If you’ve cooked Indian and/or Thai food, you’ll find the ingredients familiar. Turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander are some of the most-used spices. Lemongrass, lime leaves, ginger, and galangal are ubiquitous. Nutmeg, native to Indonesia’s Banda Islands (part of the Maluku or original Spice Islands) is usually sprinkled into Dutch-influenced dishes like macaroni schotel and risoles.
These spices and herbs are blended into spice pastes called bumbu, the very foundation of Indonesian cooking. Herbs like lemongrass, salam, and galangal (a trio I dub the Indonesian bouquet garni) are tossed in while cooking and removed prior to serving.