For centuries Indonesia was a favorite spot for European spice traders. This should give you a big clue as to the "flavor" of Indonesian food - it is thick with chiles, spices and coconut milk.

Sri Hartati Ashari, wife of the ambassador of Indonesia.

COLUMBUS accidentally ran into America as he was searching for the treasures of the East Indies. The Indies are now renamed Indonesia and their treasures have entered virtually every kitchen in jars and tins of spicy perfumes labeled nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, mace and the like.

The holiday entertaining season offers an opportunity to explore one of the ways the Indonesians themselves dip into the treasure chest, a traditional banquet called the rijsttafel (rays'-tah-fel), that is, the rice table. The rijsttafel illustrated here will feed six people. One cup of cooked white rice should be allowed for each dinner.

The sates (sah-tays'), or barbecues, of chicken breasts and cubed lamb, each with its own special marinade, can be prepared under the broiler or, preferably, in a well-ventilated area on a hibachi. The sates and gado gado, colorful crisp steamed vegetables, should be served with spicy peanut sauce on the side. An unusual recipe for hamburger features meat balls with shredded coconut and three spices. Omelet slices, golden fried onions and cool cucumbers complement the entire feast. The only dessert necessary is a large bowl of fresh fruit.

Most of the ingredients are available at any local supermarket. The special ingredients can be bought at many Oriental groceries, at the Thai Room, 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, or at the Thai Am grocery, 1314 14th St. NW.