Behind the scenes look into Yogyakarta cuisine

Photos from the Road: Surfing in Bali
November 26, 2012
Snorkeling in Indonesia
November 28, 2012

Behind the scenes look into Yogyakarta cuisine

I had a great opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at local food preparation on a recent trip to Indonesia. The city was Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is generally considered to be a center of culture on Java, the most-populous of the Indonesian islands.

the delivery truck

The restaurant: Gudeg Yu Djum, for Yogyakarta cuisine

The folks at Gudeg Yu Djum were kind enough to invite us back into their kitchens. It is a family business that has become so popular that it’s a local chain throughout Yogyakarta. Their food gets distributed daily to the various outlets around the city. They’ve been serving up a Yogyakarta tradition for decades.

Juno eating Nasi Gudeg

The Dish: Nasi Gudeng, a Yogyakarta specialty

Nasi Gudeng took some explanation for those of us unfamiliar with Indonesian cuisine. “What, this is fruit?” was the reaction of most of us.

Yogyakarta cuisine

Nasi Gudeg on a banana leaf plate

Like many Indonesian dishes, Nasi Gudeng is a combo meal with various sides accompanying the main event. In this case it’s nangka, or young jack fruit. By the time it’s boiled for hours in salt, brown sugar, and coconut milk, the young jack fruit no longer resembles its former self. Then it is called gudeg and it is tasty.

I ate a plate of it combined with nasi (steamed white rice), arek (coconut milk soup/sauce made with brown sugar and salt), hard-boiled egg, and krecek (beef skin). Chicken or tofu can accompany the gudeg as well.

What we saw in the kitchens

As we walked through each of the rooms behind the eating area, I saw a different part of Nasi Gudeng being prepared. In one dark room an old woman was cutting the banana leaves used to line the plates. In another, a bare-chested young man shoveled hot coals to keep the arek cooking. Further back, several people were cramped into a windowless room, all preparing and cutting the raw chicken. In a separate room the cooked eggs and chilies were kept.

Yogyakarta cuisine

an old woman prepares banana leaves

Yogyakarta cuisine

the man keeping the fires going

Yogyakarta cuisine

preparing and cutting the chicken

yogyakarta cuisine

a look into the kitchen at Gudeg Yu Djum

yogyakarta cuisine

hard boiled eggs


Backpacking around southeast Asia, we often only see the finish product, the delicious meals we eat in cafes and street carts. Seldom do we get a chance to see what goes on in the kitchen.


My visit into the kitchen of Gudeg Yu Djum in Yogyakarta was part of the international blogger trip to Indonesia hosted by the Indonesia Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy. All contents and opinions are my own.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Stefani says:

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  2. ari says:

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