Malaysian Food Favourites – Fried Rice [MFF1]

September 6, 2010 at 12:29 am

A few years ago, when the Stebbins family were staying in Penang, Eric and his wife Maggie wanted their children to try as much of Penang food as possible. He didn’t want his family to end up going to McDonalds’ by default just because they weren’t familiar with the ingredients used in local dishes. So, I had dinner with Eric’s family quite often, taking them out to the hawker centres and kopitiam, and many times, Eric’s children asked for fried rice, sometimes even when there was none!

Fried rice, or Nasi Goreng in Malay, is one of Malaysia’s favourite staples, right up there with Chicken Rice, Nasi Lemak and Roti Canai. You can find it anywhere and everywhere, from roadside stalls and kopitiams to restaurants and high-end buffets at international hotels. It is so very simple to prepare – just rice and whatever you happen to have at hand. Many families like to prepare fried rice with fresh or dried shrimp and/or meat, namely, pork or chicken as these add protein to the dish. You can also use sausages or processed crab sticks. Eggs are optional, as are vegetables, which could be bean sprouts, cabbage, mixed vegetables of peas, carrot and corn) and shallots.

Fried Rice

Fried Rice

To get good fried rice, the rice grains should be loose and firm; they shouldn’t be either lumpy or mushy due to excess water when cooking. In fact, most Chinese families prepare fried rice using leftover rice from the day before, as the rice would be a little drier. The rice and whatever ingredients are fried together with some oil, chopped garlic and onions, a little dark and light soya sauce for the nice appetising caramel-brown colour and some salt. Just add some pepper when it’s done, and everything smells and tastes so good.

Fried rice tastes different from stall to stall. Not only that, the Malays and the Chinese have their different varieties of fried rice. The Chinese have their regular fried rice, prepared as mentioned above, while the Malays sometimes add some spices and chilli or pre-mixed seasoning (available at supermarkets), so in the Malay version, the rice is good to eat, even on its own. Fried rice is so versatile that when prepared with sesame seed oil, ginger, pork and eggs, it becomes a regular on the menu for Chinese women who have just given birth. (Cultural note: Chinese and Asian women have very strict practices regarding post-natal food and care).

Apart from regular fried rice, some popular Chinese varieties include the salted fish fried rice and pork chop fried rice. Traditional Malay fried rice is Nasi Goreng Kampung (literally, Village Fried Rice), which is slightly spicy, and if served with fried chicken on the side, becomes Nasi Goreng Ayam. Then there is the very unique Nasi Goreng Pattaya, which serves the fried rice wrapped in a layer of fried egg, omelette-style. I know, this stretches the imagination a bit, so it’s one of those “You’ll have to see it to believe it” kind of thing.

A stylish menu of fried rice

A stylish menu of fried rice

As Penang is very close to Thailand and also the fact that many people in Penang have Thai ancestors (Baba-Nyonya culture), we also have very good Thai-style fried rice, namely pineapple fried rice (yes, fried with pineapples which give the dish a slight aromatic sweetness), tomyam fried rice (spicy, because chilli and spices from the soup are used; this dish may have a tangy taste) and the belacan fried rice, or shrimp paste fried rice.

In the authentic Belacan Fried Rice, the rice is fried with shrimp paste and served with several sides – fried anchovies, thinly sliced omelette, fresh mango, onions and cucumber, as well as sambal, a chili dip. Some stalls’ version of Belacan Fried Rice is to fry in the chilli dip, so this dish is spicy. Personally, when it comes to the Belacan Fried Rice, I prefer the former.

I recently had fried rice at the Hong Kong Food and Tea Restaurant at Gurney Plaza, and I thought it was excellent, partly because good fried rice should be well fried and warm as we eat. The Fried Rice with Chicken and XO Sauce was a generous serving of mildly spicy fried rice with diced carrots, corn and egg, came hot and stayed warm the whole 15 minutes I took to finish it. It had quite a lot of chicken meat and it tasted extra good because of the bits of dried shrimp which added a crispy and slightly salty bite.

Fried Rice is so popular amongst locals and foreigners alike that even supermarkets want a piece of the action. The Tesco near my home packs its fried rice with egg, corn, peas, carrots and bits of chicken or sausage in the disposable containers that makes it really convenient for customers to grab a quick lunch. They have the Nasi Goreng Kampung or the Black Pepper Fried Rice. I’ve eaten both, and I like them. Not exactly gourmet stuff, but hey, what can I say – it’s fried rice!

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One Response

  1. Lachlan Neeley says:

    Excellent article, going to try cooking some Nasi Goreng myself.

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