Why It Works
- Using either freshly cooked or day-old rice results in fried rice that separates nicely into individual grains, without clumping up.
- Indonesian shrimp paste adds a potent dose of umami.
- The sweetness of kecap manis balances out the dish's many salty and savory elements.
Nasi goreng is essentially Indonesia's take on fried rice. In addition to kecap manis, the country's ubiquitous sweet soy sauce, terasi (Indonesian shrimp paste) is what sets nasi goreng apart from other fried-rice variations you'll see in other countries.
Terasi is an umami bomb that pervades both your kitchen and your senses. If you can't find it easily, feel free to substitute another Southeast Asian shrimp paste, or omit it—you’ll be making what my mom calls nasi goreng cina, or Chinese fried rice, which is the version she made for us when I was growing up.
- For the Spice Paste:
- 2 small shallots (2 ounces; 55g), roughly chopped
- 3 medium cloves garlic
- 1 large fresh green chili, such as Fresno or Holland, stemmed and seeded, or 1 teaspoon sambal oelek, such as Huy Fong (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon terasi (Indonesian shrimp paste), optional (see note)
- For the Nasi Goreng:
- 4 cups cold cooked jasmine rice (21 ounces; 600g) or other medium- to long-grain rice (see note)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower oil
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) kecap manis (see note), plus more for drizzling
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) soy sauce
- Kosher salt
- Ground white pepper
- To Serve:
- 2 fried eggs, cooked sunny-side up or over easy
- Sliced cucumbers (optional)
- Sliced tomatoes (optional)
- Fried shallots (optional)
For the Spice Paste: Add half the shallots to a mortar and grind with the pestle until a coarse purée forms. Add remaining shallots, followed by garlic, chili, and terasi (if using), grinding with the pestle until each ingredient is mostly incorporated before adding the next. The final paste should resemble thick oatmeal in texture. Alternatively, combine all spice paste ingredients in a small food processor and process until they form a paste.
For the Nasi Goreng: If using day-old rice, transfer rice to a bowl and break rice up with your hands into individual grains.
Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add spice paste and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the wok or pan to prevent the paste from burning, until a pungent smell permeates your kitchen and the paste turns a few shades darker, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium at any time if the paste appears to be browning too quickly.
Add rice to the wok and stir to coat with the spice paste. Add kecap manis and soy sauce. Stir and cook until rice is evenly colored and hot throughout. Season with salt and white pepper.
Divide rice between two plates and top each plate of rice with a fried egg. Garnish with cucumber and tomato slices and shower with fried shallots, if you like. Serve immediately with kecap manis alongside for drizzling.
Terasi is an Indonesian shrimp paste that can be found in well-stocked Asian markets or online. We recommend purchasing handy single-serving packets. If you can't find terasi, you may substitute belacan (Malaysian or Singaporean shrimp paste) or Thai shrimp paste, or simply omit it altogether.
Sambal oelek is an Indonesian chili paste, traditionally made with nothing more than hot red chilies and salt. You can find it at Asian markets or in the "international" aisle of some supermarkets.
Kecap manis is Indonesian sweet soy sauce, typically made by combining soy sauce with palm sugar. We recommend Cap Bango kecap manis, but you may also find ABC and Conimex brands available online or in Asian markets. For more information, read our kecap manis explainer.
For best results, use rice that has been refrigerated for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days. If using freshly cooked rice, spread rice on a tray and allow to cool for 5 minutes before using.