Indonesia has everything. They have impressive volcanos for trekkers to world-class beaches for mermaids, but what they don’t have is a strong culture in is meat – especially beef and pork. If you lean heavily on the carnivore side, take into account my perspective on 5 reasons to avoid meat in Indonesia.
1. It’ll Never Taste the Way You Expect
Indonesians don’t understand beef and pork like Americans do. Unless you’re in someplace like Bali that’s swarming with restaurants opened by foreigners – that tenderloin you just ordered is only going to disappoint you. It’ll either be too tough to eat, a sorry slab of cardboard, or grey in color.
You might be thinking, “That’s okay. I’ll find something familiar like a McDonald’s.” I remember my first trip to Bali in 2000 and it was my first time in a country so different from the Western world. I went weeks eating all the street food I could find until I eventually suffered a week-long sour stomach in Ubud. When my friend and I made it back to Kuta Beach, I was stoked to find a McDonald’s (something familiar). I ordered a McChicken sandwich and, when it was given to me, my sandwich was much smaller than it’s original stateside version, the meat looked super skimpy, and it didn’t taste like chicken.
Are you enamored by all the free-range chickens running around? Very organic, right? Wrong. Some of that plump chicken breast you’re so used to eating will come out looking like a weenie runt on that chicken satay you just ordered, if it is even chicken meat. It could be chicken organs too.
2. It’s Hard to Find
If you find yourself in the countryside of Indonesia, what’s the first thing you see? Likely rice fields and skinny chickens, but almost never cows or pigs.
If you can’t stomach another plate of chicken [organ] satay, that flyblown fried fish will be served with all of its organs and head still attached. Eat the eyes for good luck!
3. It’s Low Grade
Cardboard slabs of grey meat. Need I say more?
4. Mystery Meat Posers
I spent one month of volunteer teaching English in a small village outside of Yogyakarta. I stayed in a beautiful home with an upper-class family who had a personal chef. They wanted to please me so badly that when they asked me what my favorite meal was, I gave them an honest answer of filet mignon. The chef went out of his way to please me and one night surprised me with the most tender filet mignon I ever cut. There were a few white circular rings on it that I was trying to overlook. Is it ringworms? It’s Indonesia and the quality is never that good, so whatevs. It’s super tender to cut and when I put the most delicious piece of steak in my mouth, I almost vomited it right back onto my plate. Something is not right.
The next morning my chef asked me why I didn’t finish my meal. I told him it tasted funny. It was then later explained to me that it was cow lung that I was served and not filet mignon. Gross.
5. A Constant Disappointment
On my first night staying with an upper-class Indonesian family on Java, they welcomed me to some local snacks they prepared themselves. It was my first night in Indonesia after spending two months in Thailand (imagine all that yummy foodie goodness I just came from). There were two plates on their living room table. I didn’t want to be rude and picked up a small piece of omelet with a couple of other snacks. I take a bite of the omelet and I’m not really that impressed. I unintentionally put the egg back on my plate upside down and notice a bunch of tiny black things mixed in with my egg.
They see me staring and examining, and then respond with, “Termites.” in Bahasa language. Later it was explained to me that during the rainy season they catch them to add extra protein to their meals. I think I’ve had enough protein for the night. Thank you.
Who loves bacon? Nobody does bacon better than ‘Merica. Extra crispy? Apple chip smoked or maple flavored soaked? Bacon vodka. Bacon chocolate. Bacon Bloody Mary’s. We have too many delicious variations in our motherland that when you order it here and are served a flaccid looking piece of near pink meat, it’s just screaming disappointment.
Needless to say, the meat selection in Indonesia is not Travel Marinade approved.