Using the word ‘enak’ in Indonesian

‘Enak’ is one of a number of adjectives in Indonesian that can be used in different contexts. You might have known that ‘enak’ means tasty in Indonesian. But is that the only way to use ‘enak’? In this post I will focus on two main usages of ‘enak’: in the context of foods and drinks as well as feelings.

Foods & Drinks

What do you say in Indonesian when the food/drink is good?

I believe you will say something like this:


Wah, nasi goreng ini enak!

Wow, this fried rice (is) tasty!

Wah, kopi ini enak sekali!

Wow, this coffee is very tasty!

What do you say when you think that the foods/drinks sold in a particular restaurant are good?

When I asked this question to some of my students or other people who have learnt the language for a while, some of them say: “Restoran ini bagus,” implying that the foods/drinks are good. But that might not necessarily be correct. This is what you need to say:

Restoran ini enak sekali!

This restaurant is very tasty.

Indeed, this might sound as if the restaurant is chewable or edible. But this is simply because the other words that we have as good (namely ‘baik’ and ‘bagus’) will not convey the message that you want to deliver.

The following illustration will help you understand the reason why:

  1. When you say “Restoran ini bagus”, it means that the observable attributes of the restaurant, such as interior design or the service, is good. This is because the adjective ‘bagus’ usually describes what you can see and as you might have experienced yourself, you cannot see whether something is tasty or not until you really eat it, isn’t it?
  2. When you say “Restoran ini enak”, it means that the food is tasty. Note that Indonesians do not think that the restaurant is edible – that will be hilarious for them as well. Rather, they use the adjective ‘enak’ because that is the best way to describe the fact that the foods in the restaurant are tasty.

If you’re still confused about how ‘baik’ and ‘bagus’ can be used, I recommend reading another article that I wrote in the past regarding those two adjectives (click here to read the article).


Do you think that the word ‘enak’ can be used to describe someone’s feeling?

Believe it or not, it can be used in that way too!

To put it simply, the word ‘enak’ is often associated with situations that give pleasure to human senses.

Here are some examples that will help you understand:

  1. Budi got a good massage. Because a good massage makes him feel good, he will probably say “Ah, enak sekali!” (Ah, this is really great)
  2. Sinta listened to a very good song. The way the song is composed makes her feel good (I believe most of us have had this experience). In that case, she will actually say “Wah, lagu ini enak sekali.” (Wow, this song is good).
  3. Indonesians talk a lot about ambiance. When a place has a good ambiance, it gives people some sort of ‘good feeling’ and in that scenario, the word ‘enak’ is often used.”Saya suka kafe itu. Suasananya enak.” (I like that café. The ambiance is great)

If you look at the examples above, you might notice that the word ‘enak’ is strongly tied to human senses. The first example is related to touch, the second example is related to hearing and the third example is pretty combination of everything. Also, the word ‘enak’ can be used to talk about foods and drinks and that is all about taste, isn’t it?

Cultural Point

Now last but not least, Indonesians can also negate the word ‘enak’ to describe a particular situation that I believe is very important in the Indonesian culture.

Formal: “Saya (merasa) tidak enak

Slang: “Saya (ngerasa) nggak enak

What do you think about the phrase above? Well, it’s totally understandable to be confused by the phrase above because it is actually considered as an idiom in Indonesian and cannot be translated literally. The meaning of the phrase above is not “I (feel) not tasty” but rather:

I don’t feel good (about it).

Although it sounds like an English expression, it’s important for you to know how this idiom should be used. Let me give you an illustration to help you get the sense of it. Let’s say you’re meeting with a friend at a shopping centre. Suddenly you feel really hungry and you bought French fries from McDonald’s. When you meet with your friend and you still have the French fries, will you offer some to your friend? How do you feel if you don’t offer him at all? Well, I reckon different culture might respond to that question differently but generally you won’t feel good about it, isn’t it? This is the sort of moment when an Indonesian will say:

Saya merasa tidak enak kalau saya tidak membagi kentang ini.

I don’t feel good if I don’t share this French Fries.

If you’ve been interacting with Indonesians, this phrase explains why Indonesians sometimes are not that direct. For them, to say what they want/think directly might potentially hurt the person they’re speaking to and that doesn’t make them feel good. You might also find some of them doing things that they don’t really want to do but they still do it because they don’t feel good about rejecting the one who made the request.

When I talk about ‘tidak enak’ with my students, I realised that the kind of things that will make Indonesians feel not good can be quite odd for some people depending on their own culture. This is because it’s not just about virtue or right or wrong but it’s also about social convention and social convention might differ from country to country.

I will give you a list of things in which Indonesian might say “saya merasa tidak enak” and you can compare it yourself to your own culture:

  1. Budi got a job offer in another company with better compensation. He has worked in his company for 10 years and knows the boss very well. He might end up rejecting the offer because he feels ‘tidak enak’ to his boss if he moves to another company.
  2. Budi likes Sinta a lot and is very attentive to her. Sinta knows that Budi likes her but she does not like Budi and thinks of him as a friend only. Sinta never says this directly because she feels ‘tidak enak’ if she ends up hurting Budi by telling him the truth.
  3. Budi went to the cinema with Rudi and Sinta. When they’re going home, Rudi offered a lift home to Budi but Rudi lives in the north and Budi lives in the south. Rudi has to spend an extra 50 minutes to send Budi home. Budi might reject Rudi because he feels ‘tidak enak’ making Rudi go out of his way.
  4. Have you ever had lunch with a group of Indonesians? If you had, notice that often you will see a piece of meat or perhaps a piece of vegetable being left on a plate just like that and no one wants to eat it. One of the reasons behind this is because they feel ‘tidak enak’ being the last person to take the food.
  5. In an extreme case, an Indonesian might feel ‘tidak enak’ if he belongs to a group of friends who smoke but he himself does not smoke. Every time he rejects the invitation from his friends to try smoking, he might feel ‘tidak enak’ because he does not conform to the group’s norm – i.e. smoking.

I hope you find the explanation above useful.

Have a question regarding ‘enak’ or ‘tidak enak’? Post your question below or email us at!

Special Edition #3: Using the word ‘enak’ in Indonesian

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