When it comes to rice dishes, fried rice is one of my favorites. Delicious with every kind of meat from shrimp to duck, and just about a meal in itself depending on the size of your serving, fried rice is one of the best Asian dishes out there. But have you tried the Indonesian variant of fried rice, Nasi Goreng? It's “one of the world’s great comfort foods,” according to renowned English chef Rick Stein. High praise, indeed.
But the thing that sets this dish apart from just any fried rice is the sheer amount of variety that Nasi Goreng affords the adventurous chef who makes it. By virtue of Indonesia’s culture of market-stall shopping, where you can pick up all the fresh ingredients you need, their version of fried rice can be prepared with every kind of meat – chicken, corned beef, mutton, even sausages – as well as a whole host of vegetables.
Including the humble brussels sprout. This small adjustment of the classic dish prepares that key ingredient in two ways: some of the sprouts will be sautéed and then mixed in with the rice, while the remaining amount is going to be served at the end as a garnish for extra crunch.
You’re going to need to do a bit of grocery shopping beforehand, though, as there are a lot of small components that go into this dish. But you can expect to feed four adults once you’ve finished cooking, so it's more than worth it.
- 2 tablespoons of kecap manis (a thick Indonesian soy sauce, this is a key element of Nasi Goreng, but if you can’t find it anywhere there is a way to make it yourself, as seen below in step #2)
1 ¾ cups of white jasmine rice
1 ¾ lbs. of brussels sprouts
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
3 red or green chili peppers
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
¾ tablespoon of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (whatever you prefer)
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
And there we are – quite the list of ingredients! At least with so many different things going into this dish, you can be guaranteed plenty of flavor.
Making the rice and preparing the vegetables
Fill a medium-sized pot with water and bring to boil; pour in your white jasmine rice. Cover the top of the pot and reduce to a low heat, leaving the rice to cook for a quarter-hour while you prepare the brussels sprouts. You’re going to want to remove the bottoms of the sprouts, as well as any overly hard or wilted leaves (the stuff you wouldn’t want to eat, basically).
Take a very sharp knife and slice the sprouts as thinly as you can; then dice up the red onion, crush your cloves of garlic, and then finely chop the green chili peppers. Now coat your vegetable oil over a large wok, on medium heat; cook the onion for a few minutes until it softens, making sure you stir often.
Then add your crushed garlic and only two thirds of the chopped chilies (you’ll use the rest soon), and mix this all together for about two minutes until the smell is very strong and aromatic.
How to make kecap manis
This sweet, syrupy Indonesian soy sauce is a must for making Nasi Goreng, but if you can't find it at your local store, try this homemade substitute. Put 3 tablespoons of agave nectar and 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce in a bowl and mix this together – but if you’re really having a hard time finding ingredients, you can just use sugar instead of agave nectar. But make sure you taste it first, as you don't want to end up with an overly sweet soy sauce mixture.
Cooking the brussels sprouts
From the shredded brussels sprouts you prepared earlier, take 2 large handfuls and put them aside in a mixing bowl; put the remaining brussels sprouts in the wok and, while stirring every two minutes, cook for about eight minutes total until they begin to turn brown.
Mix in the tomato paste, the kecap manis mixture, the kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of your white wine or apple cider vinegar. For five minutes, cook all of this while stirring often to blend everything together; then remove the wok from heat.
Now add the following to the raw brussels sprouts: 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of sugar, the other third of your chopped chilies, and the remaining tablespoons of soy sauce and white wine / apple cider vinegar.
Toss the brussels sprouts well until they are completely coated. Taste and decide whether you would like an extra splash of vinegar to give the mixture a little more kick.
Making fried rice
Finally, place the wok on medium heat again and add your now-steamed jasmine rice; mix this all together by gently stirring it, until the rice is completely blended into the other ingredients. It should take about five minutes for everything to be properly cooked.
Taste a small amount and judge whether the Nasi Gerong needs more salt or soy sauce. Once satisfied, dish up on four plates and then scatter the raw, tossed sprouts over the top – and dig in!
For an extra topping, why not consider shredded cucumber or diced tomato? The mild acidity of the tomato complements the warmth of the chopped chilies, or sprinkle some scallions on there as well. The joy of Nasi Gerong is its versatility so be sure to mix and match when making this again!