Nasi goreng (English pronunciation: ) is a Southeast Asian fried rice dish, usually cooked with pieces of meat and vegetables. One of Indonesia’s national dishes, it is also endemic in Malay-speaking communities in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and has gained popularity in Sri Lanka through migrations from the Malay Archipelago, in countries like Suriname via Indonesian immigrant communities, and in the Netherlands through its colonial ties with Indonesia. Nasi goreng is distinguished from other Asian fried rice preparations by its distinct smoky aroma, and caramelised yet savoury undertones of flavour. There is no single defined recipe for nasi goreng, and its composition and preparation varies greatly from household to household.
Nasi goreng has long been considered an important staple of Indonesian cuisine. In 2018, it is officially recognized by the Indonesian government as one of the country’s six national dishes. A ubiquitous meal throughout Indonesia, particularly for breakfast, 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 dinner parties in urban cities like Jakarta. Premixed packaged seasonings for nasi goreng are widely available for purchase, and microwave-heated frozen versions of nasi goreng may be found in convenience store outlets throughout Indonesia.Etymology
The term nasi goreng means “fried rice” in both the Indonesian and Malay languages. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines nasi goreng as an “Indonesian rice dish with pieces of meat and vegetables added”, although this dish is just as common in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore as a cultural staple.HistoryIndonesia
A woman cooking nasi goreng in Indonesia.
Similar to other fried rice recipes in Asia, some commentators have suggested that Indonesian-style nasi goreng can trace its origin from Southern Chinese fried rice, and was likely developed as a way to avoid wasting rice. The Chinese influences upon Indonesian cuisine can be seen in mie goreng that appeared simultaneously with the introduction of the stir frying technique that required the use of a Chinese wok. In resep nasi goreng rumahan China, the stir frying technique became increasingly popular during Ming dynasty (1368–1644 CE). The common soy sauce has its origin in 2nd century CE China, however, kecap cantik (sweet soy sauce) was developed in Indonesia with a generous addition of local palm sugar.
However, it is unclear when the peoples of present-day Indonesia began to adopt the practice of cooking fried rice. The trade between China and the Indonesian archipelago flourished from the era of Srivijaya around the 10th century and intensified in the Majapahit era around the 15th century. By that time Chinese immigrants had begun to settle in the archipelago, bringing along with them their culture and cuisine. Chinese people usually favour freshly cooked hot food, and in their culture it is taboo to throw away uneaten foodstuffs. As a result, the previous day’s leftover rice was often recooked in the morning. Gregory Rodgers suggested that frying the rice could prevent the propagation of dangerous microbes, especially in pre-refrigeration technology Indonesia and also avoid the need to throw out precious food.
Writer Fadly Rahman from Padjajaran University claimed that there is no historical evidence which proves that nasi goreng is native to Indonesia, and suggested another theory besides Chinese influence: that nasi goreng was actually inspired by a Middle Eastern dish called pilaf, which is rice cooked in seasoned broth. A particular variant, Betawi-style nasi goreng kambing (goat fried rice), uses mutton or goat meat (traditionally favoured by Arab Indonesians), rich spices and minyak samin (ghee), all typical ingredients used in the preparation of Middle-eastern pilaf.
Nasi goreng was considered as part of the Indies culture during the colonial period. The mention of nasi goreng appears in colonial literature of Dutch East Indies, such as in the Student Hidjo by Marco Kartodikoromo, a serial story published in Sinar Hindia newspaper in 1918.It was mentioned in a 1925 Dutch cookbook Groot Nieuw Volledig Oost Indisch Kookboek. Trade between the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies during that time has increased the popularity of Indonesian-style nasi goreng to the world.
After the independence of Indonesia, nasi goreng was popularly considered as a national dish, albeit unofficial. Its simplicity and versatility has contributed to its popularity and made it as a staple among Indonesian households—colloquially considered as the most “democratic” dish since the absence of an exact and rigid recipe has allowed people to do anything they want with it. Nasi goreng that is commonly consumed daily in Indonesian households was considered as the quintessential dish that represent an Indonesian family. It is in the hidangan, introduced, offered and served in Indonesian Theater Restaurant within the Indonesian pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Howard Palfrey Jones, the US ambassador to Indonesia during the last years of Sukarno’s reign in mid 1960s, in his memoir “Indonesia: The Possible Dream”, said that he like nasi goreng. He described his fondness for nasi goreng cooked by Hartini, one of Sukarno’s wives, and praise it as the most delicious nasi goreng he ever tasted.
In 2018, nasi goreng was officially recognised by the Indonesian government as one of the country’s national dishes along with five others: soto, sate, rendang, and gado-gado.Preparation
Nasi goreng is distinguished from other Asian fried rice recipes by its aromatic, earthy and smoky flavour. Nasi goreng is traditionally served at home for breakfast and it is traditionally made out of leftover rice from the night before. The texture of leftover cooked rice is considered more suitable for nasi goreng than that of freshly cooked rice which may be resep nasi goreng rumahan too moist and soft to withstand frying in a wok.
Other than cooked rice, nasi goreng consists of at least three components; ingredients (e.g. egg, shrimp, meat, cooking oil), bumbu spice or seasoning (e.g. garlic, shallot, salt, chili pepper), and condiments (e.g. bawang goreng, krupuk, acar pickles, slices of fresh cucumber and tomato). The combination of spices and ingredients in different ratio creates myriad variation of flavours.Spice and seasonings
Typical seasonings for nasi goreng include but are not limited to salt, chilli pepper, spring onions, turmeric, palm sugar, bumbu paste made from ground garlic and onion or shallot, kecap anggun (sweet soy sauce), shrimp paste,black pepper, fish sauce, powdered broth and so on. Eggs may be scrambled into the rice during the cooking process, or served as accompaniments in the form of sunny side up eggs, omelettes, and boiled eggs. Scraps of leftovers from a prepared dish, perhaps chicken or beef pieces, may also be used.Condiments
Nasi goreng often adds condiments or garnishes as add-ons. Fried shallot and traditional crackers are often sprinkled upon to give crispy texture, slices of cucumber and tomato for garnishing and to give freshness in an otherwise oily dish, a fried egg is often placed on top of the dish to add savouriness, while chili paste is to add the zesty spiciness according to one’s preference. Some common condiments are:Bawang goreng: fried shallot, sprinkled upon nasi gorengKerupuk: various types of crackers, usually emping or prawn crackersAcar: pickles made from vinegar preserved cucumber, shallots, carrot, and small chilli pepperTelur: egg; could be cooked in many ways and placed on the nasi goreng, usually fried or omeletteSambal: chilli sauceVariations