Nasi goreng is served everywhere in Bali. Any visitor would probably have it daily because every food establishment offers this tasty dish.
Who would have the sense to say no to the caramelized fried rice, often topped with a luscious fried egg?
It may look complicated to make, but it is truly not that difficult at all. You can make Nasi Goreng in the comfort of your own kitchen.
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Pack full of savory flavors
If you visit Indonesia, you will always encounter Nasi Goreng or Indonesian fried rice considering that rice is the main source of carbohydrates in Asia.
It is the staple food at any time of the day, including breakfast.
Nasi Goreng means fried rice. Although bakmi, Gado-gado, and satay are also popular, Nasi Goreng remains to be the most satisfying and the most popular dish.
What is Nasi Goreng?
(English pronunciation: /ˌnɑːsi ɡɒˈrɛŋ/) In Malaysian and Indonesian languages. It’s a dish that is mostly rice.
Some onion and meat are then mixed into the rice.
But it is different from other fried rice dishes because of the sauce, which is sweet soy sauce or kecap manis. The dark sauce caramelizes and stains the rice as it cooks.
This special fried rice is usually served with an egg, cooked sunny side up, and a side of fresh tomatoes and cucumber.
Some prefer the egg to be fluffy, cooked through, and crispy on the edges. I personally love it when the yolk runs into the fried rice.
Indonesia is not a rich country so people there need something quick and something inexpensive to eat all day. That is what nasi goreng provides.
During the 40th Century B.C. in China, the very first fried rice was cooked.
The Chinese needed to think of a way to re-use their leftover rice, so they decided to fry the excess cooked rice.
Throwing away uneaten rice is a waste, and this is a high level of taboo to the Chinese.
The Chinese started to store their excess cooked rice after dinner. The next morning, they fry the rice to prevent spoilage and to heat it up again for breakfast.
They also began to mix leftover meats or vegetables from the previous night’s meal.
The Shrimp Paste
Like any delicious dish, Nasi Goreng has myriad versions. There are simple ones and then there are complicated ones that call for belacan or dried shrimp.
It’s a good thing this ingredient is already available in Asian stores worldwide.
The belacan is blended with shallots, chilis, and garlic to create a rempah or a spice paste.
This slightly chunky paste gives texture to the Nasi Goreng. The spiciness depends on your preference.
I can make nasi goreng with and without belacan. That is how tasty nasi goreng is. It can stand on its own even without the dried shrimp.
Even so, nasi goreng tastes more authentic and more delicious with dried shrimp.
Because of this, I decided on an alternative, like using the shrimp paste. This ingredient is easier to use than Belacan, which takes more time to prepare.
Those who use belacan all the time know that you should crumble and then toast it first before you use it.
The Meat Options
Because there are many versions of Nasi Gorang, expect different types of protein added to the rice.
You can add chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or even a combination of meats. It’s truly up to you.
The meats are usually cooked with or without the Rempah. Once the rempah completely coats the pieces of meat, you can add the rice.
Cold, Day old Rice is Important
Shrimp paste may be optional but make no mistake—cooked, cold, rice isn’t.
Freshly cooked rice doesn’t have the fluffiness and springiness that day-old rice has when it’s used in fried rice.
Newly cooked rice just becomes sticky and even stickier when the sauce is added to it as it fries.
The grains of day-old, cold rice are harder and drier. When you stir fry it in sauce, it caramelizes, giving nasi goreng its unique flavor and color.
If you have no choice but to make some rice first, there is a speedy way to achieve the day-old-rice texture.
Cook the amount of rice you want and spread it on a baking tray.
Then, refrigerate it for 3 to 4 hours or freeze it for 1 or 2 hours.
This quick process will help you achieve the dryness of the rice that you need for making this fried rice.
Kecap Manis (sweet dark soy sauce)
Nasi Goreng has a unique dark color brought by Kecap Manis sweet soy sauce.
This soy sauce has a thick consistency of syrup and sweeter than regular soy sauce. You might think that this ingredient is impossible to find and acquire.
