Nasi goreng has been called the national dish of Indonesia, though there are many other contenders. 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 Jakarta dinner parties.
In 2011 an online poll by 35,000 people held by CNN International chose Indonesian nasi goreng as number two on their 'World's 50 Most Delicious Foods' list after rendang.
Nasi goreng had the same beginnings as other versions of fried rice; as a way to avoid wasting rice. 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.Nasi goreng is traditionally served at home for breakfast and it is traditionally made out of leftover rice from the night before. Besides ingredients like shallot, tomato, pepper and chili, the rice is fried with scraps of chicken or beef; usually leftovers from a chicken or beef dish.
Nasi goreng is often described as Indonesia's twist on fried rice. And as with other fried rice recipes in Asia, it has been suggested that it can trace its origin from Southern Chinese fried rice. However, it is not clear when Indonesians began to adopt the Chinese fried rice and create their own version. 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. Previously, Indonesians probably simply sun-dried the leftover rice to make intip or rengginang (rice cracker), the dried rice also could be ground to make rice flour.
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 China, the stir frying technique became increasingly popular during Ming dynasty (1368–1644 CE). The introduction of stir frying technique, Chinese wok, and also soy sauce probably took place around or after this period, circa 17th century. The common soy sauce has its origin in 2nd century CE China, however, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) was developed in Indonesia with a generous addition of local palm sugar. Sweet soy sauce plus the addition of shrimp paste are the elements that distinguish Indonesian nasi goreng from Chinese fried rice.
Other than Chinese influence, there is another theory suggested that nasi goreng was actually inspired by a Middle Eastern dish called pilaf, which is rice cooked in seasoned broth. This suggestion is quite plausible in regard to a particular variant—the Betawinasi goreng kambing (Jakartan goat fried rice), which uses mutton or goat meat (traditionally favoured by Arab Indonesians), rich spices and minyak samin (ghee), which demonstrates Middle Eastern-Indian influence.
Nasi goreng was considered as part of the Indies culture during the colonial period. The mention of nasi goreng appear 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 nasi goreng to the world.
After the independence of Indonesia, nasi goreng was popularly considered as a national dish, albeit unofficial. It is in the menu, 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.
Nasi goreng is ubiquitous in Indonesia, and also popular in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore, as well as the Netherlands through its colonial ties with Indonesia. Today microwave-heated frozennasi goreng is available in convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven and Lawson in Indonesia.
Nasi goreng is distinguished from other Asian fried rice recipes by its aromatic, earthy and smoky flavour, owed to generous amount of caramelised kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and ground powdered terasi (shrimp paste), and the flavour is stronger and spicier compared to Chinese fried rice.Nasi goreng often includes krupuk and bawang goreng (fried shallots) or (fried onions) to give a crispier texture.
Nasi goreng often add condiments as add-on upon the fried rice. Fried shallot and traditional crackers are often sprinkled upon to give crispy texture, pickles are added to give sour freshness in otherwise rather 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, spinkled upon nasi goreng
There is no single recipe of nasi goreng, as every fried rice dish with certain mixtures, additions, ingredients, and toppings could lead to another recipe of nasi goreng. Usually, in Indonesian households, the ingredients of nasi goreng prepared for daily breakfast are the leftovers of the previous day's meals preserved in the refrigerator, with fresh vegetables and eggs added. The basic ingredients of nasi goreng are rice and sliced or ground bumbu (spices) mixture of shallot, garlic, pepper, salt, tomato ketchup, sambal or chili sauce, and usually sweet soy sauce. Some variants may add saus tiram (oyster sauce), ang-ciu (Chinese cooking red wine), kecap ikan (fish sauce), or kecap inggris (like Worcestershire sauce). The texture of leftover cooked rice is considered more suitable for nasi goreng than that of newly cooked rice, as freshly cooked rice is too moist and soft.
Nasi goreng is known as fried rice variants commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Despite myriad specific regional variants, it is notable that certain recipe appears in multiple countries, kampung (village), shrimp paste, sambal, salted fish and egg-wrapped fried rices are appears in both Indonesia and Malaysia. There are similar fried rice dishes from neighbouring countries, such as khao phat from Thailand, and sinangag from the Philippines.
Cooking nasi goreng kambing (fried rice with goat meat) in bulk in Kebon Sirih area, Central Jakarta.
