The most famous Indonesian dish of them all

I included Nasi Goreng in my article on the best fried rice dishes from across the world, but seeing as the dish is so simple, why do Indonesians love it so much?

Nasi Goreng with shrimp
Nasi Goreng with shrimp

Nasi goreng is now known as the national dish of Indonesia, but it may be surprising to learn that it had the same beginnings as other versions of fried rice – as a way to avoid wasting rice. The dish is served at home and is traditionally made out of leftover rice from the night before, and fried with scraps and leftovers from a chicken or beef dish.

Nasi goreng is ubiquitous in Indonesia, and also popular in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore, as well as the Netherlands (through colonial ties with Indonesia). In Philippines, nasi goreng known as Sinangag or garlic fried rice. Today microwave-heated frozen nasi goreng is available in convenience stores, and while these are nice for eating on the move, they do not compare to a home-made version, or a snack from a warung.

Nasi Goreng with satay
Nasi Goreng with satay

Compared to other Asian fried rice dishes, nasi goreng includes generous amount of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), and often includes krupuk and bawang goreng (fried onions) to give a crispier texture.

Some recipes may add black pepper, terasi (shrimp paste), fish sauce, or powdered broth as a seasoning and taste enhancer, while cucumber or tomato are used for garnishing. Eggs might be mixed into fried rice or fried separately, either as telur ceplok/telur mata sapi (sunny side up eggs), telur dadar (omelette), or telur rebus (boiled eggs). The addition of a fried egg creates the term “nasi goreng spesial (pakai telur)”, and this is seen as an even tastier treat!

Nasi Goreng Gila
Nasi Goreng Gila

I guess since we’re talking about nasi goreng, we should take a look at a few other nasi dishes from Indonesia. There’s Nasi Goreng Gila, which is a spicier version of the original (native to west Java), Nasi Padang from Sumatra, Nasi Campur from Bali, and Nasi Kunning from south Sulawesi. I have been fortunate enough to have tried all of these, and while nasi goreng is the simple and original favourite, I would have to pluck for nasi campur that I first tried in Bali. It is one of my top 5 Balinese dishes for sure!

7 thoughts on “The most famous Indonesian dish of them all

  1. Hahaha, what makes it special, pakai telur. But, I don’t like nasi goreng so much, even though I’m an Indonesia simply because I used to have it almost everyday when I was young (of course from the leftover foods).


  2. the key to indonesian fried rice is the KECAP MANIS. the thick black sweet soy sauce they use to cook the fried rice with, which no other country uses. this what makes indonesian fried rice irresistable.


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