In 2018, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism declared fried rice – better known as nasi goreng – as one of the five national dishes alongside the likes of gado-gado (assorted vegetables coated in peanut sauce) and soto (traditional soup composed of an assortment of meat and vegetables).
What’s interesting about these choices is that they share a similar trait, which is their malleability. Although there’s a universal definition or understanding of each dish, their serving or presentation may differ from each Indonesian region to the next; gado-gado, for instance, may transform into lotek, karedok or pecel in other regions, all of which essentially employ the similar principle in composition but perhaps contain slightly different ingredients.
What Is Nasi Goreng?
The same also applies to nasi goreng. Although not native to Indonesia – the origin of nasi goreng is often said to hearken back to China and the world-famous Chinese fried rice – the dish has become so iconic and singularly Indonesian thanks to its distinctly aromatic, earthy and smoky taste profile and most importantly, its versatility.
At present, there are roughly around 60 variations of the dish known across the archipelago, ranging from all-veggies to meat-heavy. Furthermore, there is no single defined recipe for it, as every fried rice dish with certain mixtures, additions, ingredients, and toppings could lead to another version.