I hesitated calling this recipe Indonesian, so I settled for Indonesian-ish. This glorified stir-fry has overtones of northern China with the cumin seeds, and India with the turmeric. But really it is just my more vegged-up version of the Indonesian national dish, Nasi Goreng, which means ‘fried rice’ in Indonesian.
A typical nasi goreng is a very simple breakfast dish of leftover rice, some kind of meat or seafood, chillies or a sambal sauce, sugar, garlic, often tamarind, and the all important fried egg (although even that gets it the name ‘special nasi goreng’). Some versions will have dried anchovies – nasi goreng ikan bilis. I have had numerous nasi goreng but never in Indonesia itself. This may be the closest I get so I’ve tried to make it as flavoursome, but still easy, as possible.
If you have the wherewithal and time you can tart it up further with fried shallots and garlic, shreds of cucumber, cabbage and tomato, as well as acar, the distinctive spicy and sour pickled vegetables that usually accompany restaurant-made nasi goreng. Krupuk, the light Indonesian version of prawn crackers is another accompaniment and are relatively easy to find at larger supermarkets.
I have also chucked in the rather inauthentic addition of lime leaves as well as kecap manis, a salty molassesey condiment popular in Indonesia. I really like contrasts of flavours in most dishes so I popped these in to balance out the hot and savoury of the nasi goreng base. Leave them out if you like. But if you trust me with these off-piste inclusions I hope you feel suitably rewarded. Let me know. If you don’t think you will use the kecap manis in other dishes, like babi kecap (delicious!), then save yourself some ingested preservatives and money by making your own – two ingredients: brown sugar and dark soy sauce.
Just a word of advice – which I’m sure you don’t need but I’ll put it out anyway – have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go, with the rice cooked and cold. Just 10 minutes prep and this recipe will be an absolute breeze. Chopping and hunting down the store cupboard ingredients as you go is a quick road to frustration with possible cursing. So clear a wee space on your counter, arrange your measured spices before you and whap out a chopping board. You may not think you are in Indonesia but I promise your tongue and tummy will think they are.
Miss R’s Track of the Week: ‘Funny For A Girl’ by Edinburgh group, Cancel the Astronauts (an upbeat Libertines, IMO) – cute, fun video
No claims for authenticity, but this Indonesia meets northern China meets India rice dish is delicious nonetheless. And very easy to make. If you like, change up the protein – tofu and cashews, pork, chicken, beef – and play with the spice levels. Perhaps leave out the chillies if serving to children, but have them chopped and raw to add as a garnish, as well as finishing with spiky Sriracha sauce. The only sacrosanct advice I have for this recipe is to use cold cooked rice – it really makes a difference – and to have the veg all chopped and ready to go. If you are making the kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), have that ready too, although it only takes a piddling five minutes to make.
2 tsp rapeseed oil, divided
Spring onions/scallions and chopped chillies, to garnish
In a large bowl mix together the meat/tofu with the cumin seeds/powder, turmeric and coriander.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a wok or large sauté pan and quickly cook the turkey or other meat/tofu until browned. Set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and, over a medium heat, stir-fry the onion, garlic, chillies and ginger until the onion is translucent and soft – about five minutes. Stir in the sugarsnap peas and cabbage and continue to stir-fry until the cabbage browns in places. Stir in the cooked rice and the turkey and mix well, continuing to stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
Mix together the kecap manis, the tamarind paste or lime juice, and the lime leaves/zest and add this to the stir-fry, mixing well but carefully. Let this cook into the stir-fry for another minute or two before dividing between four plates. Garnish with chillies and spring onions. Other garnish ideas would be a fried egg, fried shallots/garlic pieces and Indonesian crackers (krupuk).
Serves 4 generously
4 tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar/jaggery