We’ve all heard of this popular Indonesian dish at one time or another. Before living in Jakarta for a short duration, my idea of Nasi Goreng was what’s called “Java Rice” – a bright orange-colored rice dish usually served with barbecued chicken at a popular Philippine chain of restaurants called Aristocrat.
Of course, when you find yourself in the land of exotic spices and heady, fragrant smells and scents, you have to try the real thing, the thing the locals eat on a regular basis – streetfood.
I love streetfood. I will take it anyday in any country, even if it landed me in a hospital once. Oh, but that’s another story…maybe for another day.
The streets of Jakarta are always full of ambulant food peddlers. Nasi Goreng, Sate in all their different versions, Mie Goreng (Fried Noodles) , Bakso (meatballs, usually with noodles), Martabak, Ikan Bakar (Grilled Fish), and on and on I could go.
My favorite peddlers were the “Jamu” ladies in their sarongs, who all had that Indonesian hairdo, a low knot tied loosely at the back of the head. They carried a heavy basket slung by a long piece of cloth on their backs. They sold cures in bottles and handed it to you in a drinking glass waiting till you drank the strange-smelling, slimy-looking brown stuff. It’s all mixed together in front of you to soothe whatever ails you, a mysterious mixture of herbs and what-nots for everything you could think of.
The most amazing ailment I heard of in Indonesia was “masuk angin,” which literally means “air entered” or something like that. The jamu ladies knew how to take care of that. I did try their remedies. The two I tried out of desperation worked so well for me, I became a regular customer….errr, patient….no no, client….whatever…
Oh goodness, thinking about it now, I tried most anything sold on the streets and will not hesitate to do it again. Heck, I even tried Bull’s Balls Soup not knowing what it was! It was too rich for me….I’ll take a Cow’s Balls Soup anyday, if that’s available please.
Let’s get to the recipe for Nasi Goreng, before I take you all the way back to the old streets of Batavia…
1 lb. cold cooked rice, about 3 cups
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsps. cooking oil
1 med. onion, finely chopped
6 shallots, finely chopped
2 red chilies, sliced thin
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste (trasi in Indonesian)
1 tbsp. Kecap Manis
1 tsp. tomato paste
salt to taste
sliced cucumber and tomato for garnish
Start with cold, cooked rice. Separate grains with your fingers, dipping them in water to keep the grains from sticking to your hands.
Lightly grease the pan and cook the 2 eggs to make a thin omelet. Cool then shred. Set aside.
Heat remaining oil in the wok and fry shallots, onion, garlic, chilies and shrimp paste over medium heat until soft. If you want to use meats, put it in now and stir fry.
Turn heat to high and add the rice, kecap manis, tomato paste stirring constantly to get it well mixed. Season with salt according to taste.
Serve garnished with scrambled eggs, cucumber and tomatoes. I topped this one with a fried egg, nicely browned on the edges they way they cook it on the streets of Jakarta.