Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)
Nasi Goreng, Indonesia’s classic fried rice dish, is a deliciously easy and economical weeknight supper. A terrific way to turn leftovers into a delightful and satisfying meal!
Nasi goreng has long been one of our family favourites. Years ago, my husband and I both traveled to Nepal regularly. At the time, nasi goreng was a staple on restaurant menus in the capital, Kathmandu, where we both fell in love with this deliciously rich, satisfying, and flavourful Indonesian dish.
For the uninitiated, nasi goreng is Indonesia’s answer to fried rice. Where Cantonese fried rice is subtle, elegant, and delicious in its simplicity, nasi goreng is colourful, complex, and exciting. It starts with the funky flavour of fermented shrimp and the salty, spiciness of sambal oelek ( a fresh, crushed chili paste). Garlicky sweet chili sauce, kecap manis, and dark soy add complexity, while you choose the add-ins — omelettes, vegetables, leftover meat, bean sprouts, tofu. The options are limitless. Finally, the rice is finished with fresh herbs, vegetables and crunchy fried shallots. In the mouth, nasi goreng is a riot of flavour and textures and — regardless of the ingredients — it’s always delicious!
For me, this recipe is more a formula than a set of rules. If I have more guests suddenly pitch for dinner, I’ll toss in some shredded omelette or extra vegetables to “stretch” the rice further. So, the key here is flexibility. Once you’re familiar with the basic recipe, this is one of those recipes that can be tweaked to use up just about anything you happen to have on hand or to keep the cost of dinner down by using what the garden or the farmer’s market are overflowing with at the moment.
What Is Shrimp Paste?
Shrimp paste is fundamental to nasi goreng‘s flavour. To the uninitiated it may seem a little strange, and its initial fragrance is overpowering. However, once you use it in a recipe, you’ll realise that shrimp paste fades subtly into the background, while adding a hit of umami to any dish it’s present in.
Shrimp paste is a traditional, artisanally fermented condiment that’s popular throughout Southeast Asia. It adds a certain funky fishiness that enhances the flavour of sambals and is, in fact, the foundational flavour of many familiar curry pastes and dishes from the region.
As odd as it seems, the tradition of using fermented shrimp and fish as a flavour enhancer is not limited to Southeast Asia. Pacific Islanders and West Africans have a similar tradition. In fact, I often substitute shrimp paste for an Ivorian staple — adjovan — which is difficult to find outside Ivory Coast.
Shrimp paste varies widely in texture, colour, and flavour. The Indonesian variety tends to be darker and — in my opinion — richer than those from some other countries. However, living outside of Southeast Asia, you may not have much choice.
My advice is to go with the variety of shrimp paste which is most accessible to you. Sauté it nicely in oil, prior to adding the other ingredients. At first, the aroma will be pungent and acrid. However, as the paste cooks, it becomes tamer, until it simply adds a dash of essential umami to the final dish.
About this Recipe
This is a very simple recipe and a fantastic way to use leftovers or odds and ends in the fridge. There are only a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Heat: When you add ingredients to the wok, it should sizzle. As long as you hear a sizzling sound, you’ve got the wok at the right temperature. If, at any stage of cooking, the sizzling sound goes away, turn the heat up.
- Prep: As with any stir fry, prep is critical. Once you start cooking, things will go very quickly. So, it’s best to have all of your ingredients prepped and lined up next to the stove.
- Rice: Any fried rice recipe works best with day old rice — because it is drier. If you don’t have rice in your fridge and have to prepare the rice on the same day, spread it out on a sheet pan to allow it to dry while you prep the rest of the ingredients. This will give the rice time to dry out a bit and make it fry better, with lovely, individualised grains. I also like to go through the rice with clean, damp fingers to break up any lumps before frying. (This is a terrific task for children to help with.)
Nasi goreng calls for a few condiments — kecap manis, sweet chili sauce, and sambal oelek. All of these condiments can be found in well-stocked Asian markets. However, if you don’t have these ingredients in your pantry or can’t get them locally, the first two are easy to make using the recipes below. If you don’t have sambal oelek and/or have difficulty finding it, Chinese garlic chilli sauce or sriracha may be substituted.
|Kecap Manis Recipe|
|Sweet Chili Sauce Recipe|
This recipe calls for 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken. I like to use leftovers for this recipe. However, you could easily substitute the shredded meat of 1 poached chicken breast, or:
- Julienned cooked beef
- Shredded cooked pork
- Cubed firm tofu
- Vegan sauté strips
- Shredded leftover duck or turkey, or
- Diced lap cheong (chinese sausage).
Let your choice (or combination of choices) be guided by your taste and your pantry.
|My recipe calls for 1 large carrot and 125 grams of mange tout peas (snow peas). However, I’ve made this recipe with dozens of different vegetables over the years. You can easily add additional vegetables or swap out the ones listed with:
Again, let your imagination, taste, pantry, and budget be your guide.
It is my sincere hope that you and your family enjoy this tasty recipe every bit as much as my family does. Please feel free to share your substitutions and favourite flavour combinations in the comments section. Bon appétit!