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Nasi Goreng [Indonesian fried rice]

Tina Wasserman

I ate nasi goreng for the first time in Amsterdam when it was served as one of many dishes on a Rijsttafel or “rice table.” During their occupation of Indonesia, the Dutch adopted the Indonesian style of offering a variety of dishes on a table that resembles a Ferris wheel—many flavorful dishes were placed on four large horizontal trays connected to the center of the table; as you rotated the trays, you selected the dishes you wished to sample.

Here I have combined the basic concept of nasi goreng, which uses Indonesian spices, with flavors from the west coast of Africa near Elmina, where the Dutch obtained spices, palm oil, timber, and gold for export to Europe and the New World.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 cups of basmati or medium grain rice
3 1⁄2 cups chicken broth
1⁄4 cup oil
2 medium onions, cut into 1⁄2-inch dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chicken or leftover turkey, julienne
1⁄4 pound merguez (lamb sausage), Italian sausage, or smoked turkey, cubed
2 tablespoons Tsire (recipe follows)
4 tablespoons peanut butter
1⁄2 cup dry roasted or cocktail peanuts
10 whole spice cloves
2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
1⁄2 teaspoon whole allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1⁄2 teaspoon ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  1. Combine the rice and the broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Spread the cooked rice on a rimmed cookie sheet for 1 hour to cool and dry.
  3. Make the Tsire spice mix. Set aside.
  4. Place a wok or 4-quart pot over medium-high heat for 15 seconds. Add the oil and cook for another 15 seconds. Sauté the onion over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 5 minutes more until it’s lightly golden.
  5. Add the rice. Stirring constantly, cook for approximately 5 minutes, until the rice is lightly browned.
  6. Add the prepared Tsire, peanut butter, and meats. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the dish is heated through.

Tsire Peanut and Spice Mix:

  1. Heat a small pan for 15 seconds.
  2. Add the cloves, allspice, and cinnamon, stirring until the spices become fragrant.
  3. Remove from the heat and grind the spices to a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
  4. Add the remaining spices and the peanuts to a small processor workbowl, and pulse on and off about 20 times until the mixture is finely chopped. Alternatively, place the nuts and spices in a heavy plastic bag and pound them with a rolling pin until they’re well combined.
Tina's Tidbits: 

  • To make cubes of meat easily at home, ask the deli to slice fully cooked chicken or turkey into 1⁄2-inch pieces; then you can just cut the slices into cubes.
  • To preserve the flavor of dark-colored spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg—especially those you don’t use very often—store them in glass jars in your freezer. Spices remain fresh in a freezer for up to a year, but lose their flavor within weeks when left on a shelf. When you’re ready to cook, use the spice frozen—it defrosts immediately.