March 3, 2012


Nasi goreng is Indonesia's national dish. It is to Indonesia what meatloaf is to America. Every family has their own recipe. Or so my Dutch friend told me. The Dutch East Indies became Indonesia after WWII, so the Dutch have melded quite a bit of Indonesian cuisine into their own. You can eat some great Indo food in Amsterdam! 

Nasi goreng means 'fried rice' in Indonesian. It's a one-dish meal that can be endlessly varied, depending on what vegetables and meats or seafood you have on hand. I like it best with shrimp or chicken (or a combination of both) but you could certainly use tofu or no protein at all, as my vegetarian friend does. It's a highly spiced dish, usually with a bit of heat. There are some basic ingredients common to the many versions of nasi goreng. Fried shallots, sweet soy sauce and cold rice, which is preferred to freshly cooked rice because it becomes soft and mushy during the cooking of the nasi. You can use ANY leftover rice for this dish. You needn't cook it in coconut milk.

You can make your own bumbu - spice mixture - or buy a commercial variety. The one I like best is made by the Rijsttaffel company. You can visit their website at You can use the recipe on the back of the package for guidance, but do your own thing with what you have around, or follow my recipe and get ready for some YUM.

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2 14 oz. cans light coconut milk *
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. jasmine or long grain white rice

Bring coconut milk and water to a boil. Add rice, stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until almost done, when rice still has some bite to it - about 18 minutes. Drain well, reserving the milk. Place rice in fridge to cool (cold is best). 

3 T. canola oil
1 large shallot, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. large shrimp, cut into thirds
3/4 oz. Nasi Goreng spice mixture
2 T. sweet or regular soy sauce
1 c. frozen peas, thawed
Leftover coconut milk, as needed
Sambal oelek, to serve on the side, if desired ***

In large, deep sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until turning brown. Add the carrots and about 1/3 c. reserved coconut milk. Cover pan and simmer on low until carrots are just barely tender. Uncover the pan, increase heat to medium high and add half of the spice mixture and the shrimp pieces. Saute two minutes, then add the cold rice, crumbling up as you add it to the pan. Squirt the soy sauce evenly over the rice, pour about 1/2 c. of coconut milk over it and mix all together gently. Let the rice sizzle, turning over occasionally, allowing the bottom to get browned and a little crusty. Turn the heat up higher, if you need to, watching carefully. This browning really adds to the flavor. Once you have some areas of nice browning, remove from heat and serve immediately, with sambal oelek on the side if you like it with a hot kick.
Serves 4 

* light is thinner, so the rice cooks more evenly OR use regular coconut milk, thinned with water
** use wild-caught shrimp to avoid a muddy taste
*** Sambal oelek is a ground red chili paste - HOT!

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