Our cookery writer, Adam Bush, shares the personal inspirations behind some of his favourite – and most requested – recipes…
“Nasi goreng is the Indonesian equivalent of a fry-up, and in its home country you’ll find it pretty much everywhere, from early morning through to early afternoon. Some people might balk at eating rice with a hefty kick of chilli for breakfast, but many cultures start their day with something vibrant and spicy – from Indian roti (here’s our expert recipe) and Vietnamese pho (click here for our easy recipe) to Mexican huevos rancheros.
Meaning ‘fried rice’ in Indonesian, nasi goreng is a dish made with a pungent spice paste and always served with fried eggs, sliced cucumber and tomato, no matter where you eat it. As is typical in Southeast Asia, nothing is wasted and the dish most likely evolved as a way to use up left-over rice from a previous meal. Pouches of ready-steamed rice are great for this as they are cool and dry to begin with – essential for a good nasi goreng. If you are using your own cooked left-over rice, be sure to cool it completely in the fridge first.
The star of nasi goreng is kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. Sweetened with palm sugar and mixed with aromatics such as galangal, ginger and sometimes curry leaves, it is reduced until syrupy. This gives a deeply sweet/salty flavour, as well as that satisfying hit of umami.
The other key ingredient is shrimp paste (made from salted and fermented shrimps). Don’t be put off by the strong smell on opening the pack, it will diminish during cooking, leaving a background note of salty savouriness. Along with the spice paste it makes the dish hot, heady and fragrant. Forget bog-standard egg-fried rice with a few peas scattered in – this is glorious, moreish fried rice on turbo drive.”