Saturday, May 27, 2006

Nasi goreng

The Asian fried rice tour of 2006 continues here at SevenSoy Central. A few nights ago, I turned my hand to Indonesian fried rice, or nasi goreng. Parenthetical note: I'm typing this post in MS Word before posting it on Blogger, and MS Word insists on automatically changing "goreng" to "goring." Me, I like to type words and have them stay the way I typed them. I guess it's a control thing.

Anyway, back to nasi goreng. Nasi goreng is the Indonesian method of using leftover rice to create a meal. It seems as though all Asian countries have their own versions of fried rice, i.e., a meal reusing previously-cooked rice. Thai fried rice has really captured my affection because the use of fish sauce adds a bracing quality to the dish. It ends up being very clean and simple, and puts the emphasis on the ingredients. On the other hand, if there's a Japanese version of fried rice, please enlighten me! I can't remember coming across such a recipe during my Japanese cooking excursions. The closest thing I can think of is salmon tea rice, which is not the same thing at all.

There's a recipe for nasi goreng here at Indochef, but I used a recipe from Ken Hom's Hot Wok. This presented the interesting proposition of an Indonesian dish being adapted by a Chinese-American chef for his book (UK edition), then being further adapted by a Swedish-Scottish-German-English-American who had some Indonesian ingredients on hand. Hom recommends hot bean paste to supply the spicy heat for this dish; Indochef goes for fresh chilis or sambal. The soy sauce component of the meal is Indonesia's ketjap manis, a thick sweet soy sauce; Hom substitutes a tablespoon of oyster sauce and two teaspoons of Chinese mushroom soy sauce. I just used one tablespoon plus two teaspoons of ketjap manis.

The meat for this version was a combination of chopped chicken thigh meat and shrimp; one thing I like about Hot Wok is its tendency to use chicken thigh meat in stir-fries, rather than breast meat. Breast meat is an obvious choice that I've opted for many times, but thigh meat adds more flavor to the dish. My default chicken stir-fry meat has changed from supermarket breast meat (well, ok, I am a Bell and Evans partisan) to chicken thigh meat fresh from the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market.

Enough backstory; the recipe is roughly as follows. In some peanut oil, stir-fry some chopped garlic and ginger, a chopped small onion, chopped shrimp, a tablespoon of shrimp paste, and salt and pepper to taste. After two minutes, add the chopped chicken and stir-fry for another two minutes. Add the rice and cook for three more minutes. Add the ketjap manis and a tablespoon of hot bean sauce and stir-fry for two more minutes. Finally, add two beaten eggs mixed with two teaspoons of sesame oil. Stir-fry for a minute, plate and garnish with scallions and fresh cilantro.

The consistency of this version of fried rice was thicker than Thai fried rice; you could almost shape it into patties by the time it was done. The hot bean paste got lost in the final dish; the chopped ginger was more successful at spreading some heat throughout the food. Since the shrimp was one of the first ingredients added to the pan, it was leaning toward being overcooked by the time the meal was ready for eating. As expected, it was even better as leftovers for lunch (and dinner) for the following day. I finally got to use some cilantro out of the garden, too, which was nice.

Speaking of the garden, I planted some Black-seeded Blue Lake green beans (courtesy of mom) about a week ago. They popped out of the dirt Thursday and since then have seemed intent on world domination.


Jason Truesdell said...

Japanese certainly have fried rice, called chaahan (or chahan, depending on who's romanizing it). I'm not sure it's much different than various Chinese versions, though, and everyone makes it differently.

Wikipedia has a photo in Japanese.
Wikipedia Chaahan
Another Japanese site here has photos of various variations. Many of them use "naruto", a kind of fish cake, and one distinctive feature of this person's technique is mixing the eggs with the rice before cooking rather than having a separate stage for adding the egg.

Winslow said...

Hi Jason,

Sorry I haven't replied to this sooner. Thanks for the tip about chaahan. I'll have to go look into it and make some. The naruto sounds like an interesting addition to a fried rice dish.

Thanks for stopping by!