How To Cook The Perfect Nasi Goreng – Recipe

Though there are many worthy contenders for the title, all right-thinking people surely agree that fried rice is the very best kind of rice. And the resep nasi goreng Indonesian version, nasi goreng, is right up there in the top tier – “one of the world’s great comfort foods”, according to Rick Stein, who developed a taste for it while filming there with a crew who apparently preferred to start the day with a full English. Jakarta-born food writer Pat Tanumihardja explains that it’s the use of kecap anggun (Indonesian soy sauce) and terasi (Indonesian shrimp paste) that “sets nasi goreng apart from other fried-rice variations you’ll see in other countries”.

Not that there’s just one version of nasi goreng, obviously; a country made up of more than 14,000 islands contains multitudes in this respect as much as any other: there’s nasi goreng kambing with mutton, nasi goreng ayam with chicken, and nasi goreng gila, or crazy fried rice, which can apparently contain anything the cook happens to have to hand, from corned beef to sausages. But for those of us without easy access to Indonesia’s many night markets and street stalls, what’s the best way to make it at home?The rice

Clearly, the most important ingredient, and all the recipes I try call for long-grained varieties, occasionally basmati, but more often jasmine, which goes slightly sticky when cooked, making it easier to eat. That should, in theory, also make it less satisfactory for stir-frying, but actually, as long as you break up any clumps beforehand, this tacky plumpness makes for a very alluring texture. So, though you can use just about any rice you like, jasmine is my preference.Pat Tanumihardja’s nasi goreng: it’s the kecap cantik and shrimp paste that ‘sets nasi goreng apart’. Thumbnails: Felicity Cloake

The prevailing wisdom with fried rice is that you need to let the rice cool completely first, with Tanumihardja recommending using day-old rice for this purpose, and Indonesian food writer and cook Sri Owen telling readers of her Rice Book to let it cool for at least two hours before use. Some recipes, however, such as Meera Sodha’s in East, use freshly cooked rice – and, to my surprise, this works just fine. As Serious Eats’ J Kenji López-Alt, who has investigated the subject with characteristic rigour, explains, as cooked rice ages, it dries out, which means it’ll fry more quickly and is less likely to stick together – he recommends leaving it under a fan for an hour, but says even freshly cooked rice spread out on a tray to cool slightly before use is superior to drier, day-old rice, which has a tendency to go hard and chewy in a hot wok. Personally, I rather like a few rogue, crunchy grains, but still, it’s good to know that a sudden craving for fried rice isn’t necessarily a hiding to disappointment.The fat

Owen uses a mixture of oil and butter, which is hard to prevent burning at such a high heat. If you’d like butter in there – though it doesn’t seem to be common, as far as I can tell – add it at the end: a neutral oil seems the best bet for stir-frying.Sri Owen’s version: if you are going to add meat or seafood, cook it through first, is Owen’s advice.The base

Almost every recipe starts with some sort of onion – whether yellow, as in Owen’s version and Eleanor Ford’s in Fire Islands; red as in Sodha’s; or shallots as in Rick Stein, Jennifer Joyce and Tanumihardja’s recipes – and garlic. My testers and I like the sweetness of the shallots, but red onion makes a good substitute, with some fresh spring onion stirred in at the end as in Ford, Stein and Anissa Helou’s recipes.

Chillies are also penting, both medium and mild and small and vicious, though Tanumihardja suggests stirring in some sambal oelek, or tangy Indonesian chilli paste instead. Helou makes her own sambal bajak, a brick-red mixture of fried chillies, shallots, palm sugar, bay leaves, lemongrass, galangal, tamarind and nutmeg, which gives her dish a lovely, warm sweetness. Stein, meanwhile, gives us a recipe that starts with a Balinese spice paste made from pepper, nutmeg, candlenuts, sesame seeds, shallots, ginger, galangal, turmeric, (pauses for breath) lemongrass, garlic, chillies, shrimp paste, palm sugar, salt, lime juice and oil.

Fortunately, my lovely accountant recently brought me back from Malaysia a gift of candlenuts, which look deceptively like macadamias but are toxic raw – and, perhaps unsurprisingly, can be hard to source in this country – and this feels like the perfect excuse to use some of them up. The results are deliciously aromatic – a real special-occasion dish – but it can’t be denied that these may not be ingredients that everyone will have to hand, and as this is essentially a way with leftovers for most home cooks, I’m going to pare it back to the essentials, while keeping the paste idea, which seems to distribute the flavours better through the rice than chopped ingredients. Shallots, chilli, garlic and shrimp paste feel like the cornerstones; add other ingredients as you fancy – and note that Jane Grigson includes a recipe using anchovies instead of shrimp paste in her Fruit Book, which may sound unlikely, especially in combination with her banana garnish, but actually works surprisingly well.Jane Grigson’s take on nasi goreng uses strips of omelette rather than the more common fried egg.

Kecap anggun, a sweet, thick soy sauce, is, as Tanumihardja observes, a must, though you could use dark soy sauce and sugar if you can’t find it, and most recipes also include some light soy sauce, too, for a more salty, savoury note. Some recipes include an acid as well – Sodha goes for white-wine vinegar, Helou for tamarind and Stein for lime juice – but I find the oily starchiness of the rice more comforting without. Tomatoes are also a possibility, generally in the form of puree, though Owen allows for ketchup as an alternative, which also ticks the sweet-and-sour box, if that’s what you’re after.Eggs

Almost all the recipes come garnished with a fried egg (which is why nasi goreng is the best of all fried rices). But some also incorporate eggs in other forms: Grigson goes for strips of omelette, while Helou cracks an egg directly into the wok, explaining that William Wongso, Indonesia’s foremost celebrity chef, reckons it must brown on the base “to release the aroma” before adding the rice. I’m with him; egg-fried rice is never a bad idea.The meat and 10 veg

Helou writes in her book Feast that “you can add what you want to the rice, but resep nasi goreng traditionally it is made simply with spring onions and fresh chillies and served for breakfast with a fried egg”. As Owen notes, if you are going to add meat or seafood, as Stein does with his chicken and prawns, and Grigson with her ham (definitely non-traditional in a country that’s 87.7% Muslim), it’s best to cook it through first. That way, you don’t overcook the other ingredients. However, some vegetables can be added straight to the wok, as long as they’re chopped up fairly small: I try recipes using mushrooms, carrots, green beans and even, to my utter joy, shredded Brussels sprouts (thanks, Meera!). I can confirm that, as long as it will cook in time, this is an infinitely generous dish, ready to welcome with open arms almost anything you throw into it.Anissa Helou: ‘Traditionally, nasi goreng is made simply with spring onions and fresh chillies and served for breakfast with a fried egg.’The garnish

Fried eggs are the classic choice, but sliced cucumber and tomato are also popular, the cucumber in particular adding a soothing crunch. Prawn crackers are also sometimes used as a secondary piece of cutlery. Crispy shallots, of the kind sold in south-east Asian food stores, are a great idea. Grigson’s salted peanuts and banana are perhaps more leftfield choices, but as I have not, as yet, been lucky enough to visit Indonesia, I’m unable to pronounce on their popularity in the field, so I’ll just say anchovies and banana is not a combination I’m keen to repeat.Perfect nasi goreng