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The Traditional Dishes for Chinese New Year in Indonesia

Updated on June 3, 2011

The Chinese New Year will never be complete without the traditional dishes along with it. The ones below are the traditional dishes that usually serve in Indonesian Chinese family during the Chinese new Year, the main dishes are common with other tradition or cultures, but there are also some unique and different dishes. I try to gather all and introduce them to you.

The IMLEK food in Indonesia is very unique and differ greatly from the origin country such as mainland China, and even different from my close neighbors like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and etc. Like the Yu sheng dish that is very common in Malaysia and Singapore, yu sheng is a dish from raw fish that has thin sliced and served as cold salad for the whole family and has a meaning "nothing left" or is sufficient for all subsequent years is not common dish in Indonesia. But if you visit big Chinese Restaurants in Jakarta you may find the yu sheng dish right now, just not in common Indonesian Chinese Family.

These are the dishes our family and most of Indonesian Chinese, especially the one who live in Java island used to prepare for the Chinese New Year ;

Main Dish :

1. Bamboo Shoots sauté with pork (or sometime we mix it with abalone, dried squid, haisom or sea cucumber, and fermented soybean sauce)
2. Bamboo shoots subtle sliced mix with crab, shrimp, hisit or shark fin.
3. Pork cooked in sweet soy sauce
4. Cooked sausages with sause
5. Some dishes from pork or beef's intestines.
6. Some dishes from chicken's feet
7. Pork Satay or pork barbeque.
8. Chicken O (chicken cooked with fermented soybean sauce )
9. Chicken with coconut milk
10. Fried sambal or chicken broth with coconut milk mix with chili, beef or chicken liver, and petai or bitter bean or parkia speciosa)
11. Fish (steam or cooked in special sauce) but never served raw.
12. Noodles or rice noodles (mie swa)

All the dishes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
All dishes jcglobalcitizen.wordpress.comThe dishes for offering jcglobalcitizen.wordpress.comSamseng jcglobalcitizen.wordpress.comSausages and meat balls
All dishes
All dishes
The dishes for offering
The dishes for offering
Sausages and meat balls
Sausages and meat balls

The Cakes, Sweets, and Fruits

  1. Nian Gao
  2. Moho Cakes or can be replaced with cup cakes but the color should be red or pink and one of them should be placed on top of the kue ranjang's arrangement. But this arrangement only for those who still do the praying in front of the altar, I don't do that. Only eat the cake :)
  3. Red Ku Cake, it is similar with sticky cake in Thailand which is filled with sweet and steamed greenbeans.
  4. Kue Lapis or Layer Cakes
  5. Wajik Cake, it's the diamond shape cake made from sticky rice and palm sugar.
  6. Nagasari Cake, it's the traditional cake from Indonesia that has the name dragon in it, Naga means dragon. Creamy on the outside with a white puddingy texture and sweet in the inside, it makes a wonderful snack anytime of the day. Made only from flour, coconut milk, sugar and bananas, and wrapped in banana leaves.
  7. Bugis Cake
  8. Lemper Cake
  9. Madu Mongso cake
  10. Bongko Cunduk, Bongko Meniran, or Bongko Kopyor Cake
  11. Cara Bikang Cake

The Sweets

  1. Tangkue
  2.  Angco (red palm dates, usually these small sweets are served in small plates or arrange them like satay.)

Fruits :

  1. Pisang Raja (Raja banana, Raja means King) or Pisang Mas (Mas Banana, mas means gold)
  2. Tebu or sugarcane
  3. Srikaya or sugar apple or Annona squamosa. Why Srikaya, I think because there is the word kaya which means rich.
  4. Bali Oranges as a symbol of unity
  5. Red pomegranate
  6. Pineapple
  7. Longan
  8. Lokam Oranges
  9. Starfruits

Usually those fruits are decorated or wrapped in red wax paper.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Moho CakesKu CakesLapis Cake or Layer CakeLapis Cake or Layer CakeWajik CakesNagasari CakesBugis CakeMadu Mongso or Sweet Fermented Tidbits maedapur.blogspot.comBongko Kopyor or Coconut puddingCara Bikang Cakes
Moho Cakes
Moho Cakes
Ku Cakes
Ku Cakes
Lapis Cake or Layer Cake
Lapis Cake or Layer Cake
Lapis Cake or Layer Cake
Lapis Cake or Layer Cake
Wajik Cakes
Wajik Cakes
Nagasari Cakes
Nagasari Cakes
Bugis Cake
Bugis Cake
Madu Mongso or Sweet Fermented Tidbits
Madu Mongso or Sweet Fermented Tidbits
Bongko Kopyor or Coconut pudding
Bongko Kopyor or Coconut pudding
Cara Bikang Cakes
Cara Bikang Cakes

The meaning of main dishes,

Bamboo shoots :
The bamboo shoots represent a new hope, new life better in the new year. Bamboo shoots are the young bamboo that begin to grow in the spring and the shape of bamboo shoots and the bamboo covered itself there are book segments which symbolizing the life stages that is higher and higher.