In most parts of Indonesia, nasi goreng is cooked with ample amounts of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) that creates a golden brownish colour, and the flavour is mildly sweet. However, in other places such as Eastern Indonesia (Sulawesi and Maluku), the sweet soy sauce is usually absent and is replaced by bottled tomato and chili sauce, creating reddish-coloured nasi goreng. This variant is called nasi goreng merah (red fried rice) or nasi goreng Makassar after the South Sulawesi capital. Some variants of nasi goreng, such as salted fish or teri Medan (Medan's anchovy) nasi goreng, do not use kecap manis at all, creating a lighter colour similar to Chinese fried rice or Japanese chahan.
Nasi goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih is a popular variant of goat meat fried rice sold in the Kebon Sirih area, Central Jakarta; while nasi goreng amplop is fried rice "enveloped" inside thin omelette skin, almost identical to Malaysian nasi goreng pattaya.
The most common nasi goreng variants usually use chicken and egg, however, some variants are named after their additional ingredients. Specific examples of nasi goreng include:
Nasi goreng nanas (pineapple fried rice), also known as nasi goreng Hawaii or nasi goreng Thailand
Nasi goreng gila (crazy fried rice), fried rice topped with more savoury additional ingredients including chicken, meat, shrimp, sliced bakso, sausages, egg, etc.
Indonesians also called foreign versions of fried rice simply as nasi goreng, thus nasi goreng Hongkong and nasi goreng Tionghoa/China refer to Chinese fried rice, while nasi goreng Jepang refer to yakimeshi or chahan.
A cook making nasi goreng in a food market in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Nasi goreng is a commonly popular household dish in Malaysia. It is also can be found in restaurants and food courts in the country.
Nasi goreng variants popular in Malaysia includes:
Nasi goreng ayam (fried rice usually served with crispy fried chicken with sweet chilli sauce)
Nasi goreng belacan (fried with leftover sambal belacan and fish or other meats)
Nasi goreng blackpepper (fried rice with chicken or beef in blackpepper sauce)
Nasi goreng cendawan (fried rice cooked with mushrooms)
Nasi goreng cili api/masak pedas (spicy fried rice served with chicken/beef)
Nasi goreng dabai (a Sarawak speciality which the rice is fried with a seasonal native fruit called 'buah dabai').
Nasi goreng daging/kambing (fried rice with beef or mutton)
Nasi goreng ikan masin (fried with salted fish)
Nasi goreng kampung (fried with anchovies/leftover fried fish, kangkong)
Nasi goreng kerabu (fried rice with local salads)
Nasi goreng kunyit (fried rice served with turmeric and meat with onions, long beans and carrots)
Nasi goreng kari (fried rice cooked with curry)
Nasi goreng ladna (fried rice cooked with seafood and vegetables in white gravy)
Nasi goreng masak merah (fried rice with chicken or beef in chilli gravy)
Nasi goreng mamak (Indian Muslim style nasi goreng)
Nasi goreng nenas (fried rice cooked with pineapples)
Nasi goreng paprik (fried rice served with paprik dish, usually chicken)
In Singapore, nasi goreng is one of the most popular rice dishes and is a staple with a lot of variations of it. Some include sausage, stinky beans (for vegetarians), seafood, and beef—chicken however, is the most common meat. Nevertheless, since Singapore is a cosmopolitan city with significant numbers of foreign nationals and expatriates, plus English is a commonly spoken language in the island, the term nasi goreng is seldom used in the city, thus its English translation "fried rice" is commonly used.
Nasi goreng variants commonly popular in Singapore includes:
Nasi goreng Singapore or Singapore-style fried rice (A unique combination of Chinese seasonings and Indian spices are used to flavor this simple fried rice dish made with shrimp, mushrooms, cabbage and carrots )
Nasi goreng ayam or Chichen fried rice (fried rice with chicken)
Nasi goreng telur Singapore or Singapore egg fried rice(simply fried with egg)
Nasi goreng seafood (fried with mixed of squid, crab and shrimp)
Nasi goreng pedas or Spicy Fried Rice (spicy fried rice)
Nasi goreng sayur or Singapore vegetable fried rice (fried with vegetables)
Nasi goreng sambal or Sambal fried rice (Malay fried rice with sambal or chili paste)
Nasi goreng kampung or Village-Style Fried Rice (traditional Malay fried)
Nasi goreng lapis or Layered fried rice (fried rice layered with lot of veggies, noodles and adorned with chicken on the top layer)
Nasi goreng daging Mongolia or Mongolian Beef Fried Rice (fried rice mixed together with Mongolian beef style)
Nasi goreng daging or Beef fried rice (fried with beef)
Nasi goreng kari or Curry flavoured fried rice (fried rice flavoured with curry powder)
Nasi goreng ayam ham or Chicken ham fried rice (fried with chicken ham)
Nasi goreng (Sinhala: නාසි ගොරේන්) is a common dish in Sri Lanka. It was adopted into Sri Lankan cuisine through cultural influences from the Sri Lankan Malays and Indonesia. It is prepared using a variety of ingredients including spices, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, white onion, shrimp, cucumber and prawns.
