How to make Indonesia's national dish, nasi goreng

As chef Eleanor Ford writes in her cookbook, Fire Islands: “Rice is treasured, never wasted or taken for granted.” Put your leftovers to good use with her nasi goreng recipe...

4 mins

Nasi goreng

There’s not a tourist restaurant in Indonesia that doesn’t serve nasi goreng, the umami-packed fried rice that will colour every traveller’s memories.

It takes a little care to make it well, but can be undeniably delicious with the sauces adding treacly depth and a smoky edge from the heat of the wok.

What’s more, it is the perfect way to use up odd vegetables (the below are just suggestions; any will do but keep them chopped small) and yesterday’s rice.

In fact, it demands rice that has been cooked and cooled, which helps keep the grains light rather than oily.

Nasi goreng (Kristin Perers)

Nasi goreng (Kristin Perers)

Ingredients for nasi goreng

3 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
1 small carrot, finely chopped
fine green beans, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large red chilli, seeded and sliced
handful Asian greens, finely sliced
handful shiitake mushrooms, sliced
handful beansprouts
2 eggs
300 g (1½ cups) cold cooked rice (about
150 g/¾ cup rice), steamed and cooled
2 tablespoons kecap manis, plus more to serve
1 tablespoon tomato paste(concentrated purée)
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons sesame oil

Serves 2 people

Method for nasi goreng

Heat a wok until almost smoking. Add the oil followed by the onion, spring onions and carrot. Stirfry until softened, then add all the remaining vegetables and continue to stirfry to a collapsed tangle of lightly caramelised vegetables.

Add the eggs and stir through, cooking until the egg is dry and crumbly. Turn off the heat.

Add the rice, sauces and sesame oil to the wok and very carefully mix with the back of a spoon – you don’t want to break the grains.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, splashing in more of the sauces if needed for salt, sweetness or more depth of flavour.

Reheat gently, turning the rice and avoiding the heat at the centre of the wok where it may catch.

Serve at once with any of the suggested toppings and spin over a fine stream of kecap manis.

Did you know?


Nasi Gila from Jakarta (Shutterstock)

Nasi Gila from Jakarta (Shutterstock)

Crazy rice (nasi gila) is Jakarta’s take on nasi goreng. It is souped up with extras like meatballs, sausages, prawns and punchy spices stir-fried with the rice.

One of the most famous versions is Obama nasi gila, so named as it comes from the street where the US president went to school.

Optional topping: Acar pickles

Acar (Dreamstime)

Acar (Dreamstime)

The perfect sweet, tangy, fresh, crunchy contrast to add to any meal. These speedy pickles are ready in half an hour and will keep in the fridge for a week. I can happily drink the sweet sour juices that puddle at the bottom.

Ingredients for Acar pickles

400 g (14 oz) carrot, cucumber or a mixture of both
3 small red Asian shallots, finely sliced
1 red bird’s eye chilli, halved and seeded
2–3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar

Serves 4 to 6 people

Method for Acar pickles 

Peel the carrots and peel and seed the cucumbers. Cut both into thin julienne sticks.

Put into a lidded plastic container with the shallots, chilli, sugar and salt. Shake very well to muddle the vegetables and release the flavours.

Add the vinegar and mix again. Leave to sit for half an hour or chill in the fridge for longer, where they will lose some crunch but intensify in flavour.

Discover more of the world's most delicious recipes: 

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia by Eleanor Ford is published by Murdoch Books (Kristin Perers)

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia by Eleanor Ford is published by Murdoch Books (Kristin Perers)

About Fire Islands

On today's noisy Indonesian streets, chilli-spiked sambals are served with rich noodle broths, and salty peanut sauce sweetens chargrilled sate sticks.

In homes, shared feasts of creamy coconut curries, stir-fries and spiced rice are fragrant with ginger, tamarind, lemongrass and lime. The air hangs with the tang of chilli and burnt sugar, citrus and spice.

Eleanor Ford is a food writer whose work draws on far-flung destinations for inspiration. Fire Islands paints an intimate portrait of Indonesian cooking, the recipes both exotic and achievable.

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