What began as a nifty way to use leftover rice from the previous night’s dinner has become a signature dish in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Nasi goreng, literally meaning ‘fried rice’, is a speedy stir-fry of pre-cooked rice, kecap manis (caramelised sweet soy sauce), and various seasonings, such as onion, garlic, sambal, shrimp paste and terasi, an earthy, pungent powder of ground shrimp. Versatile nasi goreng can also contain extra leftovers, such as cooked beef or chicken strips, ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and vegetables.
Depending on whom you ask, nasi goreng is thought to have originated in Indonesia, inspired by Chinese fried rice, thanks to the trade routes between the two countries dating back to the 10th century. While claims on its origins are sure to inspire debate, one thing is certain: this delicious dish is a fantastic way to use leftovers.
Today, you’ll find this popular hawker dish across Southeast Asia and as far afield as the Netherlands, thanks to the country’s colonial ties with Indonesia. There are countless variations on nasi goreng, with popular options including nasi goreng ayam (with fried chicken) and nasi goreng kampung, flavoured with dried anchovies and water spinach.
To make this a complete meal, typical toppings include a fried egg, sliced cucumber and tomato, and kerupuk crackers for added crunch.
For extra fried rice inspiration, check out these authentic recipes from across Asia:
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