What is Nasi Goreng?

Celeste Heiter
Celeste Heiter
Nasi goreng is often flavored with coriander.
Nasi goreng is often flavored with coriander.

Nasi goreng is a fried rice dish that is widely popular in Indonesia and Malaysia. The word “nasi” means rice, and “goreng” means fried. In addition to the basic rice component, nasi goreng may be made with an array of additional ingredients that includes meat, seafood, and vegetables. The fried rice may also be seasoned with various sauces and spices.

Different types of rice, a key ingredient in nasi goreng.
Different types of rice, a key ingredient in nasi goreng.

As one of the most popular dishes in Asia, nasi goreng is served in many Indonesian and Malaysian restaurants. It is also one of the most popular street foods sold by cart vendors, food stalls, and roadside diners. At celebratory gatherings, nasi goreng is an essential component of festive buffets. In home kitchens, the dish is often eaten for breakfast and is made with leftover rice from the previous night’s dinner.

Some recipes call for chili peppers.
Some recipes call for chili peppers.

The main ingredient in nasi goreng is cooked rice that has been allowed to cool. Leftover rice is ideal, as it can be quickly added to the dish without overcooking. Long-grain rice is the best type to use since it is less starchy than short-grain or medium-grain rice and doesn’t become sticky or lumpy.

When it comes to additional ingredients, almost anything goes. One of the most common ingredients is scrambled egg. For seafood, shrimp is the most popular choice, but squid, crab, or chunks of firm fish may also be added. Meats may include beef, pork, or spicy sausages. Diced onions and garden vegetables may also be added to the nasi goreng stir-fry. Chili peppers, garlic, and ginger often add their vibrant flavors to the dish.

Squid can sometimes be used to make nasi goreng.
Squid can sometimes be used to make nasi goreng.

Nasi goreng is typically cooked in a large wok with a little peanut or sesame oil to prevent sticking. While the ingredients are frying, they may be seasoned with condiments such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, or chili paste. Popular spices include cumin, coriander, and curry powder.

Religion also plays a part in the ingredients used to make nasi goreng. Indonesia and Malaysia have large Muslim populations that do not eat pork. There are also many Buddhists and Hindus who follow a strict vegetarian diet, so certain nasi goreng recipes contain no meat or eggs.

With its high smoking point and mild flavor, peanut oil is ideal for making nasi goreng stir-fry.
With its high smoking point and mild flavor, peanut oil is ideal for making nasi goreng stir-fry.

During colonial times, Dutch traders settled in Indonesia, where they enjoyed nasi goreng as well. The dish was modified according to their European tastes and incorporated into Dutch cuisine. Outside Indonesia, the Netherlands is one of the most likely places to find Indonesian restaurants that serve nasi goreng.

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    • Nasi goreng is often flavored with coriander.
      By: zoë biggs
      Nasi goreng is often flavored with coriander.
    • Different types of rice, a key ingredient in nasi goreng.
      By: Elena Schweitzer
      Different types of rice, a key ingredient in nasi goreng.
    • Some recipes call for chili peppers.
      By: Giuseppe Porzani
      Some recipes call for chili peppers.
    • Squid can sometimes be used to make nasi goreng.
      By: hiphoto39
      Squid can sometimes be used to make nasi goreng.
    • With its high smoking point and mild flavor, peanut oil is ideal for making nasi goreng stir-fry.
      By: WimL
      With its high smoking point and mild flavor, peanut oil is ideal for making nasi goreng stir-fry.
    • Having occupied parts of Indonesia from the 17th through the early 19th century, the Netherlands is particularly known for its excellent Indonesian food among European countries.
      By: Ruslan Olinchuk
      Having occupied parts of Indonesia from the 17th through the early 19th century, the Netherlands is particularly known for its excellent Indonesian food among European countries.