Thursday, 28 July 2011

Eating in Medan: Nasi Goreng and Sate Padang

Nasi Goreng means fried rice, simple as. I cannot stress enough the importance of rice in Indonesia, perhaps South-East Asia in general. Rice is the staple food and it is consumed daily, three times a day... like drugs. Not that I know anything about drugs. I have never taken any illegal substance...

Anyway, you can find nasi goreng anywhere you go in Indonesia. In Medan, there's one place my family, my dad in particular loves: nasi goreng pandu. It is located at pandu street, hence the name, in an alley and only open in the evening until after midnight. We've been going here for as long as I can remember. Throughout Indonesia you can find thousands of street side stalls selling nasi goreng. It's quite exciting I must say watching the cooks stirring the rice in a giant wok with shovels.

Sri Owen, an Indonesian food writer based in London writes "there are right and wrong ways of making nasi goreng. A bad one is oily, garnished only with a leathery fried egg... A good nasi goreng is light and hot; the rice grains moist but separate, and quite fluffy".

Nasi goreng pandu ticks all the good boxes. It's garnished with freshly cooked egg omelet (you can also ask for sunny side up if you wish), topped with spicy shredded beef and each customer gets a small plateful of prawn crackers, pickled shallots, carrots and bird's eye chili.

Not that you need an accompaniment for this fried rice, but because we're greedy family and it's nice and healthy (I'm making excuses here to cover up the greediness) we also had stir-fry vegetables, an Indonesian dish that is influenced by Chinese food.

And sate Padang (Padangese Satay) to share. Sate (pronounce as saté) Padang is also a very popular dish in Indonesia.  They're full of meaty goodness, often beef but also oxtounge or even squid. The meat is thinly sliced and then skewered through wooden sticks and barbecued on charcoals. The savoury sauce is thick and spicy and gets its yellow colour from turmeric among other spices like cumin and coriander. They're best served with ketupat (rice cakes) and a sprinkle of deep fried crispy shallots.

Back to fried rice, I think it is an everyday dish that can be served with whatever you have. Whenever I have leftover vegetables or meat, I like making fried rice, though more often I use noodles when feeling impatient. Cooking fried rice doesn't take long, but to get a good result, the rice should be cooked at least 2-3 hours before, so that it has time to get cold. Here's a recipe from Sri Owen I think you'll enjoy:

Nasi Goreng
Recipe by Sri Owen
Serves 4 - 6

2 tablespoons peanut (groundnut oil)
1 tablespoon butter
3 shallots or 1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon sambal ulek or 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon tomato purée or tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 carrots, very finely diced
115 g button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 tablespoons hot water (optional)
salt to taste
450 g cooked and cooled long-grain rice

Heat the oil and butter in a wok or a large frying pan. Stir-fry the shallots for 1-2 minutes, then add the the rest of the ingredients, but not the rice. Continue stir-frying for about 6 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Add the rice, and mix thoroughly so that the rice is heated through and takes on the reddish tinge of the paprika and tomato. Adjust the seasoning. Serve hot on a warmed serving dish - by itself as an accompaniment to a main course; garnished with sliced cucumber, sliced tomatoes, watercress and crisp-fried shallots; or topped with seafood or meat.


  1. It is so interesting to hear about foods from the other side of the world. I need to practice making fried rice, I'm not very good at it.

  2. Really? I agree with Sri Owen but definitely not his recipe. I'm still yet to perfect my nasi goreng recipe and it is truly a difficult task, but this one is no where near authentic I think. If anything, it's a Japanese fried rice with uhmm... bottled sambal ulek? Hehehe. Not being angry nor arrogant here, just kinda far out of nasi goreng. Maybe they do it differently in Medan?

    I misssssssssss Sate Padang. I've had some in Padang 2 years ago (before the earthquake), they were truly a sublime experience.

  3. Michael-just loved reading your post...Nasi Goreng=fried rice; I will remember that in the near future. Love the way you prepared it, wow! that's a big chunk of scrambled eggs on top of the veggies. Love the recipe, as well.
    Thanks for sharing, my dear friend:D

  4. Michael, can I request that you take me with you next time you go home?? :)
    I had a true nasi goreng once..made at a little Indonesian restaurant - it was incredible!!

  5. This sounds wonderful, Michael. It sounds like an amazing visit. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...MAry

  6. This recipe sounds scrumptious! I am always looking for ways to cook and eat outside my culinary box and this looks like a perfect recipe for that. And now I want to go to Indonesia too.

  7. @Stephen: It's easy. Just make sure the rice is cold.

    @Pierre: Sri provides a recipe for sambal ulek, but I'm too lazy to type it. If people ask, I'll post it too, but I'm sure you have your own delicious recipe.

    @Elisabeth: Thank you!! I'm glad you enjoy it.

    @Jenn: No problem. We'll eat lots! Is Chris coming too?

    @Mary: Thank you. I had a great time there.

    @Russell: Thanks. You should visit Indonesia. It's beautiful and I think you'll enjoy the food.

  8. The vegetable dish looks good... Oh? So that's sate Padang? They serve it like that. Different from satay here...and the sauce has no chunky peanuts either. Fried rice? Nah! I always prefer my own... LOL!!!

  9. Mike, I been to Medan but there was like almost 20 years ago. It was a biz trip so no much time to explore the place and food. Your post make me want to fly to Medan now and eat the nasi goreng and sate padang.

  10. I totally agree that rice is Asian's staple food. We can't live without it. I try to avoid it as much as I could as I lessen my intake of carbs, but geez I crave for it. And I'm happy when I have it. Anyhow... I haven't tasted a good Nasi Goreng in this lifetime... Maybe I should visit Indonesia :)

  11. Love nasi goreng! Have never had sate padang before have me crave for some now!

  12. Someday I would love to try all this in the countries that know it well! For now I just have to do the best to make what I can at home. I love fried rice and make it often...a good way to use up whats in the fridge! I have not made Nasi Goreng-fried rice yet, but after seeing this I sure will! Thanks for sharing, I like hearing about food from home!

  13. Hi Michael, thank you for posting a nasi goreng recipe from scratch! I always use the shortcut of using the ready to use bumbu since I never learned how to make it from scratch. So I'll have to try this sometimes soon. We love our nasi goreng at our house :)

  14. Great post Michael...I would love to try this fried rice sounds fantastic and different from the versions I have tried :)

  15. I've tried to sate padang blum before, but if you d see from your article seems to sate the good