In our review of nasi goreng for Today’s Lunch, we called it a “kitchen sink” type of dish – made with whatever the cook happens to have around.  We did a little research on nasi goreng and found an article in The Jakarta Globe that explained more about this most fungible of foods.

“In many ways, nasi goreng is Indonesia. It is the unofficial national dish, but it is much more than a simple plate of fried rice. Nasi goreng is always changing, filled with different ingredients and flavors, much like the country itself.  At its most basic, nasi goreng, which has Chinese roots, is steamed rice mixed with a dash of soy sauce and chili, cooked with oil in a frying pan.

Simple to prepare, nasi goreng’s popularity stretches all the way back to the colonial era when a Dutch singer, Witeeke Van Dort, wrote what may have been the first song dedicated to extolling the virtues of the dish.

“Geef Mij Maar Nasi Goreng,” which translates as “Just Give Me Nasi Goreng,” has since become a popular part of nasi goreng lore.  With lyrics like “Just give me nasi goreng with fried eggs … with chili, crackers and a glass of beer to go along with,” the song captured the love affair with the dish that continues to this day.

Street food vendors — whose cheap but filling nasi goreng has played a big part in establishing the dish as the people’s food — are responsible for many of the dish’s variations.  Grilled fish, mounds of crackers and a variety of vegetables are normally added.  It seems that when it comes to nasi goreng, anything is possible.

One of the most popular versions is nasi goreng kambing, which can be found at the Nasi Goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih stall along Jalan Kebon Sirih Raya.  The founder, Haji Nein, started the business in 1958.  Every night, especially on weekends, the stall is filled with nasi goreng lovers of all ages.  Compared to the usual nasi goreng, this version has a rich taste of herbs, giving it a Middle Eastern flavor – and the fried rice comes with big, juicy chunks of goat meat.” [The Jakarta Globe]

For a description of some of the other popular variations of nasi goreng, click the link above.  Below is the nasi goreng we had for lunch today, with a fried egg on top.