There comes a time in everyone's life when the clock strikes 4:30pm and you need supper on the table in 30 minutes or less. This can be a problem. The temptation is to just grab toast and peanut butter or order in pizza. Or under dire circumstances one might stir up some Kraft Dinner. However, wouldn't you prefer something healthy, delicious, inexpensive and full of homemade, exotic goodness?
I thought so. :-)
Enter Nasi Goreng.
(which sounds remarkably like a theatre cue for a Russian Actor, but I digress...)
Nasi Goreng actually just means "Fried Rice" which doesn't sound too exotic at all. But that is the glory of this dish! You can dress this up or tone it down according to the whims and tastes of your family.
This is an international superstar of a meal. Talk about world traveller! It is the Indonesian National Food, and it is found in Singapore and China and India too! The Dutch will claim it as one of their traditional foods because of their footprint in Indonesia. And they have seasoned it in the vein of all things Netherlands. Indonesia and Malaysia have their own take on the meal, sometimes eating it for breakfast, lunch and supper! It can be spicy or mild, simple or elaborately garnished. We do a happy mix of both. It can also be meaty and hearty, or vegetarian and hearty! It can be laden with veggies. It can be main course or side dish. What's not to love about Nasi Goreng?! :-)
My take on Nasi Goreng comes from my favourite cookbook of all time. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison is by far the most helpful, beautiful, inspiring, encouraging cookbook I've ever owned. And no, you can't borrow it :-) Actually, you could borrow it, but like me, you'll just want to buy it. I first fell in love with it in Barnes and Nobles on 4th Street in Santa Rosa, CA. Man, I poured over that book (with a Decaf Grande Soy No-Whip Mocha in hand...my first Starbucks experience as well. Those were good times!). I copied out so.many.recipes from the book, Nasi Goreng included, because I couldn't afford the $40 price tag. When we returned home to Canada, and to a steady income, I found it again at Chapters and happily paid the slightly-higher Canadian price. Worth every penny!
The trick to this dish is to have cooked and cooled rice on hand. I have made it with fresh, hot rice and it works too, but the texture is better if you use "yesterday's rice". Why not cook up a double portion of rice the next time you make some and freeze it for just such a day when you need supper RIGHT NOW? You won't regret it!
The real heart of Nasi Goreng, in my mind, is the sauce. The basic premise of how I do Nasi Goreng follows, but you need to know it is widely and frequently subject to variation.
What you need:
Cooked rice (as much as you like. Clearly more if it is a main course meal. Maybe a cup per person is a good place to start.)
Veggies (whatever you have on hand. eg. diced carrots, celery, peas, green beans, snow peas, zucchini, brocolli, cauliflower...I've even used a bag of frozen mixed veggies and it works just as well! Use just one vegetable or a combination. Whatever suits your fancy.)
Diced extra-firm Tofu, ground beef, or diced cooked chicken (or cheat and buy one of those rotisserie chickens at your local grocery store and use the shredded meat).
For the Sauce:
(via the cookbook)
1 small white onion
2 serrano chiles, diced
3-4 tbsp roasted peanut oil
2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ketchup or tomato sauce
Work all of that into a paste using a food processor or mortar and pestle.
(or, my cheater, easy version)
1/2 cup soy sauce
spoonful of brown sugar
decent squirt of ketchup
as much Sambal Oelek as you can stand! (this is the spicy bit. It is usually found in small jars in the International section of grocery stores. You could also use a good Thai chile paste)
Stir all together. Easy peasy.
How to Do It:
Heat oil in a large frying pan. If you feel like being fancy, toss in some chopped onions and garlic. Otherwise saute the tofu until golden, or ground beef until cooked through. Add the cooked rice and veggies. Stir occassionally until rice begins to brown. (or not if you need supper in a hurry!) Pour sauce over and stir well to coat. Then just keep cooking on medium heat, stirring occassionally, until the sauce is beginning to carmelize, your veggies are softening but still a little crispy (or to your preference), and your family is hovering in the kitchen, desperately trying to sneak a spoonful of the stuff.
Voila. C'est tout! To garnish, (if you are feeling lush) sprinkle with diagonally sliced green onions, or pea shoots, or peanuts, or finely shredded cabbage, or waterchestnuts.... so.unbelievably.good. Your belly, and your budget, will thank you. Let me know if you make it, and how much you loved it.