Nasi goreng translates as ‘fried rice’ in the Indonesian language. Those not familiar with the Dutch kitchen may be surprised to learn that it is an immensely popular dish in Holland.
Its popularity is a direct result of the Netherlands’ colonial past. The Netherlands once had a vast empire of colonies and settlements in Africa, Asia, North America and the Caribbean. And because of the Dutch love for aromatics such as cinnamon, mace, ginger and nutmeg, East India, with its wealth of spices, was considered the jewel in Holland’s colonial crown. Over the years, the influence of the Indonesian kitchen has grown and it has become part and parcel of Dutch food culture. Nowadays the Dutch consider Indonesian food to be near-native.
Nasi goreng is one of the most widely integrated Indonesian dishes in the Netherlands. Almost every Dutch family has its own version, and ready-made microwaveable versions are available from every Dutch supermarket for the cooking averse. In fact, nasi goreng is so popular in the Netherlands that it is widely known as simply ‘nasi’. The dish is traditionally made with leftovers such as day-old rice (freshly cooked rice inevitably creates a claggy mess), as well as odds and ends of vegetables, and sometimes bits of pork (such as bacon or ham) and fresh eggs. Vegetarian versions are made with tempeh or tofu. It is always enjoyed as a main meal, one of the main differences from other types of fried rice, which are usually served as a side dish. In the Netherlands, nasi goreng is usually served with a runny fried egg, various pickles such as gherkins and pearl onions, sweet and sour cucumber salad, ketjap manis (sweetened soy sauce) and sambal (chili paste).
Particular to the Netherlands is a snack known as the nasischijf, a disk of compacted and breaded nasi goreng, which is deep fried and then consumed blisteringly hot and crisp. The nasischijf is based on that other perennial Dutch favorite, the kroket. It’s widely available at fast food outlets known as snackbars and in the frozen section of most supermarkets in the Netherlands. It is particularly popular with students and the late-night crowd.