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What Is Nasi Pecel?

By Andy Josiah
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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Nasi pecel is a Javanese dish that consists of nasi putih, or rice, that is eaten with cooked vegetables and peanut sauce. The vegetables and sauce serve as the main condiments. It is particularly popular in the East and Central provinces of Java, which is one of the islands that constitute the southeastern Asian country of Indonesia, as well as the location of the country’s capital city of Jakarta. Nasi pecel is one of the most popular dishes made and consumed in Indonesia.

The vegetables traditionally used for preparing nasi pecel are kangkung, which is the Indonesian term for water spinach; bean sprouts; and cassava, or papaya leaves. East Java inhabitants use kembang turi, or the leaves from the Sesbania grandiflora tree. This is also known as the hummingbird tree or scarlet wisteria tree. Other vegetables commonly used include cabbage and lime leaves. The vegetables are cooked and set aside while the peanut sauce is prepared.

Preparation of the peanut sauce usually starts with grinding baked peanuts. Some people, however, choose to use peanut butter or paste instead. Another paste is created by combining roasted bird’s eye chile, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, dried prawn paste and salt.

Once the second paste is created, it is added to the peanut paste. Some warm water is added during mixing to make sure that it is not too thick. The resulting paste must have a smooth texture. More sugar or salt can be added to the paste at this point, to the taste of the cook. After the resulting peanut sauce is done, the vegetables should be arranged on a plate and the sauce poured over it.

In addition to rice, Indonesians eat nasi pecel with a crispy rice flour cracker called rempeyek and a traditional Indonesian soy food item called tempe, or tempeh. Nasi can also be consumed with fried tofu, cucumber, fried eggs or a chile-based sauce called sambal, which is also popular in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

In some respects, nasi pecel is related to nasi goreng. The latter dish is considered by some as Indonesia’s national dish. Nasi goreng uses some of the same ingredients as nasi pecel, such as soy sauce and garlic. It is also a rice-based dish and can be eaten with sambal and eggs. With nasi goreng, however, the rice is stir-fried. Also, it has a more flexible recipe than nasi pecel, with a wide variety of variations used across the country.

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