Obviously, noodles mean a long life expectancy. The presentation of noodles dishes are differ from one place to another, according their cultures and traditions. Some will serve the rice noodles called mie swa, some serve vermicelly. Whateever how they served, they have the same meaning, health and longevity.

This is taken from Hokkien dialect of the original word 'shan sheng' which literally means 'three fresh'. Samseng are 3 types of meat that are served only at special occasions or moments, like New Year, Ceng Beng or in the traditional funeral's ceremony. Samseng itself implies 3 kind of animals on land, sea, and air.

This is a tribute to the universe that have generously given the abundance of food in the previous year. Ordinary terrestrial animals represented by the pig, sea fish, or crabs. While the air is represented by chickens or ducks.

For a big and wealthy family, they used to serve the pig's head (seriously!). Chicken and duck are served whole. For a more simple family, usually served samcam in sliced, fish and egg to represent.

The purpose of this presentation is give thank for what you've gained throughout the previous year. All dishes are presented in boiled as a meaning of simplicity and gratitute.

Almost the same with samseng, usually we serve layered pork or samcan. That is the belly part, the best part of a pig because it has three layer fat-meat-fat which also represent the three stages of live that always rise. The word 'samcan is from Hokkien dialect 'shan cheng'. The word samcan only known in Indonesia.
Cooked in many various way, like chicken o, opor, etc. It is symbolizing the hope of a prosperous livehood. Many years ago, in the countryside, consuming chicken is a luxury and only on special occasions. In Indonesia, especially in Java Island, chicken cooked o or chicken which is cooked with fermented soybean sauce is represented the color of ground that give live hope to the farmers. Meanwhile, chicken which is cooked as opor is represented the color of gold.

Actually there are 2 kind of opor in Java Island, white opor and yellow opor. White opor is much more likeable for Chinese Indonesian women (we usually call them Emak or Encim), Chinese woman that is already assimilated with local culture and wearing braces (not kebaya, but similar) and sarong like local residents. This kind of appearance is found only in Java. My great grandmother used to wear this kind of outfit. This kind of Indonesian Chinese are known as Babah Tionghoa.

While the Yellow Opor used to prepared by the local residents that is added with safron. The local residents love the color because it looked more gorgeous and not pale and good for health because safron can be used to balance the coconut milk and good for the stomach. The color of yellow is represented gold, that means prosperity. I prefer the yellow opor though, because the color is more attractive and if you add some sambal or chili, the color is so great.

Nian Gao
You may read it nien you or other name in Hokkien dialect is called 'thi cake' or the sweet cake. the word gao means high and nian is year, so it can be represented as increasing in the next year or success. Kue Keranjang or nian gao is made from sticky rice flour and sugar, it is vey sticky and sweet. Many says it is a bribe for The Kitchen God that is usually give report to the Jade Emperror, they hope that the Kitchen God will report the sweet things to the Emperror :)

Intestines (pork or chicken)
It is represented pearl, all things that is precious and hope will be abundance in the new year.

Golden Banana or Raja Banana
Banana in mandarin is 'xiang jiao'. The word xiang means fragrant or smell good. Hoping that the family will gain fragrant name or the family name will be great. All the family member will bring great achievements and can be proud of. All the family member will be honorable in the sight of others and society. The yellow color is obviously represent of prosperity.

Oranges, Star fruits and etc
All represent good hope, prosperity, welfare, intelligence and goodness for all the family member.

Indonesian Sweet Soysauce


I can not give all the recipes but here are some of the recipe from above dishes.

1. Bamboo Shoots sautee with pork or chicken or seafood

500 gr Bamboo shoots sliced thin (you may used canned bamboo shoots)
100 gr chicken or pork or prawn, choped
300 ml chicken broth
2 pcs scallions, cut in 1 inch
2 pcs ginger, minced
4 pcs garlic, minced
1 tsp soysauce
1 tsp angciu or fermented red rice
1 ts salt
1/4 ts pepper
2 tsp maizena with a bit of water.


