Thursday, July 12, 2007

nasi goreng: indonesian fried rice


I had Nasi Goreng for the first time at a tiny Indonesian eatery in Hong Kong many years ago. Having ordered it as a sidedish, we were greatly surprised when we dug in to find that it's sufficient enough to be a meal all by its lonesome. Think Indonesian-style paella. Traditionally it's made with leftover rice, a good deal of chunks of chicken and shrimp, fried egg, and sprouts. (It can also be made sans meat.) Very often, it's served for breakfast in both Indonesian and Malaysian households. Hey, I'll take a bowl of this over a bowl of soggy cereal and milk any day!

I must warn you that one of the key ingredients in this dish is fermented shrimp paste, otherwise known as the ultimate babe repellant. The pungent odor can be somewhat of a social deterrent, to say the least. To the Western nostril, shrimp paste can smell quite offensive. It's prepared by sun-drying ground shrimp paste and then compressing into large blocks that are then cut and portioned. I personally don't mind the smell that much; however I think my tiny apartment was a bit overwhelmed, as it is more used to smells of buttery cookies and cakes baking in the oven!

As with any popular dish, this one has many versions. Most use shrimp paste or fish sauce for flavoring, others use kecap manis, a syrup-like sweet soy sauce, prolific in Indonesian cuisine. I used tamarind concentrate, shrimp paste, turmeric for color, and a bit of coconut milk to balance out the strong flavors. I had no chicken or shrimp on hand, so I used some bacon for the protein and added smokiness.

3 cups cooked white rice (use leftover chinese takeout rice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 in. piece fresh ginger, minced
1 small onion, diced
3 small red chilis, seeded and chopped
2 tsp tamarind paste or concentrate
2 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp sugar
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup coconut milk
3 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
basil and coriander, for garnish

Nasi Goreng

In a wok, scramble eggs and set aside. Cook bacon until crisp, set aside, reserving some of the oil in the pan to cook the onions with the peas until onions are golden. Set aside with the eggs and bacon.
Mix together tamarind, shrimp paste, turmeric, sugar, lime juice, and coconut milk.
Cook garlic, ginger, jalapenos, and chilis with 2 Tbsp oil for 1 min. Add the tamarind mixture and cook 1 more minute. Add the rice and stir to coat until the rice grains are warmed through and appears glossy. Stir in the reserved eggs, bacon, onion and peas. Stirfry for about another 2 minutes.
To plate, scoop the rice into a greased bowl, packing down tight. Invert the bowl onto a plate and unmold. Garnish with basil and coriander.