Nasi Goreng - with adaptations

At our house, we refer to this dish as "Victoire"  because it was the great favourite of my husband, Victor.  It has been tweaked over the years to suit his taste.

“A clean sink is a dry sink,” intoned the minuscule Miss Westling, stalwart and dedicated teacher of Home Economics back in the day and the place from whence I sprang. There was a classroom for theory and a ”cooking lab” for practice – with eight mini kitchen areas neatly arranged, egg-carton fashion. Women of an age will remember, but I feel it time to lift the veil after all these years and let men peep the secrets to which, by virtue of their gender, they have previously not been privy.  

It was a world of rules. Recipes were neatly copied onto recipe cards, presumably to form the solid foundation of our future carefully curated collection. Cost and nutrition were considered. Measurements were precise.  Housewifery was not to be taken lightly in those days. No sirree! 

One of the cardinal rules was that the dinner plate was divided into three roughly equal parts. The pride of plate was the protein.  Then there was the veg.  And, at last, the ballast, the starch. This holy triumvirate was reassuring.  It was something you could depend upon. Like sunrise, church bells and primogeniture. 

But somewhere along the line, someone gave their head a shake and asked, “Why?” And there is no turning back from that moment.  It’s a rumbling, a social earthquake. Casseroles were the Trojan Horse, kick-starting chaos. And then adventurous young folks, heeding the siren song of travel and venturing to parts hitherto dreamed of only by boys furtively clutching National Geographic’s under the covers, went forth and subsequently returned to shake, rattle and roll the rules of Home Economics classes across the land. 

Before we knew it, with the help of newly invented television cooking shows and a bit of determination, we were concocting stir fries and curries  with panache, and even modifying them with confidence to suit the ingredients on hand and the preferences of our astonished families. It seemed to be a whole new world!

It turns out, of course,  that we had not, in fact, thrown the baby out with the bath water after all.  The skills acquired back in Home Economics were still useful. The old rules, bent and battered, still apply. A great curry is a combination of, you guessed it, protein, veg and starch. Add a good bit of curry paste, readily available at the store, toast some pine nuts, and voila!  The old rules still apply.  You’ve just shaken them up a bit! And a clean sink is still a dry sink. 

A variation on Nasi Goreng:

I generally double this recipe, since it is a bit of a lot to do and it’s great for leftovers or the freezer. 


2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp sesame oil, if you have some. And you should. It really adds an exotic note. 

2 onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp or more turmeric

2 tsp cumin

Curry paste, mild, medium, or hot - to your taste. 

2 cups of meat, diced ham, chicken, sausage, or really whatever you like or have left over. 

4 cups cooked rice

4 tsp sambal oelek or any hot sauce you have on hand. 

4 tsp soy sauce

4 tsp ketjap manis – don’t buy this special, but nice if you have it

A few cups or more of mixed vegetables – carrots, cabbage, shredded, bean sprouts. I like Belgian endive, fennel and red peppers, but that’s just me. The main thing is that you have a cup or more of sliced or chopped veg. 

2 tbsp fresh cilantro if you have it and like it, chopped

4 spring onions if you have them, sliced

2-4 eggs

1/2 cup nuts. Peanuts are traditional. Any nuts will do. Cashews are nice. Pine nuts, toasted are expensive but exotic, and always give the impression that you know what you’re doing. 

The juice of half a lime, if you have it, or lemon if you don’t. 

A good glop of curry paste adds some heat and complexity. 

Shrimp (optional but a lovely touch)

Instructions – note that you cook the meat, veg and starch separately and assemble at the end. 

The rice part: Start your rice so it is cooking while you make the rest. 

The meat part:

Heat both oils in a large frying pan and cook chopped onion over medium heat for 5 minutes, add garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute longer.

Add ground ginger, turmeric and cumin and cook stirring for 1 minute until you start smelling the spices.

Add that curry paste from a jar. To taste. I like a lot. 

Add your meat  and cook for 5 minutes until done. Set aside in a separate bowl. You don’t need to rinse your frying pan. 

The vegetable part:

Stir fry  your vegetables for 2-3 minutes. Don’t overdo it. Some crunch is pleasant.  Set aside in a separate bowl. 

Assembly and garnish:

Quick fry your shrimp, if using. They are really a garnish so set aside when just turning pink. 

Fry eggs for a topping. You can whisk your eggs, cook them like an omelette, slice in strips and use them as a topping, or alternatively, you can plop a fried egg on top of each plate when serving. 

So now you have a bowl of spicy meat, a bowl of rice and a bowl of vegetables. All that’s left is the assembly, reheat and garnish. At this point, you can tidy up and prep for the arrival of your guests if you have some. I love this dish for company because the assembly and reheat is a snap last minute. 

To finish Nasi Goreng off, mix your meat, rice and veg together and reheat. It doesn’t have to be really hot. At the last minute, squeeze the juice of ½ lime all over it, sprinkle with sliced spring onions, chopped cilantro, nuts and fried egg, those shrimp, or whatever you are using, and serve. 

Note: No wine is very good with this. Beer is great. Especially if you were just a bit adventurous with the spiciness. 

The leftovers part:

I always make extra because it freezes beautifully. Reheat. Fry an egg and dinner is ready!