Nice rice: Indonesian nasi goreng

We have had quite different experiences with nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) throughout our lives. Miranda thinks she first learnt about it thanks to a TV ad for Telstra Bigpond broadband (back in the days when broadband still had to be marketed), the punchline of which centred around the famous dish. We won’t spoil it for you – see for yourself:

Ash, on the other hand, mostly just remembers being excited about eating it.

Our only other real encounter with Indonesian food did not happen in Indonesian, but in The Netherlands. Because of the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia, there are a lot of Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, which is something of a novelty as they’re not something you tend to find anywhere else (except Indonesia, presumably). So when Miranda holidayed there in 2008, she and her friend Kathy indulged in the rijstafel, or ‘rice table’ – an Indonesian banquet with countless small dishes – at Indrapura.

Rijstafel at Indrapura

We would love to have had a go at a rijstafel for our Indonesian meal this weekend, but a little thing called logistics got in the way of that, and anyway, Ash has been on about getting to Indonesia and making nasi goreng pretty much ever since we started this challenge, so we couldn’t possibly make anything else.

Nasi goreng translates to ‘fried rice’ and was conceived as a way to use up leftover rice for breakfast the next day. Traditionally, it is simply rice with flavourings, and meat or vegetables would only be added to it if they also happened to be left over from the previous meal. The most crucial of those flavourings is ketjap manis, a sweet soy sauce, as this is what sets nasi goreng apart from other variations of fried rice.

We didn’t just want a pile of rice for dinner, though, so searched for something else to serve with it, and found a Rick Stein recipe for marinated, barbecued chicken. Whilst Stein didn’t exactly grow up with Granny’s traditional Indonesian cooking, we figured he’s spent enough time travelling around South-East Asia to be trustworthy, so we’ve used his nasi goreng recipe as well.

Nasi goreng

Ingredients
For the chicken:
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
500g skinned, boneless chicken thighs (Just realised that the recipe says to cut them into 1 inch strips. We didn’t!)

For the spice paste:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
50g shallots, roughly chopped
25g roasted salted peanuts
6 red chillies, roughly chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp salt

For the nasi goreng:
300g long-grain rice
Sunflower oil, for frying
3 large shallots, thinly sliced (recipe wanted 6 but we only used 3 – feel free to double if preferred)
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp ketjap manis
1 tbsp light soy sauce
5cm piece cucumber, cut into quarters lengthways, sliced
8 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Method
1. Mix the chicken marinade ingredients together in a bowl, then add the chicken pieces and ensure they are evenly covered. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
2. Cook the rice according to packet instructions, rinse, then spread out on a baking tray and leave to cool.
3. Heat 1cm of the sunflower oil in a deep-sided frying pan. Fry the sliced shallots, stirring now and then, until crisp and golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool. Reserve the oil.
4. Beat the eggs with some salt and pepper. Add 1/3 of the mixture to a frying pan over a medium-high heat and cook until it has set on top. Flip over, fry for a few more seconds then remove from the pan and roll it up tightly. Repeat twice more with the rest of the egg. When cold, slice into thin strips.
4. Blend all of the spice paste ingredients together in a food processor until they form a smooth(ish) paste.
5. Cook the chicken on a BBQ or griddle pan or under the grill until golden-brown and caramelised. Cut into bite-sized chunks.
6. Now it’s time to put it all together! Heat a wok over high heat until smoking. Add 2 tbsp of the oil left over from frying the shallots, add the spice paste and stir fry until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
7. Add the tomato puree and ketjap manis and stir fry for a few seconds, then add the rice and stir fry for a further 2-3 minutes, or until heated through.
8. Add the chicken, shallots and strips of egg and stir fry for another minute.
9. Add the soy sauce, cucumber and most of the spring onion and mix together well.
10. Serve sprinkled with the rest of the spring onions. Preferably eat outside in the beautiful sunshine like we did!
Serves 4 (actually 3 – see below)

Rice on baking tray

Frying shallots

Egg

Omelette strips

Cut up chicken

Nasi goreng cooking

Nasi goreng

The only complaint we had with this dish is that there wasn’t a lot of it: the quoted ‘serves 4’ would have been a more accurate ‘serves 3’ – in our house at least, where appetites are healthy. But aside from that: yum. The flavours in the rice were perfectly balanced and the simple marinade on the chicken was delicious. It probably would have been even better had it been cooked on an actual bbq instead of a griddle pan, but we ran out of time for that!

Our next aim is to cook a dish from all the remaining countries on our leading up to Australia, so that we can have a special Aussie feast IN THE ACTUAL COUNTRY when we’re there in August… so expect recipes to be published thick and fast over the next few weeks!

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