Don’t be discouraged. Thanks to online and offline Asian stores, you can purchase Kecap Manis anytime.
You can also try major supermarkets such as Walmart.
If you still can’t get your hands on ready-made kecap manis:
- Just reduce a mixture of brown sugar and ordinary soy sauce.
It’s that easy. I’ve even included instructions for kecap manis in this recipe.
Super quick 20-minute meal
Making this dish is clear-cut, just like other recipes for fried rice. You cook the fried egg first and set it aside.
Then, you sauté the aromatics, then the meat, followed by the rice, and then season with kecap manis and shrimp paste (if you prefer).
It takes about two minutes or so for the rice to caramelize. From my experience, when it smells right, you know it’s ready.
Grab these ingredients
For the Rice:
- oil for cooking
- garlic finely chopped
- Thai Chili
- small onion
- cooked rice (Jasmine rice is great for fried rice)
- shrimp paste
- Turmeric powder
- cooked shrimp or chicken
- light soy sauce
- kecap manis (or dark soy sauce)
- chicken fillet
- oyster sauce or Hoisin sauce
- baking soda
- dark soy sauce
- 1 egg sunny side up
- 1 cucumber and tomato sliced
- 1 tsp fried shallots
- 2 wedges lime
Step by step instructions
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and red chili, cook for 1 minute.
Add the shrimp paste and Turmeric, stir fry for 30 seconds. You can use any leftover meat like chicken, pork, or beef.
Now, add the rice, light soy sauce, Kecap Manis (or dark soy sauce). Stir constantly for about 2 minutes until the sauce mix with rice thoroughly and the rice grains start to caramelize.
Add the cooked shrimp (or any leftover meat like chicken) and toss until well combined. Turn off the heat.
Toss the spring onions and divide the rice among serving plates. Top with cooked egg (sunny side up with runny yolk) and fried shallots. Serve with tomato, cucumber, and sambal oelek on the side.
How to serve
Traditionally, this rice is best served with a side of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and a fried egg on top.
It’s common in Asia to add sources of fiber, nutrients, and protein to balance out a large number of carbohydrates in the meal.
- Sambal Oelek is a spicy paste made from fresh red chilies. You can find this at your local Asian store.
- Kecap Manis is a sweetened aromatic soy sauce, originating in Indonesia, which has a darker color and has a syrupy consistency. You can find this in the Asian market.
- Shrimp Paste – is made from dried and fermented shrimp (sometimes mixed with fish). It’s briny, the umami-dense flavor is deeply ingrained in many Asian dishes. Usually found on a shelf of any Asian market.
Other Asian Recipes:
Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice
For the Rice:
- 2 tbsp oil for cooking
- 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 red Thai Chili
- 1 small onion
- 4 cups cooked rice (Jasmine rice is great for fried rice)
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
- ¼ tbsp Turmeric powder
- 200 grams cooked shrimp (or chicken)
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp kecap manis (or dark soy sauce)
- 1 lb chicken fillet
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce (or Hoisin sauce)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 egg (sunny side up)
- 1 cucumber and tomato (sliced)
- 1 tsp fried shallots
- 2 wedges lime
Prep the Chicken (if using):
- Prepare the chicken marinade and pour it over the chicken. Store in the fridge and marinate for about 30 minutes.
Prep the Rice:
- Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and red chili, cook for 1 minute.
- Add the shrimp paste and turmeric powder, stir fry for 30 seconds.
- Now, add the rice, light soy sauce, Kecap Manis (or dark soy sauce). Stir constantly for about 2 minutes until the sauce mix with rice thoroughly and the rice grains start to caramelize.
- Add the cooked shrimp or chicken (or any leftover meat) and toss until well combined. Turn off the heat.
- Toss the spring onions and divide the rice among serving plates.
Garnish and Serve:
- Top with cooked egg (sunny side up with runny yolk) and fried shallots. Serve with tomato, cucumber, and sambal oelek on the side.
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Please note that all nutrition information are just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for most accurate results.