Indonesia's Pedagang Kaki Lima & Their Must-Try Dishes

By Jasmine Ambarwati | 10, Jun, 2022
Indonesia's Pedagang Kaki Lima & Their Must-Try Dishes

The life of the Indonesian people cannot be separated from the existence of street vendors known as "Pedagang Kaki Lima". Vendors of this type can easily be found in a variety of cities across Indonesia, both big cities and small towns, selling a variety of foods, ranging from heavy cuisine to snacks, that are liked by many people.

The term ‘Pedagang Kaki Lima’ refers to vendors who sell temporarily on the roadside or the sidewalk. These vendors sell their products by moving around with a 'Gerobak,' which is a wheeled cart pushed by vendors on foot, by bicycle, or on motorcycles. The products sold are usually placed and displayed on the cart by the vendors.


Where the name Pedagang Kaki Lima comes from?
Pedagang Kaki Lima

Image Credit: Indira Tjokorda on Unsplash

Fun fact, the term "Pedagang Kaki Lima" was not coined by accident or fad. This term has been used since the Dutch colonial period. During the colonial era, the government mandated that every roadway be built to provide facilities for pedestrians, which are now known as sidewalks or ‘trotoar’. This pedestrian facility is five feet (152 cm) wide. Over time, many traders used this location to sell, inviting passing pedestrians to buy food and drinks and rest. From there, the Dutch government named them "Pedagang Kaki Lima." Apart from its history, many people believe that the name "Kaki Lima" came from the fact that merchants used carts with two wheels, which were regarded as two legs. There are five total legs, including one cart support pole and two vendor’s legs.

Until now, many Pedagang Kaki Lima continues to sell and can be found in many parts of Indonesia. In terms of price, there is no doubt that the food served by Pedagang Kaki Lima is cheaper, even way cheaper, than that served in restaurants, due to the lower capital required. Pedagang Kaki Lima serves a variety of simple but tasty foods, ranging from snacks to heavy foods. Here are some of the most popular street food specialties among the countless varieties. Is your favorite food included in this list?


Popular Pedagang Kaki Lima Food

Nasi Goreng Tek-Tek

Our first food on the list is Nasi Goreng Tek-tek, Indonesia’s all-time favorite food. Nasi Goreng Tek-tek, or Nasi Goreng Kaki Lima, is an Indonesian fried rice variety. The name "Tek-Tek" was given because when street vendors of fried rice walked down the residential street pushing carts and selling food, they hit the cooking pan with their hands, making the sound "tek...tek...tek." The sound is, then, incorporated into the food's name. Main Ingredients (pera rice, cooking oil, veggies, sweet soy sauce, and eggs), ground spices, and additional toppings (meat or sausage topping, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, fried shallots, and ‘kerupuk’) are commonly found in Nasi Goreng Tek-tek.

Even though nasi goreng is widely available in a variety of restaurants in Indonesia, Nasi Goreng Tek-tek has a distinct depth of flavor that makes it different compared to the nasi goreng served at restaurants. The main reason for this is because Nasi Goreng Tek-tek is prepared using a unique technique that results in a 'Wok Hei' or semi-scorched aroma. Wok Hei on Nasi Goreng Tek-tek can only be done with an iron steel wok, which is often used in Chinese cooking. The heat is uniformly spread when cooking in a thick and large wok at high heat. Not only that, but Nasi Goreng Tek-tek also uses its very own seasoning, known as 'Baceman,' which contains garlic, candlenuts, and cooking oil.

To enjoy Nasi Goreng Tek-tek, you won't have to dig deep into your pockets; the price of each portion ranges from 15,000 IDR (1.42 SGD) to 30,000 IDR (2.85 SGD) depending on the sort of topping you pick.


