nasi goreng (malaysian fried rice)

nasi goreng
It's not often that I turn from mild-mannered cook by day into my foodie crime-fighting alter-ego; righting food wrongs with a wave of my magic feather boa. I am not saying that the feather boa actually works, but I prefer it to a cape and too-tight knickers; to each super hero(ine) their own fashion-sense. It seems to work for me.

So what is it that has got my sequins and feathers a-tremble? What is the wrong that I am trying to right? Well, a year ago . . . (OK, so it was a year ago, but I'm a pretty laid-back super heroine: I don't like to rush into action . . . ) Felicity Cloake, a fabulous food journalist and writer of The Perfect series for The Guardian, wrote of using up Christmas turkey leftovers:
We usually opt for a gristly, and definitely inauthentic nasi goreng instead (tellingly known as nasty goreng in our house) – (still) pretty unexciting


I was aghast, rocked to the core. This was fighting talk in my book; a slur on one of my favourite childhood dishes. Why so nasty? I can only assume that it was the wrong combination of ingredients in a dish that wasn't treated with respect.

Biff! This is not a dish where leftovers go to die!

Thunk! I won't let good food go to waste!

Boff! Goodbye boring, hello delicious!

Pow! I am redressing an old inequity!

To a greedy child such as me, Malaysia was an absolute delight. I loved the sights and sounds of this vibrant country, but it was the tastes that particularly enchanted me.

Every child's mother or amah had a recipe for nasi goreng. Even my father was prepared to throw in his five cents worth (since he had lived in Malaya in the 1950s). But since Henry was the world's greatest eater and the world's worst cook, we tended to ignore him.

As a child and teenager nasi goreng was my favourite comfort food, known to cure all ills. I put away childish desires for "egg-in-a-cup" with marmite soldiers or even macaroni cheese, it had to be nasi goreng. It was once of the first things I cooked at university. But it's just "fried rice" said my new friends. Oh ye of little faith, this is so much, much more and not just a way of using of leftovers, this is a dish worth planning for.

I like mine served with omelette strips, although some prefer theirs served within a thin omelette (pattaya) and others topped with a fried egg. Accompany with crushed peanuts, diced cucumber or acar (a fresh vegetable pickle). You can add a dollop of sambal but I love mine with Lingham's Chilli Sauce (or Maggi is good too, or use a sweet Thai chilli sauce at a pinch).

While in Malaysia and Indonesia, this is eaten for breakfast, using yesterday's leftover cooked rice, I would happily eat it at any time of the day or night. It does make a fabulous late night snack to soak up excess alcohol and makes a great hangover cure, or so I've heard!

By the way, in the spirit of the confessional, as children we used to call nasi goreng "Nazi Goering" - oh what insensitive little wags we were. Fortunately no cities were destroyed in the making of this dish . . .

Serves 4-6
Skill level: Easy

spice paste
5 x shallots, finely chopped
4-5 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 x bird eye chillies, deseeded and very finely chopped
2 x dried red chillies (or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes), soaked in boiling water
1 x lemongrass stalk, white part only, roughly (removing the tough outer leaves)
½ tsp ground turmeric (or about 5g fresh turmeric)
30g candlenuts (or macadamia or roasted peanuts)
1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
½ tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar or jaggery)
nasi goreng
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4  shallots, thinly sliced length-ways
1 carrot, sliced into very thin matchsticks
1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
a handful of cooked green beans or garden peas (or both!)
½ tbsp ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce) or dark soy sauce with a pinch of sugar
½ tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp chicken stock
cooked rice
cooked prawns and chicken or turkey
omelette strips, cucumber, crushed salted peanuts, spring onions thinly sliced, on the diagonal, small handful crispy fried shallots, Asian pickles and prawn crackers, Lingham's Chilli Sauce (or Maggi's)


  1. The day before, cook the rice. Allow it to become completely cold before transferring into a covered container, separating the grains as you do so. I leave it in a cool place until needed. (I don't put in the fridge because it tends to make the rice sticky - I am convinced the rice is breathing!) You do need to start this dish with cool, cooked rice which won't clump together. 
  2. First make the paste by combining all the ingredients in a blender and giving a good whizz until smooth. 
  3. Make the omelette by whisking up the eggs with a little salt and pepper. Heat half a tablespoon of oil in a shallow frying pan over a medium heat and add half of the egg mixture and cook until the egg has set on top. Turn it out onto a chopping board and roll up tightly. Leave to get cold, then make the other omelette. Thinly slice the rolled-up omelettes into thin strips. 
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or a large deep-sided frying pan over a medium to high heat and swirl so that the pan is well coated with the oil. Add the sliced shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic, ginger, carrot and red pepper and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, keeping warm. 
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok or frying pan over a medium heat and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the spice paste and cook for about 1 minute, stirring, until fragrant. 
  6. Add the ketjap manis, soy and chicken stock and cook for a further minute. 
  7. Add the rice and beans or peas, prawns or chicken and toss until heated through. Add the onion mixture and toss again until well distributed. 
  8. Serve with the garnishes.


o cozinheiro este algarve said...

Love love love Nasi Goreng.A great way for leftovers and also with a bit of improvisationa great way to off load all that stuff that needs clearing out of the pantry.Oh god you´ve just reminded me of that massive new year chore of pantrification.Happy New year to to you.

Anonymous said...

Oh crumbs, I too have the task of pantrification ahead of me - I can't cram anything else in there and I can't find anything either.
This is a fabulous recipe and I really look forward to making it. Thanks for sharing and (a slightly belated)happy New Year.

Hermia said...

"I think I have found my soul-mate (female version) - I am making this for supper tonight, in order that I make my other soul-mate truly feasted and content