nasi goreng


I hate waiting. Don’t you? That lingering feeling of uncertainty that seems to perpetually last into forever. Slowly bullying you emotionally, you swear that you’re edging nearer to insanity. Obviously I’m not talking about waiting in the sense where a husband might wait restlessly for his wife to finish putting on her make-up so that they can finally go out and eat (err.. no, I wasn’t talking about me). Nor am I talking about waiting patiently in line at the post office/bank for close to an hour and then finally realising that you weren’t in the correct line in the first place. No, no. I’m talking about something else. Something bigger. I’m talking about waiting for that life-changing, make-a-believer-out-of-me “something”. The kind that makes your palms sweat and heart beat a little faster whenever you think about it. The kind that creeps into your dreams at night, fearing for the worst and making a nervous wreck out of you in the morning. And no, that expensive coffee machine is not your friend and would not soothe your tortured soul.

Thankfully my situation has nothing to do with a critical medical condition, in case you were wondering. Nor do I have any legal charges against me pending, thank you for asking. My life isn’t THAT exciting. I’m not going to tell you what it is. I don’t wanna jinx it (yeah I’m superstitious like that). But I can tell you that I am waiting for that yes/no answer. That simple one word response that will either deliver me from this limbo, or prolong it. Hope is such a double-edged sword, don’t you think?

Enough of my ranting. Let’s talk about the serious stuff.

Fried rice, Indonesian style. This is our most cherished national treasure, no kidding. Every family has its own secret recipe. And everyone swears that their mama’s version beat the hell out of everyone else’s. It is also a very popular street fare. Immensely so within the student population who live away from their families. I have known people who survived college solely on nasi goreng alone. And it’s not hard to understand why nasi goreng is the proclaimed champion of a student diet. It’s filling, it’s cheap (less than a dollar will get you a very decent size portion) and it’s simply tasty. Once you get the flare of stir-frying, it’s hard to mess this one up.

I’m offering a basic fried rice today. No meat, no veg. Just plain old fried rice in its simplest and purest form. But you can put any proteins (chicken, prawns or lamb are all very popular) /greens (any Asian greens would do) during the cooking process. Toppings are as varied as the Indonesian people itself, and we are definitely a varied bunch. I like mine simple. Fried egg, crisp fried shallots, and tomatoes. But you can put anything (and I mean, anything) under the sun in there. As long as you don’t break the cardinal rules (kecap manis, day-old rice, hot wok, small portions at a time) then you’ll be fine.

Basic Nasi Goreng

Serves 1

  • 2 tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1 portion of day old rice
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)


  • 4 red Asian shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp terasi/ shrimp paste (optional)
  • 3 red chillies, or to taste

GARNISH (be wild!)

  • fried egg/omelet
  • tomato slices
  • fried shallots
  • cucumber slices
  • prawn crackers
  • crispy fried anchovies (yum!!)
  • beef floss


MAKE THE SPICE PASTE: with a mortar and pestle, grind the ingredients into a smooth paste. You can also do this with a small food processor although, I swear the taste will be different. Reserve.

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO COOK, heat butter with a little oil in a wok over high heat. When butter starts to melt, add in the spice paste. Cook until aromatic. About a minute or so. Careful not to let it burn though. If you want to add protein, now is the time. Add in the rice and swirl in the kecap manis. Toss and turn until uniform in colour. Keep stir frying for another minute or so. And you’re all done! How simple was that?

Serve with your favourite garnish.


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