Goreng is ‘fried rice’ in Indonesian and Malaysian. What distinguishes it from other fried rice dishes is the kecap manis – a sweet soy sauce that browns and caramelises the rice as it cooks. Nasi goreng is typically served with a fried egg on top and a side of fresh cucumber and tomato (without dressing) for a complete meal.
Get ready to learn how to make nasi goreng at home with all the instructions you need to recreate authentic Indonesian flavours. Grab your ingredients, and let's get cracking.
Take half of the shallots and place them in a mortar. Use a pestle to grind them into a coarse puree.
Add the remaining shallots, garlic, chilli, and terasi (if using) to the mortar. Grind each ingredient with the pestle until mostly incorporated before adding the next. The resulting paste should have a texture similar to thick oatmeal. Alternatively, you can combine all the spice paste ingredients in a small food processor until they form a smooth paste.
If you are using day-old rice, place it in a bowl and break it up with your hands into individual grains.
Heat oil in a large wok or pan over high heat until it shimmers. Add the spice paste and constantly stir while scraping the bottom of the wok or pan to prevent the paste from burning. Cook the paste until a pungent aroma fills your kitchen and it turns a few shades darker, around 2 to 3 minutes. If you notice the paste browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium.
Add the rice to the wok and stir it well to coat it with the paste. Next, add the kecap manis and soy sauce and continue stirring until the rice is evenly coated with the sauces and heated through. Season with salt and white pepper.
Divide the rice between two plates. Top each plate with a fried egg and garnish with cucumber and tomato slices. If you like, add some fried shallots for extra crunch and flavour. Serve immediately with kecap manis alongside for drizzling.
It’s essential to use refrigerated rice stored for a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 3 days to make nasi goreng. Using freshly cooked, hot rice will not yield the desired result. Cold, day-old rice has a firmer texture, allowing it to be stir-fried in the sauce, resulting in caramelisation that gives the dish its distinct colour and flavour.
History and origins
Indonesian nasi goreng originated in the 10th century when Southern Chinese immigrants arrived in the country. The Chinese technique of stir-frying leftover white rice from the night before was used to make breakfast the following day, and Indonesians adopted this Chinese tradition to create a new dish.
After Indonesia gained independence in 1945, nasi goreng was popularly considered a national dish, albeit unofficially. Its simplicity and versatility have contributed to its popularity and made it a staple among Indonesian households. It is regarded as the most democratic dish since the absence of a strict recipe has allowed people to customise it as they wish. In 2018, the Indonesian government officially recognised nasi goreng as one of the country's national dishes.
According to the Indonesian gastronome Dwi Larasatie, there are 104 types of nasi goreng found throughout the country. All of them are different because they have unique spices characteristic of their region. Here are some of the most popular Indonesian nasi goreng varieties.
Nasi goreng nanas (pineapple fried rice)
Nasi goreng nanas is made with rice, pineapple chunks, butter, garlic, shallots, spring onions, carrots, prawns, peas, fish sauce, oyster sauce, curry powder, turmeric, oil, and eggs. All the ingredients are sautéed in butter and stir-fried.
Nasi goreng mawut
Nasi goreng mawut is prepared by sautéing and blending a spice paste of garlic, onions, hot peppers, prawn sauce, fish sauce, and candlenuts. The dish's main components – cooked rice, eggs, chicken thighs, meatballs, sausages, cabbage, egg noodles, and the spice paste – are stir-fried together over high heat to ensure the spices are well incorporated.
Nasi goreng kunyit (turmeric fried rice)
Nasi goreng kunyit is a traditional variety of fried rice popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The dish is prepared with rice, turmeric, ginger, chicken, oil, eggs, spring onions, soy sauce, salt, sugar and pepper. First, turmeric and ginger are fried in oil until they become fragrant, and then the chicken is added to the pan and browned. The cooked rice is added to the mixture and stir-fried. An egg is cracked in the middle, followed by the addition of spring onions. Finally, the dish is seasoned with soy sauce, salt, sugar and pepper.
Nasi goreng ayam
Nasi goreng ayam is a traditional Indonesian fried rice dish popular in Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. Although this nasi goreng recipe has several variations, it's usually made with chicken thighs, oil, salt, white pepper, shallots, rice, turmeric, soy sauce, fish sauce, galangal or ginger, garlic, spring onions, kecap manis and hot peppers. Most of the ingredients are stir-fried together with rice, and the dish is then garnished with fried eggs, shallots and sliced chilli peppers.
Once the nasi goreng has cooled, portion it into airtight containers and keep it in the fridge – it will keep for up to two days. To reheat the dish, you can either use a microwave or briefly stir-fry it until it's heated through.