  • Boil the bamboo shoots, remove from the water, then boil it again to remove the smell.
  • Stir fry the garlic and ginger
  • Add chicken, sautee until the color is change and add some soysauce, angciu, salt, and pepper.
  • Add broth and bamboo shoots
  • Cook until all the spices seep.
  • Thicken with maizena or cornstarch solution.
  • Add scallions, stir well, lift.

2. Pork Tenderloin cooked in sweet soy sauce
2.5 pounds of pork tenderloin (trimmed), sliced into 1.5 ounce pieces
4 pcs garlic, pureed
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup of sweet soy sauce (Indonesian Sweet Soy)
3/5 cup chicken broth
Five spices powder to taste
3 tsp oil
salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat oil in sauté pan, then sauté pork for two minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Remove pork from pan and set aside.
  • In the same sauté pan, add garlic and ginger,cook until translucent.
  • Add spices and chicken broth.
  • Bring to boil, stirring, for two minutes.
  • Return the sauteed pork to the pan, add the Indonesian Sweet Soy and continue cooking until the pork is tender and the sauce is reduced.

3. Nagasari Cake (Traditional Indonesian Steamed Banana Rice Cakes)

6 ripe bananas (suitable for steaming such as pisang raja, pisang nangka, etc)
3 cups rice flour
3 cups coconut milk, squeezed from 1 grated coconut
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Banana leaves, for wrapping


  • Slice bananas lengthwise into half.
  • Combine flour, coconut milk, sugar and salt in a pot. Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until mixture is thick.
  • Spoon approximately 1-2 tablespoons of mixture onto banana leaf. Place a slice of banana on mixture, and cover banana with another 1-2 tablespoons of mixture.
  • Wrap mixture with banana leaves neatly.
  • Steam for 25 minutes or until cooked. Serve warm or cold.

IMLEK dishes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pork in Sweet Soy SauceBamboo Shoots sauté with pork or seafoodNagasari CakesChicken Opor or chicken cooked in coconut milk
Pork in Sweet Soy Sauce
Pork in Sweet Soy Sauce
Bamboo Shoots sauté with pork or seafood
Bamboo Shoots sauté with pork or seafood
Nagasari Cakes
Nagasari Cakes
Chicken Opor or chicken cooked in coconut milk
Chicken Opor or chicken cooked in coconut milk


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    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Indonesia

      Sandyspider, hi! Yes, those are all delicious haha..thank you!

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Thia looks yummy!

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Indonesia

      Money Glitch, haha..thank you and today is the Chinese New Year and the celebration here is really fun! Have a great weekend!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Ooooh,yum yum! Now I am hungry! Great looking food and wonderful recipes, thanks for sharing :)

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Indonesia

      hello,hello thank you and I suggest you should try the nagasari cakes, it's really delicious and if you found it's hard to find banana leaves, try use food grade plastic wrap :)

      ateenyi, thank you. Chinese cuisine and traditions are really unique and fascinating, have a great day!

    • ateenyi profile image


      9 years ago from Chicago

      Excellent Hub!!!!!

      The hub explicitly focuses towards tradition of Chinese, especially their food habits. The food is superbly delicious and the way the food is displayed, provides total visual delight. Thanks for providing so delicious and enjoyable hub.

      Keep on Hubbing

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      That is a super hub and I will keep on file and refer back to it. Also copy all these lovely recipees. Thank you for sharing.

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Indonesia

      Travel_man, wow our country really have many similarities, especially the dishes. Thank you for visiting!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      9 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Wow! It's mouth watering. Moho cakes are also famous here in the Philippines. Adobo or pork in soy sauce is a major dish here in the country. Really, Asian cuisine is very tasty and you will forget where you came from once you eat it (kidding hehehe).Oh, no! It's true. Thanks, febriedethan.

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Indonesia

      Purple Perl, yes ha ha thank's for visiting :)

      Bk Creative, good to see you and I hope you will have a great time during this New Year, thank you for commenting!

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Fabulous! I am so happy to say that living in NYC it is possible to participate in so many wonderful New Year celebrations - and eat fabulous foods! I am so looking forward to this Golden Tiger year and a year of prosperity.

      Thanks for all the photos too!

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Esther Shamsunder 

      9 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Great info,febriedethan . A true feast for all! :)

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Indonesia

      RevLady, hi good to see you, yes those dishes are very tempting :) I don't do a lot of cooking too and just do the simple one and buy the rest :) God Bless You.

    • RevLady profile image


      9 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      I love Chinese food and the pictures you have displayed here are truly lustful to the eyes. I do not do a lot of cooking but this hub is inspiring me to reconsider. Thank you.

      Forever His,


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