Bubur Ayam

Bubur Ayam, a hearty Kaki Lima food, is the second food that must be included on the list. Bubur Ayam is an Indonesian congee made primarily of rice, topped with shredded chicken meat and various condiments such as chopped scallion, crispy fried shallot, celery, tongcay, fried soybean, crullers, yellow chicken broth, and crackers (Indonesian- style crackers). Usually, consumers can also add extra side dishes to be paired with Bubur Ayam such as chicken intestines satay, quail egg satay, chicken skin satay, and gizzard satay.

This 'Kaki Lima' chicken congee is a popular food among Indonesians as a breakfast. However, don't worry! Consumers can still find this chicken congee from morning to night. To enjoy this hearty food, consumers can eat on the spot or have their food packaged to take home.

Bubur Ayam prices range from 10,000 IDR (0.95 SGD) to 20,000 IDR (1.90 SGD) for the chicken congee alone, with extra toppings typically costing 2,000 IDR (0.19 SGD) to 7,000 IDR (0.67 SGD) per skewer depending on the type of satay ordered.


Sate Ayam
Sate at Pedagang Kaki Lima

Image Credit: Nita Anggraeni Goenawan on Unsplash

Who doesn’t know and love the famous food, Sate Ayam? Sate Ayam (also known as Chicken Satay Skewers) is an Indonesian specialty that is popular among both Indonesians and foreigners. This food is made with chicken meat that has been diced into little pieces and poked with a coconut or bamboo leaf bone, then marinated and grilled with sweet soy sauce and coated in peanut & sweet soy sauce. Sate Ayam is also usually served with lontong, a cylinder-shaped compressed rice cake, or rice topped with sweet peanut sauce and crispy fried onions. Pickles and chili paste are commonly added to make it more flavorful. Because it is grilled over smoldering charcoal, Sate Ayam has the classic smokey satay aroma.

For the pricing, a serving of Sate Ayam costs roughly 20,000 IDR (1.90 SGD) and typically contains ten skewers.



Siomay is a type of Indonesian street food that consists of steamed fish dumplings, cabbage, boiled eggs, potatoes, tofu, and bitter melon. After being steamed, all of the ingredients are arranged on a plate and sliced into bite-sized pieces. As a compliment, Siomay is frequently served with sweet peanut sauce, sweet soy sauce, chili sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice. Originating in Bandung, West Java, Siomay is heavily influenced by Chinese pork shumai and uses mackerel as a substitute for pork.

Most Indonesians are familiar with these fish dumplings because vendors often park their food carts in front of schools and universities. They enjoy this food since it is affordable. The price of a serving of Siomay with around 7 pieces starts at 10,000 IDR (0.95 SGD)


Gorengan Kaki Lima

Image Credit: Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

The next food that we can't forget to include is Gorengan. Gorengan, or fritters, is one of Indonesians' favorite snacks, especially for breaking the fast during Ramadan. Gorengan is various foods that are coated in flour dough and deep-fried in a large amount of heated cooking oil till they have a crispy texture. Fried bananas, fried tofu stuffed with vegetables, vegetable bakwan, fried cassava, fried tempeh, and sweet potato balls are the most common Gorengan you can get from Pedagang Kaki Lima which sells Gorengan.

Unlike the previous foods, which are heavy, Gorengan is typically consumed as a snack or side dish and can be consumed at any time and in any location. To enjoy Gorengan, consumers frequently paired it with green rawit (bird’s eye) pepper and other condiments like sweet soy sauce or peanut sauce.

One of the best things about Gorengan is that it is extremely cheap! So, there is no need to be concerned about the price because a piece of Gorengan costs only between 1,000 IDR (0.095 SGD) and 2,000 IDR (0.19 SGD).

That is Pedagang Kaki Lima and the various popular foods they sell. Don’t forget to stop by and try the amazing Kaki Lima food if you see them! Because not only do the foods taste wonderful, but the portions are generous, and the prices are very cheap. So, which food would you like to try first?

Cover Image Credit: dapiki moto on Unsplash

An introvert who enjoys food, cooking, traveling, and photography.

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