Nasi Goreng in the Malaysian language implies ‘fried rice’ or ‘cooked rice that is fried’ and describes a dish in which pre-cooked rice is subjected to a quick stir fry with little oil, sliced shallots, garlic, chilli, along with egg, chicken or/and prawn pieces flavoured with some tamarind and sweet soy sauce. Overall this dish is such that it arouses a range of different flavour sensations- sweet, spicy, sour, tangy and hence is simply a treat for the tongue. There is no ideal time to eat this dish since it is also eaten as a breakfast item to make use of the leftover rice from previous day. Another version of the dish that is made using dried salted fish is quite appreciated across Indonesia. In fact, the rising prominence of this dish has given it the position of pride as Indonesia’s National dish.
The Nasi Goreng has found such widespread acceptance that it is available at every conceivable eatery. From roadside food stalls to food courts in malls to high class restaurants – all take great pride in serving their respective versions of the Nasi Goreng. Local roadside kiosks usually serve Nasi Goreng as a meal served with fried egg known as Nasi Goreng Istimewa. Restaurants around the world serve it as a meal.
Although Nasi Goreng may trace its roots to the Chinese Fried Rice, there is no clarity on this aspect. The Chinese technique of stir-frying has been adapted by Malay and Indonesian cuisines and is evident in their Mie Goreng and Nasi Goreng specialities. This might have occurred during the period between the 10th and 15th centuries when trade between the Indonesian islands and China thrived and reached its peak. Chinese immigrants ushered in their distinctive culture and cuisine. The Chinese tend to enjoy steaming hot freshly prepared food and they ensured that left over’s would be creatively used to produce new dishes the following day.
The most prominent difference noted between Indonesian fried rice, the Nasi Goreng and its Chinese or Asian equivalents is the use of bolder, spicier flavours and use of sweet soy sauce. Also the use of fried shallots or ‘bawang goreng’ and accompaniment of special crackers ‘krupuk’ lend a distinctive crispy crunchy quality to the dish.
Ingredients and Preparation
There are no specific set of standard ingredients that make a Nasi Goreng. This is a rice based preparation that permits immense flexibility in terms of the ingredients used. Indonesian cooks could make use of whatever ingredients are available in the refrigerator at a given point of time to combine with previous days left over rice and thus produce a scrumptious Nasi Goreng. Eggs, vegetables and some meat or the other usual additions.
Therefore, the basic ingredients in Nasi Goreng include rice left over from the previous day's meal; finely sliced or ground bumbu or spice mixtures, plenty of shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, tomato ketchup, Indonesian sambal or spicy chili sauce, and also the sweet soy sauce. Kecap inggris (i.e. Worcestershire sauce), kecap ikan (i.e. fish sauce), Saus tiram (oyster sauce), or ang-ciu (viz., Chinese red wine used in cooking) are some of the ingredients used in different versions of the Nasi Goreng recipe. As freshly made rice is a little too moist and soft, it is the texture of the previous days cooked rice that is considered more suitable in making Nasi Goreng.
Authentic Nasi Goreng recipe requires the blending together of certain flavour-rich ingredients like garlic, red chilli, shallots and toasted belacan or terasi, a native flavouring agent. In a wok with some heated oil, the flavouring paste thus blended, is added and fried until aromatic. Finely diced vegetables of choice or boiled chicken/meat shreds can be stir fried as per choice. Rice that is broken with hand or spoon is added to the fried paste and stirred so all flavours are absorbed. Kecap manis i.e. Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce is added next along with little palm sugar to induce the sweet and sour taste. Once all the flavours have blended uniformly, the Nasi Goreng is dished out and topped with a fried egg before serving.
• Fried prawn crackers are commonly used to provide a crunch.
• A salad consisting of crisp fresh veggies – sliced cabbage/lettuce, cucumber, carrots and tomatoes can be served alongside.
• For those who enjoy spice – sliced red chillies in sweet soy sauce can be served as the perfect condiment to enjoy the Nasi Goreng.
• And/Or traditional Indonesian Sambal or red chilli sauce.
Obviously the nutritive value of the Nasi Goreng would depend upon the ingredients used.
A serving size of 1 plate approximately 350-400 g provides-
• Total of 482.7 calories, with 111 calories from fat.
• Total fat 12.3 g, saturated fat 3.2 g, cholesterol 69.8 mg.
• Sodium 370.5 mg
• Total carbohydrate 62.3 g , dietary fibre 4.6 g, sugars 4.5 g
• Protein 29.5 g
As such Nasi Goreng offers the opportunity for a great deal of experimentation with myriad ingredients to create healthier versions-
• Obviously by avoiding pork and mutton and using lean chicken, the calorie count could be brought down by at least 50 calories. A vegetarian version can reduce calorie count further such as in the case of Priest’s Nasi Goreng – the meat free version.
• Sugar may be avoided by the calorie conscious and diabetics.
• Use of certain fish varieties can increase omega 3 fatty acids which are heart healthy, brain nourishing nutrients, highly beneficial to the body systems.
• Brown rice can add more fibre, B-vitamins and if fortified, Iron and Calcium too.
• Addition of fruit pieces such as pineapple makes the ‘Nasi Goreng nanas’ or Hawaiian Nasi Goreng. This provides a good source of B-vitamins, folate, iron and Vitamin C, the antioxidant that uplifts immunity and protects from free radical damage. Fibre promotes digestion and weight loss. Bromelain is believed to aid digestion.
• Including some nourishing greens like spinach and bok choy provide folates, vitamins A, K and minerals like iron and calcium among others.
• Peanuts, an integral part of Malaysian & Indonesian cuisines, maybe crushed and sprinkled on top as garnish to provide Vitamin E, Protein, niacin, folate, copper and manganese. Monounsaturated fats together with heart healthy nutrients reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Phytosterols contained have anti-cancer properties.
An online poll conducted in 2011, by CNN International with 35,000 people chose Nasi Goreng as the number two among the 'World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods' close on the heels of Rendang.