Javanese-Surinamese nasi goreng in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, Indonesian cuisine is common due to the historical colonial ties with Indonesia. Indonesian migrants (or their offspring) cater Indonesian food both in restaurants and as take-away. Also, take-away versions of nasi goreng are plentiful in toko Asian grocery shop and supermarkets. Supermarkets also commonly carry several brands of spice mix for nasi goreng, along with krupuk and other Indonesian cooking supplies. Chinese take-aways and restaurants have also adapted nasi goreng, plus a selection of other Indonesian dishes, but spice them Cantonese style. In Flanders, the name nasi goreng is often used for any Asian style of fried rice. Distinctive version of nasi goreng has been developed, such as Javanese-Suriname version of the dish. In the Netherlands, nasi goreng has been developed into snack called nasischijf (Dutch for "nasi disk"), it is a Dutch deep-fried fast food, consisting of nasi goreng inside a crust of breadcrumbs.
Nasi goreng can be eaten at any time of day, and many Indonesians, Malaysians and Singaporeans eat nasi goreng for breakfast. In most of households, last night leftovers stored in refrigerator are often used to create nasi goreng for breakfast; such as chunks of chicken, shrimp, vegetables, fish, beef, bakso or sausages. The rice used to make nasi goreng is cooked ahead of time and left to cool down (so it is not soggy), which is one reason to use rice cooked from the day before.
A street vendor cooking nasi goreng in his cart. The travelling night hawkers often frequenting Jakarta residential area.
While most Indonesian households serve it for breakfast, nasi goreng is also a popular choice for late night supper served by street vendors, in warungs and also by travelling night hawkers that frequent Indonesian residential neighbourhoods with their wheeled carts. The nasi goreng is usually cooked on order for each serving, since the cook usually asks the client their preference on the degree of spiciness: mild, medium, hot or extra hot. The spiciness corresponds to the amount of sambal or chili pepper paste used. The cook might also ask how the client would like their egg done: mixed into nasi goreng or fried separately as telur mata sapi or ceplok (fried whole egg) or as telur dadar (omelette). The term spesial pakai telur means the nasi goreng has two eggs per serving, one mixed into the nasi goreng as scrambled egg, another fried separately. As well as offering nasi goreng, the travelling nasi goreng cart vendors usually also serve mi goreng, mi rebus, and kwetiau goreng. Nasi goreng usually made by order, nevertheless, some popular nasi gorengwarung or food stall might cook them in bulk, due to large demand. The degree of spiciness is applied by customer through the addition of sambal hot sauces.
Nasi goreng breakfast in a hotel in Solo, Central Java, with papaya juice and Java black coffee.
Nasi goreng is a popular dish in Indonesian restaurants and Asian fusion restaurants. It is often served for breakfast in Indonesian hotels. In Indonesian restaurants, the dish is often served as a main meal accompanied by additional items such as a fried egg, ayam goreng (fried chicken), satay, vegetables, seafoods such as fried shrimp or fish, and kerupuk (meaning crackers, also called "prawn crackers" and many other names). Although traditionally nasi goreng is seldom consumed with satay nor fried chicken, in many Indonesian restaurants abroad this combo is quite popular—in order to allow clients to sample quintessential Indonesian dish; nasi goreng and satay in single serving.
In many warungs (street stalls), when accompanied by a fried egg, it is sometimes called nasi goreng istimewa (special fried rice).Nasi goreng is usually sold together with bakmi goreng (fried noodles) and mie rebus (noodle soup). They sell a simple nasi goreng with small amount of shredded fried chicken, scrambled egg, green vegetables, and served with pickled cucumber. In Indonesia there are restaurant chains that specialise on serving nasi goreng.
Some seasoning brands sold in supermarkets, such as Sajiku-Ajinomoto, Racik, LaRasa, Royco and Kokita offering "bumbu nasi goreng", an instant nasi gorengseasoning paste to be applied upon frying leftover rice. Today the modern convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and Lawson operated in Indonesia also offering prepackage frozen microwave-heated nasi goreng take away.