Sumatra for vegetarians and vegans

For those of you who travelled South East Asia know that it is actually quite easy to be vegetarian or vegan (except in the Philippines maybe). The same applies for travelling in Sumatra. Many dishes are accidentally vegan or can be easily adapted. People in the warungs (local eateries) and restaurants in the touristy places are very open for adjustments to the dishes and can cater many needs. However it helps to speak a bit Bahasa (see useful phrases below).

Therefore we gathered this blog post with vegetarian or vegan dishes in Sumatra, Indonesia, but also included some basic phrases in Bahasa Indonesia.

Vegetarian dishes in Sumatra
Vegan dishes in Sumatra
Useful phrases when ordering food in Sumatra

Vegatarian dishes in Sumatra

Rendang – kind of curry, but comes with a brown or dark brown sauce. It is usually served with beef, but sometimes it is also served with potatoes, tempeh, tofu or egg.
Soto – traditional Sumatran curry noodle soup with coconut milk. Can be served without meat.
Curry – the classic, yummy dish. Is mainly served without meat, but you better ask before. See the translations below.
Sambal Tempeh – Tempeh in a slightly spicy tomato sauce.
Gado-gado – the Indonesian evergreen. Vegetables topped with a delicious peanut sauce. Boiled egg on the side.
Perkedel kentang – potato cakes (contains egg)
Mie goreng – Fried noodles with fried egg.
Nasi goreng – Fried rice with fried egg.
Tempeh goreng – Fried tempeh is a great snack.
Cap Cay – stir fried vegetables.
Semur telur – Kind of goulasch, sometimes also served with egg.

Vegan dishes in Sumatra

Since most of the people in Sumatra, like 70% in the world, are lactose intolerant, there are hardly any dishes with cow milk. Coconut milk is the most common base for dishes. Rice and soy milk are very rare. So if you like to drink your coffee with milk, you might have to switch to black coffee.

Rendang – kind of curry, but comes with a brown or dark brown sauce. It is usually served with beef, but sometimes it is also served with potatoes, tempeh or tofu.
Soto – traditional Sumatran curry noodle soup with coconut milk. Can be served without meat.
Curry – the classic, yummy dish. Is mainly served without meat, but you better ask before. See the translations below.
Sambal Tempeh – Tempeh in a slightly spicy tomato sauce.
Gado-gado – the Indonesian evegreen. Vegetables topped with a delicious peanut sauce. It usually has a boiled egg on the side, so better ask to skip that.
Mie goreng – Fried noodles. Usually served with a fried egg, so better ask to skip that.
Nasi goreng – Fried rice. Usually served with a fried egg, so better ask to skip that.
Tempeh goreng – Fried tempeh is a great snack.
Cap Cay – stir fried vegetables. Sometimes contains egg, so better ask.
Kentang goreng – French fries
Urap urap – vegetables served with a coconut based sauce, mainly spinach, beans, pak choi and/or sprouts.

Helpful words and phrases when ordering food in Sumatra, Indonesia

Food

beef – sapi
chicken – ayam
coconut milk – santan
egg – telur
fried – goreng
meat – daging
milk – susu
noddles – mie
peanut – kacang
pork – babi (very rare, due to Islam)
rice – nasi
salt – garam
sauce – saus
sugar – gula
tofu – tahu

Vegetables

carrot – wortel
cucumber – timun
potato – kentang
tomato – tomat
vegetables – sayuran

Fruit

apple – apel
banana – pisang
dragon fruit – buah naga
fruit – buah
mango – buah mangga

orange – jeruk
papaya – pepaya
passion fruit – markisa
pineapple – nanas
watermelon – semangka

Drinks

coffee – kopi
juice – jus
tea – teh

Others

is there/do you have […] – Ada
I take […] – Mau […]
spicy – pedas
thanks – Terima kasih
what is that? – apa itu?
without – tanpa/tidak
with – dengan/sama (colloquial)
yummy – enak

See also: Sumatra for foodies

About Discover Sumatra

Hi, we are Christine and Safrool. We are a local tour operator and organise round trips and package holidays in Sumatra. We started this business not only because we love island and nature, but also to support locals and NGOs. We work directly with local guides and drivers. This way we can arrange an inexpensive Sumatra holiday for you and you can spend a stress-free and eventful time. More about us

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