If you go into any warung, restaurant or kitchen in Indonesia, you will find a version of fried rice – Nasi Goreng. Each area has subtle differences in the way they make the dish and families hand down their own special tweaks to their Nasi Goreng.
In Indonesian “nasi” means rice and “goreng” means fried.
It is thought that the dish possibly had its origins in China. After a meal, any leftover rice, vegetables or meat were kept for the next day. The rice, vegetable and meat were fried together and seasoned with some soy sauce. It was an efficient use of the food so that nothing was wasted.
Making Nasi Goreng in Bali
I first tasted Nasi Goreng on my first trip to Bali in 2015. We pitched up at a warung – small restaurant – and, unfamiliar with the menu, we chose what looked like a simple rice dish. Ohhhh, we chose the right thing to have. Nasi Goreng has become one of our staples when we are in Bali.
Getting up at 6 am, I went to the local market with Wayan to select the freshest vegetables and other ingredients. We then walked back to her warung. After a restorative Bali Kopi (strong but smooth coffee) it was time to cook.
Wayan taught me the difference between Nasi Goreng – fried rice – and Mei Goreng. Mei Goreng is fried noodles, which has a similar base but uses monosodium glutamate instead of kachup manis. Mei Goreng is lighter than Nasi Goreng, but still full of vegetables and packed with flavour.
I found Nasi Goreng, quite simple to make and you can adjust it to taste.
Nasi goreng is quick to make and finished off with a fried egg on top, so the yolk oozes into the rice. You can add cooked chicken, prawns or other proteins, such as tofu or pork into the nasi goreng. A vegetable nasi goreng is a perfect vegetarian dish or if you omit the egg, a vegan one.
Unfamiliar Ingredients in Nasi Goreng
Like a lot of recipes from foreign countries, there are ingredients you may not have used before.
Kacup Manis – sweet soy sauce
To give the rice a rich brown colour and a depth of flavour you add kacup manis which is sweet soy sauce. It has a thicker consistency to normal soy sauce.
Most supermarkets now stock kacap manis, but if you can make your own by combining equal measures of brown sugar and soy sauce and simmer it down until it has thickened.
Sesame oil adds a lovely nuttiness to any dish taste and is generally available in supermarkets.
Cold Cooked Rice
Okay, this is not an unfamiliar ingredient, but the nasi goreng taste so much better if the rice is not freshly cooked but cold. For me, I find that the soy sauces coat is better and get right into the grain but when I have used freshly cooked rice, it just doesn’t taste as good and it can be a bit “wet”.
To get perfect carrot batons, cut the carrots at a 45-degree angle, then stack the slices and cut them into strips and hey presto, carrot matchsticks!
Nasi Goreng – Indonesian Fried Rice
- Chopping Board
- Wok or large frying pan
- Small frying pan
- 1 ½ tbsp Sesame Oil
- 2 cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 1 – 2 small Red Chillies (optional) finely chopped – add more or less to your taste
- 2 medium Carrots sliced and made into battons – see instructions
- 100 grams Cabbage chopped
- 3 – 4 Spring Onions (scallions/green onions) finely chopped
- 100 grams Basmati Rice pre-cooked
- 2 tbsp Kecap Manis note 1 sweet soy sauce
- 2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
- 2 tsp Light Soy Sauce
Optional Extras – Chicken
- 150 grams chicken breast note 2 chopped into bites-sized pieces
Optional Extras – Prawns
- 150 grams prawns note 2 shelled and with heads removed
Optional Extras – choose some or none
- 100 grams broccolli note 3 split into small florets
- 100 grams cauliflower split into small florets
- 50 grams fine green beans cut into bite-sized pieces
Garnish (optional – choose one, some or none)
- 4 Eggs fried and sunnyside up
- 1 tomato cut into chunks
- ⅓ cucumber sliced
- ½ white onion sliced and fried until golden
- Heat the oil in the wok on high and add the garlic and chillies (if using) until softened, about 30 seconds.
- Add the carrots note 4 , cabbage, spring onions, any other vegetables and soy sauces and mix well.You can add in uncooked chicken pieces if you are using it. Cook until the vegetables are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Add the rice, kecap manis and mix well. At this point add uncooked prawns if you are using them.Keep stirring until the rice, vegetables and any additions are coated in the kecap manis.
- While the rice is finishing its final stages, fry the eggs in a separate pan so that the yokes are still runny and the edges are just beggining to crisp.
- Put a mound of the nasi goreng on your plate, garnish with a selection of the above garnishes and top with a fried egg and serve.
- Kecap Manis is sweet soy sauce which is thicker than usual. You should be able to buy it at your local supermarket, a Chinese specialist shop or on Amazon.
- You can add meat or seafood to the dish, or both
- Feel free to add in any leftover vegetables that you have, maybe mangetout, baby corn or pak choi. I find that root vegetables like potato don’t work quite as well.
- When chopping my carrots, I cut them at a light angle, then stack them and cut them into batons.
- If you omit the chicken/seafood and egg, this is a great vegan dish.
What is your favourite Indonesian dish? Have you tried to make Nasi Goreng, let me know you got on in the comments below.
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Larch was semi-nomadic until 2022, when she sold her house, packed up her belongings in a storage unit and set off on her travels around the world. Now fully nomadic, she combines her website design business and her drone flying with exploring the world. Her passion for travel aims to inspire over 30s to explore new destinations and expand their horizons.