Nasi goreng is a Chinese-influenced dish that has become one of Indonesia’s most renowned culinary offerings. It varies from island to island, but the principal remains the same: wok-fried rice with seasonings, sauces and simple ingredients. In Bali, nasi goreng became the gastronomic new kid on the block in the 1960s and 70s, which was also when Chinese-influenced sauces such as kecap manis became common in Bali. It was the symbol of modernity, rather like the KFC of today. A friend from Denpasar recalled how, when he was a little boy, nasi goreng was a treat, rather like ice cream to a sick child in the West. If you had to go to the doctor and get an injection (which was common then when you were sick), the promise would be nasi goreng from a seller afterwards to lift your spirits.

In Bali, nasi goreng is usually red because of the addition of saos tomat ­– Indonesian tomato sauce with a rather unique flavour.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
200 g chicken thigh fillet, cut into 1 cm pieces
3 red shallots, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¹⁄³ leek, finely chopped
2 long red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
3 teaspoons kecap manis
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon saos tomat (Indonesian tomato sauce),
or 1 teaspoon tomato paste mixed with ½ teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
2 cups chopped choy sum or bok choy
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
2 cups steamed rice (page 74)
2 tablespoons fried shallots
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra fried shallots or chopped spring onion, to garnish

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the chicken and toss for about 2 minutes, or until sealed. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken to a plate, leaving some oil in the wok.
Add a little extra oil to the wok if necessary and return to the heat. Add the shallots and garlic and toss for 20 seconds. Throw in the leek and chilli and toss for another 30 seconds. Add the sauces and sesame oil (if using), then the vegetables and toss for a minute. Add the rice and fried shallots and mix thoroughly until heated through. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Served garnished with more fried shallots or with chopped spring onion.

Serves 2–3

Recipe was taken from Bali, The Food of My Island Home by Janet DeNeefe

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