Vegan Food Batam Island Indonesia
Updated: Feb 10
Batam in the Riau Islands is a small island in #Indonesia. The island is located close by Malaysia and Singapore so it has an exciting and vibrant food culture. During my first trip I spent three weeks travelling Batam Island and #volunteering at a local school program by finding a host on WorkAway.
I volunteered as an English Teacher and I loved the people I met so much that I visited again the following year. I have an article on my WorkAway experience so if you would like to learn more about my work at the Kindergarten please check it out.
In this article I want to share what I learnt about the street food in Indonesia and give you some examples of how you can manage a #vegetarian or #vegan diet whilst visiting this #destination. Traditionally, the local cuisine is centred around rice and meals bring the family and #community together. Famous Indonesian dishes include beef rendang and other curries, nasi goreng or fried rice, mei goreng or fried noodles, sambal a chili based condiment to most meals, satay usually marinated on meat it is made from peanuts and served with cucumbers and onions, soto a soup with meat and coconut milk, ikan bakar a simple steamed fish meal and many other variations of seafood are widely consumed across Indonesia. Overall, vegan food is not at the forefront but it is still possible to find.
Local food will help you stay on a backpacking budget but be ready for some interesting flavours and a decent amount of spice! My top tips for #travelling Batam are simple; eat where the locals eat, avoid food that isn't cooked to order including the self-serve street stalls and stay hydrated!
Learn some simple words in Bahasa to order vegan ingredients including:
Tofu - Tahu
Rice - Nasi
Noodles - Mi
Coconut - Kelapa
Coffee - Kopi
Tea - Teh
Fruit - Buah
Vegetable - Sayuran
A special thanks to my local friend Sabrina for hosting me and showing me around. If you are looking to explore further than the tourist areas (shopping malls) then I do recommend visiting with a home-stay or a volunteer program such as WorkAway. Batam Island is easily accessed by ferry from #Singapore, but it is not frequented by western #tourists, so the #local experience would be a great opportunity for you to learn how to navigate this new location.
Do you want to see what you can eat when you visit Batam Island?
Here are some of my favourite vegetarian and vegan options:
Currency used - Australian Dollar
Batam Island Indonesia uses the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
December 2018 exchange is $1.00 = 10,000 IDR
These are your best friend when you are travelling in extreme heat and extreme humidity or for when you find yourself ill. Coconut water is hydrating and is packed with vitamins.
Local price 50c - $1
Vegetable Fried Rice with Tempeh or Tofu
A simple mix of rice, vegetables with tempeh of tofu on the side. Simple. Cheap. Rice rice in Bahasa Indonesian is called Nasi Goreng. The Tempeh or Tofu is commonly prepared with garlic and turmeric giving it a bright yellow colour.
Local price $1 - $2 per plate
Martabak (meaning ‘folded’) is like a pancake and is fried and then folded over before being sliced and packaged as a take away street snack. It is popular in Batam. Fillings include sweet milk, corn, chocolate, cheese, egg, banana, coconut and red bean paste. I recommend sweet Martabak with shredded coconut & red bean paste.
Local price 70c - $1
Steamed Rice with Vegetables
A simple breakfast dish and a healthier alternative to the standard fried food; vegetable soup set. The tempeh is a traditional fermented soy product that originates from Indonesia and is one of the best vegan foods I have ever eaten. The tempeh is made into a sort of cake through the fermentation process and is cooked in oil in the wok. It is likely that these simple rice and vegetable dishes will be what you will eat the most.
Local price starts at $1-$3 per plate
A messy and interesting street food served with rice noodles and a steam rice cake called lontong. This dish tastes better than it looks and has a satay flavour through it. When you order this dish it will include tofu, bean sprouts, a boiled egg, chilli, palm sugar and a wonderful peanut sauce. For vegans you can ask for no egg and extra tofu. Ketoprak is a local vegetarian dish which is famous in Jakarta.
Local price 50c - $1
On the streets you can see many vendors selling snacks for 50 cents - $2 including:
A variety of fresh fruit such as papaya, banana, mango, dragon fruit and avocados
Traditional Roti typically served with Curry (available in the morning)
BBQ Corn on the cob
Many vendors will be serving iced cold drinks such as coffee, tea and fruit shakes
Sweet treats and fried snacks are also available though they are not often vegetarian/vegan due to having meat based or egg fillings and fried in ghee
The local street food is cheap but it can be heavy with oil, salt, MSG and hot spices so it is best to watch what each vendor is cooking to work out what you would like to try. I was lucky enough to visit my friend’s farm and see where some of the amazing fruit comes from. The farm was producing mostly papaya, banana, watermelon a variety of herbs. It was beautiful to see homegrown produce!
Finding local Indonesian food can be a challenge if you are vegan, I found that each restaurant had an option but you may feel that it becomes predictable if you stay longer than a few days. Vegetarian dishes are much easier to order as you have more options when it comes to incorporating egg and dairy.
Vegan food is always worth the challenge and it is exciting when you are able to overcome any carriers you may face when ordering vegan dishes. Another option is to enjoy the multicultural hub of cuisines available in Batam and search for Indian restaurants or Malaysian curry houses, which typically serve a large variety of amazing vegetable dishes.
One of my favourite restaurants to eat at is called Raos Resto. It is near by a local University and is popular with students and families. Check out the usual dinner spread of rice, fried chicken, mixed steam vegetables, omelette, deep fried tofu and hot tea. You can eat the vegan and vegetarian options here for under $2 and they also serve noodle dishes and soup.
If you are wanting to eat at western style fast food chains you can find them in the main city area and at the malls including KFC, A&W, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, McDonalds, popular chains of bubble tea and bread/bakery shops are also common.
My time in Batam Island taught me a lot about the local culture and the relationship that the people of Batam have with food. Everyone enjoys gathering together around a home cooked meal after spending the day at the market, preparing the food and cooking for hours to create traditional cuisine.
If you get a chance to visit Batam Island, make sure you pass up some of the tourist hot spots and instead enjoy what the local people have to offer; kind and welcoming hospitality.
Don't forget to try the local Kopi! The coffee is super sweet and can be served hot or iced for around 50c. You can pay three times that at the local cafes but some of the coffee houses are amazing and worth checking out. Most of the cafes sell sweets and pastries or if you are after snacks on the go then just stop at one of the many bakery shops selling an endless variety of cakes, breads and buns. Kopi in Indonesia is commonly served with sweetened condensed milk because without it it can be very bitter. If you can't get used to the coffee, try the local ginger tea it's amazing!
For more information on volunteering and travelling to Batam Island you can check out my article on my personal experience teaching English on this island here!