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:
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.