Second stop in Indonesia to celebrate Indonesia’s independence Day, held on August 17th.
Three years ago, CNN Travel readers voted for their 50 world’s most delicious foods. The first two dishes were two iconic Indonesian recipes. The most preferred food was a dish made with beef and ginger from Sumatra called rendang. The second favorite dish for the 35,000 people who voted was nasi goreng.
Satay, another Indonesian dish that we introduced you to, finished at #10. Other dishes on the list that we featured on 196 flavors include Vietnamese phô, “egg tart” attributed to Hong Kong but with the same origins as Portuguese pasteis de nata, Neapolitan pizza, brownie, or Korean bibimbap.
Nasi goreng can be considered the national dish, or at least one of Indonesian national dishes. Like many national dishes, there are as many versions of nasi goreng as families in Indonesia. An authentic nasi goreng (fried rice in Indonesian) should at the minimum include key ingredients like kecap manis, belacan or terasi (shrimp paste), shallots and garlic.
Kecap manis is a typical Indonesian sweetened soy sauce. It can be prepared by reducing soy sauce and brown sugar until reaching a thick syrupy texture.
Shrimp paste, also called terasi in Indonesian or belacan in Malay, is another emblematic ingredient of Indonesian cuisine. This paste is obtained by fermenting chopped sun-dried shrimp. It is never eaten raw but only used as a condiment in cooked preparations like nasi goreng.
Given the fact that I keep Kosher, it is impossible for me to use this ingredient. Never mind, after reading several recipes and comments about the recipe, I came to the conclusion that this ingredient mainly gave the dish its reddish color, fishy taste but also its umami savory taste. Umami (pleasant savory taste in Japanese) is one of the 5 main flavors along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty flavors. So I replaced the shrimp paste with red bell pepper, nuoc mam (fish sauce made with fermented anchovies) and monosodium glutamate or MSG, an ingredient that has a bad rep and which is only as bad for you as palm oil in Nutella… but harmless if used in small quantities.
This dish is often cooked with chicken but can just as easily be prepared in a vegetarian version. It is usually served with a fried or scrambled egg and accompanied by cucumber, tomato or lettuce. The fried shallots give a crispy texture to the dish, just like the prawn crackers (krupuk udang in Indonesian) it is usually served with. Yes, Indonesians love shrimps. I did my shopping in a local Indonesian restaurant/market called Simpang Asia and I luckily found another substitute: mackerel crackers. Same look, same color, same texture… and even the quite pronounced fishy taste… my kids have dubbed these chips “the stinky crackers”!
Nasi goreng was quite a huge success at home. This dish will surely become one of our favorite rice dishes. My friend Gaby came the next day to help us finish the leftovers and he seemed to love it too. You can take my word for it: make nasi goreng as soon as possible without any hesitation!
- 3 cups cooked long grain rice
- 10 shallots , divided
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (belacan or terasi)
- 3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon palm sugar
- 1 scallion , chopped
- ½ lb cabbage , shredded (or ½ lb chicken breast, fried and shredded)
- 1 red chili pepper
- 4 eggs (fried or scrambled)
- 1 tomato , sliced
- 1 cucumber , sliced
- Prawn crackers (krupuk udang)
- Deep fry 4 shallots, cut into very thin slices until slightly crisp, about 5-6 minutes.
- Set aside.
- Meanwhile, mix the 6 shallots, garlic, shrimp paste and chili in a food processor.
- Heat cooking oil over medium heat in a wok or large frying pan and fry the paste mixture for 2 minutes.
- Add the rice, kecap manis, soy sauce and palm sugar. Sauté everything over high heat for 6-7 minutes.
- Add scallion and cabbage or chicken. Mix well and continue to sauté for 2 minutes.
- Serve hot, sprinkled with fried shallots and accompanied with condiments such as sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, a fried or scrambled egg and prawn crackers.