Sunday, July 7, 2013

Recipe of the month: Vegetarian Nasi Goreng

I haven't cooked anything blog-worthy in about a month. A recent influx of guests, a family holiday, a deluge of pending chores at home, a poster presentation at a local conference and a backlog of work at the office has contributed to my lack of motivation in the kitchen. I was solely relying on previously drafted recipe posts to keep my blog afloat but now I'm on top of things again so I decided to get back to doing what I love to do! 

While holidaying in Bali recently, I signed up for a traditional Balinese cooking class at the eco-resort that we were staying. I've always been intrigued by the Southeast Asian style of stir-fried rice and noodles because I am miserable at making it so I informed the instructor that I would like to learn how to make vegetarian Nasi Goreng (which literally means "fried rice" in Indonesian). 

Nasi Goreng can refer simply to fried pre-cooked rice, a meal including stir-fried rice in small amount of cooking oil or margarine, typically spiced with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), shallot, garlic, tamarind and chili and accompanied with other ingredients, such as egg or meat.

For the cooking class, I had my sister-in-law for company so in the evening, we left our room for the kitchen. The first thing that struck us was the vast array of fresh and colorful vegetables and ingredients that were arranged neatly on the table. There were several ingredients to the Nasi Goreng but the procedure was fairly simple. We were taught to use leftover cooked red rice for the dish which I was happy about since I don't normally eat red rice. I loved using a mortar and pestle to pound the chilies and garlic instead of using an electrical appliance. I think that makes any dish taste better! I grossly under use my mortar and pestle in my own kitchen, bringing it out occasionally to crush things like Indian spices and nuts. Anyway, coming back to our culinary adventure, the finished dish was a colorful and flavorful vegetarian fried rice, garnished with fried shallots and cashew nuts and served with rice crackers and a side salad. As we were to serve this dish to my mother-in-law (who doesn't eat egg) for dinner, we took away the fried egg before serving. Fortunately for us, she really enjoyed it! Feeling significantly less intimidated by making fried rice, I made up my mind to try it out in my own kitchen when I got back to Singapore 😊

This is the picture of the Nasi Goreng that we made in Bali. What do you think? Does my home-made  attempt look similar?

Here is the adapted recipe for the Nasi Goreng. This recipe is from Mini, a lovely local woman and chef at Bali Eco Stay, the resort where I learned to make it. I have slightly modified her recipe in that I've changed the type of oil to peanut oil (she used coconut oil), reduced the amount of oil used,  increased the amount of spice, slightly reduced the amount of sweetness, used a touch more seasoning of salt than what was originally suggested and incorporated the spring onion into the garnish. I wanted to make this dish as healthy as possible so I used brown rice and I skipped the fried garnishes. If you like it any different, you can always make the required tweaks. There is no right or wrong! 

This is a healthy, hearty, vibrant, vegetarian, vegan-friendly and gluten-free dish. I won't lie to you, it requires a considerable amount of time and patience to make but it is well worth the effort. I think if you are new to the Southeast Asian style of cooking and cuisine, then the ubiquitous Nasi Goreng would be a great start!

Vegetarian Nasi Goreng

Preparation time: 1 hour
Recipe level: Easy
Serves: 4-5
Recipe source: Mini from Bali Eco Stay


2 cups raw rice (you can use either white, brown or red rice)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
12 french beans, finely chopped
4 bunches bok choy, roughly quartered
1/2 head of cabbage, finely shredded
4-5 shallots, chopped
2 garlic pods, grated or minced
1 large fresh red chilli, minced 
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp sweet dark soy sauce (kecap manis) or you could use regular dark soy sauce with 2 tsp palm sugar  or jaggery (refer notes)
~ 2 tsp salt (or adjust according to taste)
4 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil

For the ground paste: (preferably use a mortar and pestle)
1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced
1 tsp coriander seeds
4 garlic pods, grated or minced
5 large fresh red chillies, minced
2 candlenuts, minced (I used 4 almonds instead, refer notes)

For garnish:
1 bunch spring onion greens, chopped, Optional
Fried cashew nuts and/or fried shallots, Optional

Serving suggestions:
Fried eggs (preferably sunny side up)*
Rice crackers
Sliced cucumbers (I used Japanese cucumbers)

*Skipping the egg from the presentation makes this dish vegan-friendly 


1. Soak the rice for half an hour (I used Thai Hom Mali brown rice in this recipe). Follow the packaging instructions to cook the rice. Let it cool completely. It is very important that the rice is completely cool. 

The best option would be to use leftover rice.

2. Meanwhile, keep all the ingredients ready for the Nasi Goreng.

3. Start washing, cutting and prepping all the ingredients. Prepare the ground paste with the ingredients mentioned in the list.

4. In a large wok, heat the oil on medium to high heat. Fry the shallots, garlic, fresh red chilies and celery.

5. Add in the ground paste and fry for a few mins until the raw smell disappears.

6. Add in the carrots, beans, cabbage and bok choy (in that order) and fry on high heat until the vegetables are just tender.

7. Add the cooked rice, salt, black pepper and sweet soy sauce. Mix well until all the ingredients are well incorporated and the rice is hot.

8. Garnish with spring onion greens, fried cashews, fried shallots and serve with fried egg, rice crackers and sliced cucumbers.

I have submitted this post to the following event  

  • If you don't have bok choy, you can substitute it with spinach/baby spinach
  • If you can't find candlenuts, you can substitute one candlenut with one macadamia nut or 2 almonds
  • Don't overcook the veggies. Let them be crisp yet tender
  • Keep in mind that the rice has to be cool/cold before you add it in with the rest of the ingredients. Leftover rice would be ideal. If you don't have leftover rice, I would recommend making the rice for this dish the previous day
  • Depending on how sweet you like this dish, you could use sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) alone OR a combination of dark soy sauce and palm sugar. If you like it more on the sweeter side, you could use both sweet soy sauce AND palm sugar. The kecap manis should be available in any Asian specialty grocery store & for those living in Singapore, you can get it at NTUC Fairprice. 
  • If you don't want to invest too much time towards prepping, throw all the ingredients for the ground paste in a blender and use a chopper to mince the celery, shallots and fresh red chilies for frying.



  1. Wow Meghs! It looks exactly like the one you cooked in Bali. The pictures of the intermediate steps are really helpful.

    BTW, is there a special name of the brown rice you used (it also is sprinkled with some red grains)?

  2. Thanks :) It is Thai Hom Mali Brown Rice. It is fragrant and has great texture.

  3. Looks every bit authentic and am sure as flavorful as the one made in Bali :D Your style for recipe blogs are consistently detailed, encouraging and with beautiful pics. Makes a novice feel like they can jump in and cook something totally new :)

    btw i see you finally use the big chopping board to fit all the colorful ingredients ;)

  4. Thanks Rinks. It tasted almost exactly the same so I was happy :) Yeah brought out the big one because this recipe has so many ingredients!


    Just cooked on New Years Eve.

    One small cheat on the paste is to use the tomato coriander seed and garlic with three heaped teaspoons of Sambal Oelek as a substitute for the rest.

    Happy New Year !!!

  6. Hi Megha, great recipe. Tried a couple of timkes. Don't you think adding some tamarind juice might add to the taste? I have sent you a separate e-mail to if you could please respond. Cheers, Shashi


What do you think of this post? You can leave a message to let me know. Thanks!

Please note that I reserve the right to delete any comments that I deem inappropriate, offensive, spam or self-advertising. I appreciate your understanding in this matter.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...