Nasi goreng, literally meaning “fried rice” in Indonesian and Malay, can refer simply to fried pre-cooked rice, a meal including stir fried rice in a small amount of cooking oil or margarine, typically spiced with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), shallot, garlic, ground shrimp paste, tamarind and chilli and accompanied by other ingredients, particularly egg, chicken and prawns. There is also another kind of nasi goreng which is made with ikan asin (salted dried fish) which is also popular across Indonesia. Nasi goreng is sometimes described as Indonesian stir-fried rice, although it is also popular in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Beyond the Malay Archipelago, it has gained popularity through Indonesian influence in Sri Lanka and via Indonesian immigrant communities in Suriname and the Netherlands. It is distinguished from other Asian fried rice recipes by its aromatic, earthy and smoky flavor, owed to generous amount of caramelized sweet soy sauce and powdered shrimp paste, and the taste is stronger and spicier compared to Chinese fried rice.
Nasi goreng has been called the national dish of Indonesia, though there are many other contenders. It can be enjoyed in simple versions from a tin plate at a roadside food stall, eaten on porcelain in restaurants, or collected from the buffet tables of Jakarta dinner parties.
In 2011 an online poll by 35,000 people held by CNN International chose Indonesian nasi goreng as number two on their ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’ list after rendang.
Nasi goreng is distinguished from other Asian fried rice recipes by its aromatic, earthy and smoky flavour, owed to generous amount of caramelized kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and ground powdered terasi (shrimp paste), and the flavour is stronger and spicier compared to Chinese fried rice. Nasi goreng often includes krupuk and bawang goreng (fried shallots) or (fried onions) to give a crispier texture.
The main ingredients of nasi goreng include pre-cooked rice, sweet soy sauce, powdered terasi (shrimp paste), salt, garlic, shallot, chilli pepper, spring onions, nutmeg, turmeric, vegetable oil, onions, palm sugar, ginger garlic paste, and slices of cucumber and tomato for garnishing. Some recipes may add black pepper, fish sauce, or powdered broth as a seasoning and taste enhancer. Eggs might be mixed into fried rice or fried separately, either as telur ceplok/telur mata sapi (sunny side up eggs), or telur dadar (omelette), and also telur rebus (boiled eggs). Originally optional, the addition of fried egg is often named as nasi goreng spesial (pakai telur) or special fried rice topped with fried egg.
In most parts of Indonesia, nasi goreng is cooked with ample amounts of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) that created golden brownish color and the flavour is mildly sweet. However, in other places such as Eastern Indonesia (Sulawesi and Maluku), the sweet soy sauce are usually absent and replaced by bottled tomato and chili sauce, creating reddish-colored nasi goreng. This variant is called nasi goreng merah (red fried rice) or nasi goreng Makassar after the South Sulawesi capital. Some variants of nasi goreng, such as salted fish or teri Medan (Medan’s anchovy) nasi goreng, are not using kecap manis at all, creating lighter color similar to Chinese fried rice or Japanese chahan.
Nasi goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih is one of a popular variant of goat meat fried rice sold in Kebon Sirih area, Central Jakarta. While nasi goreng amplop is fried rice “enveloped” inside thin omelette skin, almost identical to Malaysian nasi goreng pattaya.
The most common nasi goreng usually uses chicken and egg, however, some variants are usually named after its additional ingredients. Examples of nasi goreng specific variants includes:
- Nasi goreng ayam (with chicken)
- Nasi goreng kambing (with goat meat)
- Nasi goreng domba (with mutton)
- Nasi goreng pete/petai (with green stinky bean)
- Nasi goreng jamur (with mushroom)
- Nasi goreng sosis (with beef or chicken sausages)
- Nasi goreng sapi (with beef)
- Nasi goreng babi (with pork, usually served with Chinese pork belly and charsiu)
- Nasi goreng udang (with shrimp)
- Nasi goreng seafood (with seafood, such as squid, fish and shrimp)
- Nasi goreng ikan asin (with salted fish)
- Nasi goreng teri Medan (with Medan’s anchovy)
- Nasi goreng keju (with cheese, either mozarella or cheddar)
- Nasi goreng rendang (rendang fried rice), rich and spicy fried rice usually made from leftover rendang spices
- Nasi goreng kampung (traditional village fried rice, with vegetables, sweet soy sauce and shrimp paste)
- Nasi goreng Jawa (Javanese fried rice)
- Nasi goreng Bali (Balinese fried rice), rich in spices including chopped lemongrass, turmeric, shallot, garlic and galangal, and uses no soy sauce.
- Nasi goreng Aceh (Acehnese fried rice), rich in spices akin to mie aceh
- Nasi goreng Padang (Padang fried rice), also rich in spices similar to Aceh fried rice
- Nasi goreng Magelangan (Magelang fried rice), a combo of fried rice and noodle
- Nasi goreng sambal terasi (Sambal shrimp paste fried rice)
- Nasi goreng sambal ijo/hijau (green sambal fried rice)
- Nasi goreng merah or nasi goreng Makassar (red fried rice)
- Nasi goreng hitam (black fried rice), coloured with squid ink
- Nasi goreng pelangi (rainbow fried rice), without soy sauce with colourful vegetables
- Nasi goreng amplop (egg-wrapped fried rice)
- Nasi goreng santri (vegetarian fried rice)
Indonesians also called foreign versions of fried rice simply as nasi goreng, thus nasi goreng Hongkong and nasi goreng Tionghoa/China refer to Chinese fried rice, while nasi goreng Jepang refer to yakimeshi or chahan.
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