, sweet, and sour gravy concoctions (if it is in “dry” version). But, it can be served in “wet” version (by adding the thick gravy as the broth). Despite the cooking process, never underestimate its delicacy that will make you fly away.

Mie Siam Kuning


5. Mie Lendir

For most Indonesians, it may sound disgusting as lendir means slimy. Can you imagine while having a plate of “slimy” noodle for your lunch? Perhaps at first, you will lose the appetite. However, let’s think twice. Aren’t you curious enough to dare yourself of having it at least one spoon? What makes it look like slimy is the thick-congealed peanut sauce covering the noodle that plays the important part of the taste. It is like eating chicken satay, but the satay itself is the noodle with shredded bean sprouts and sliced eggs.

Mie Lendir


6. Lakse (Laksa)

Another Malaysian-influenced dish consisting of noodle-like ingredient mixed with typical seasoning from the combination of Chinese and Melayu. Lakse, according to Sanskrit, means many. No wonder if the dish is cooked with various kinds of spices, especially in Anambas. Its chewy texture and crystal-clear color looks pretty tantalizing as this menu is getting famous across Malaysia. Eating laksa can be in several versions either in “dry” or “wet” version, depending on each person’s taste.

Lakse (Laksa)


7. Lendot / Sempolet

A Melayu soup-like appetizer menu involving flour as the main ingredient, creating such congeal texture within the soup. Typically, Riau Islands people add water spinach and several seafood such as snail, shrimp, squid, or other ones depending on the current vibe. Lendot and sempolet are exactly the same dish, it is just the matter of the way it is called. It is suggested to have the lendot soup while still warm, otherwise it will be more congealed when it is getting cold.



8. Nasi Lemak

Similar to nasi uduk (Jakarta), nasi gurih (Aceh), and nasi liwet (East Java), nasi lemak is originated from Malaysia cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in pandan leaf. Several ingredients such as hot spicy sauce, sliced cucumber, and any type of meat is the common version of the dish. If visiting Riau Islands, seafood such as anchovy, small prawns, and other types of fish will be great companions as Riau Islands is in the archipelagic region of Indonesia.

Nasi Lemak


9. Sup Ikan Batam

An outstanding fish soup specialty in Riau Islands that successfully gains a fame across its region, even in Tangerang are there several Batam fish soup in the restaurant. Usually, the fish is snapper type and served in fillet (so you do not have to worry about its sharp and thin bones) along with the mixed seafood such as fish balls and shrimps. The broth of the soup has strong and rich fish stock, bringing out the freshness and savory aroma while having a meal.

Sup Ikan Batam


10. Roti Jala (Roti Kirai)

Indian type of crepes that becomes a native cuisine in several South East Asia countries such as India, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia as well.  The texture of the bread is quite anti-mainstream as jala or kirai means net. In the period of Ramadan especially in Aceh, goat curry and pineapple are used as the companions while eating the crepes. Meanwhile, in Riau Islands, durian sauce will be another option to enjoy the delicacy of the dish.

Roti Jala


11. Kerupuk Atom

It is Anambas’s signature fish chips or crackers made of tuna fish fried in sago, and usually consumed as snacks or along with the main course menus. Originated from Tarempa or Letung city, it is the way more convenient for tourists to get the stock directly at street food stalls. However, as it is a home-industry based, the seller will only make a number of limited stocks depending on the requests. The price is only worth IDR 20,000 – IDR 45,000 a packet.

Kerupuk Atom


12. Asam Pedas Sembilang

Having another label as asam padeh (typically in Minangkabau, West Sumatra), it is one of Melayu’s traditional food that carries out the sour and spicy taste. The mixture of seafood used such as tuna fish, snapper, long-jawed mackerel, carp, or squid along with tamarind, chili, and other spices will not only boost your appetite but also make you feel like going to Malaysia. In Riau Islands, the dish is mainly the art of eating sea creatures.

Asam Pedas Sembilang


13. Epok-Epok

In a glance, hearing the name of the food makes people wondering about the way it is presented, and how it tastes. Actually, it is curry puff pastry or kue pastel kari in Indonesian that comes from Melayu. Its crunchy, golden, and scrumptious aroma will be unforgettable. In Indonesia, this type of appetizer is also too prevalent to be found in most of its regions. Meanwhile, in this prefecture, the puff is modified with curry as the main filling, captivating those who enjoy it during leisure time.



14. Lempok Durian

Similar to dodol (a sweet toffee-like confection), this type of snack is commonly made of Siantan durian. Not only in the archipelago of Riau is lempok durian famous in, but also in other neighboring countries of South East Asia. Though the ingredients are only durian fruit and sugar, the cooking process is something you cannot underestimate. To make such chewy, delicious, and superior-quality lempok, it takes four hours to knead the dough. If want to enjoy the snack for quite a long time, you had better store it in the fringe.

Lempok Durian


15. Salad Pulut

What pops out in your mind while hearing the word “salad”? Fresh mixed vegetables combined with mayonnaise sauce or olive oil dressing. Absolutely fresh, isn’t it? However, the typical salad in Riau Islands is a bowl-shaped sweet cake consisting of two layers. The first layer has the coconut milk as the component, and the second layer is filled with sticky glutinous rice. The taste? Stop hesitating if want to try the cake as it brings the sweetest savor to crave your sweet-tooth!

Salad Pulut


16. Teh Obeng

Literally means screwdriver tea, most non-local people will be perplexed of looking for an iced tea. In fact, this type of drink is just like the common iced tea drinks found at most restaurants in Indonesia. It is just the matter of ear-catchy name to attract the visitors to buy the drink. According to the history, Chinese people who settled in this province called it as apeng tea (as peng means ice in Chinese language). Because of the misspelled by Indonesians, the names transformed to obeng until the present.

Teh Obeng



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