Vegan Nasi Goreng, Southeast Asia's Best Known Comfort Food

Vegan Nasi Goreng, Southeast Asia's Best Known Comfort Food

Experience A Symphony Of Flavours With This Vegan Nasi Goreng Recipe, One Of Southeast Asia’s Best Known Comfort Food

Ask any Malaysian or Indonesian during your trip to Bali for a recommendation on comforting delights, and you’ll almost always hear of “nasi goreng”, sometimes referred to as fried rice.

Nasi goreng is a simple yet absolutely delicious dish that is a not-so-hidden gem when it comes to Southeast Asian cuisine. Simply because it features a depth of complex flavours which are just incredible. You may think it’s difficult to make just by looking at the dish when it’s served, but it’s actually pretty simple!

Nasi goreng typically features non-vegan and non-vegetarian ingredients like eggs and meat. Since great things are meant to be shared, our Cosmic Cookware friend, Chloe E Wheatland created this delicious Vegan Nasi Goreng recipe for you to easily whip up at home for your vegan loved ones and even yourself as a healthy dinner recipe!

This vegan nasi goreng recipe is also perfect for your weekly meal prep as it contains a mix of healthy veggies, high protein content with tofu, and just the right amount of carbs to keep you going for the day!

If this is the first you’re hearing of nasi goreng, you’ll be surprised at how this humble dish has a history as wholesome as how it will make you feel.

What Exactly Is Nasi Goreng And Is Nasi Goreng The Same As Fried Rice?

For starters, nasi goreng and fried rice are one and the same. Nasi goreng is simply the Indonesian or Malay word for fried rice.

This humble dish has its origins in Southeast Asia, with some saying it’s an Indonesian dish that originated from Indonesia, and some saying it began in Malaysia. 

There’s also another point in history that says it was inspired by the Chinese culture’s view on food wastage being a sin, along with their preference towards hot food. All of which led people from bygone days to cook last night’s rice for breakfast or lunch the next day, simply because it was before the refrigerator was invented, and that heat eliminates bacteria.

Despite all three views, two things are certain about nasi goreng. One, it originated out of a need to prevent food from going to waste. And two, it’s comfortingly delicious.

Chef making fried rice in a commercial kitchen. Photo by Anna Tarazevich.

Is There A Difference Between Indonesian Fried Rice (Nasi Goreng) And Chinese Fried Rice?

You would have likely enjoyed a Chinese fried from your neighbourhood Asian restaurant at some point in your life - kudos if it’s your favourite dish! 

Chinese fried rice and Indonesian fried rice are both fried rice and they share many similarities. For instance, both have “wok hei”, which is a charred, smokey depth of flavour that is imparted when cooking nasi goreng in a wok on high heat, both feature a fried egg and a medley of chopped vegetables mixed into it.

Both are also cooked with leftover rice taken from the fridge overnight, which could either be jasmine rice, brown rice, basmati rice, and more recently, cauliflower rice. That said, you can also cook it with fresh rice. Just make sure to spread out fresh rice over a wide baking tray and allow it to dry before cooking it so you won’t end up with a mushy mess!

Chinese fried rice dish which often comes with prawns, snap peas, and spring onions. Photo by Mae Mu.

But there lies one fundamental difference between Indonesian fried rice and Chinese fried rice. Chinese fried rice typically features soy sauce as its prominent flavour, while Indonesian fried rice boasts a distinctive taste because of its star ingredient. Kecap manis. A sweet soy sauce that adds a delightful layer of unique Indonesian flair.

Having enjoyed both regularly, I’d say that Chinese fried rice bears a gentler flavour profile compared to Indonesian fried rice, which often features a burst of flavours thanks to its complex blend of aromatics and kecap manis.

Pouring out soy sauce into a saucer. Photo by GoodEats YQR.

Does Nasi Goreng Contain Soy Sauce, And Is It Vegan?

Remember how kecap manis is the star ingredient for nasi goreng? Kecap manis is made from a combination of soy sauce and molasses, which gives it a consistency like maple syrup with a burst of umami thanks to its sweet and savoury taste.

This makes kecap manis suitable for vegans thanks to its plant-based nature, but I’d still advise checking the ingredients label carefully before you get a bottle from your local grocer or Asian shop as some do come with added ingredients which may not be vegan.

So yes, nasi goreng does contain soy sauce, which is naturally vegan. That said, do remember to check the label to make sure the bottle you’re eyeing is vegan-friendly!

Even so, this recipe shows you a way to make your own kecap manis which is perfect if you can’t find it around your neighbourhood! All you have to do is combine 3 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce with 1 and a half tablespoons of rice malt syrup to replicate the taste and texture of kecap manis.

Vegan nasi goreng in the Cosmo Wok.

You Mentioned That Nasi Goreng Contains Egg, So How Is This Recipe Vegan?

Eggs are a staple in traditional nasi goreng recipes, but this vegan nasi goreng introduces a protein-packed twist in the form of scrambled tofu “eggs”. Also known as “vegan fried egg”.

Here, we add in pressed, drained, and crumbled firm tofu which is seasoned beautifully to taste and feel just like the traditional fried egg in nasi goreng. The combination of soy milk, nutritional yeast, turmeric, and smoked paprika not only mirrors the texture of eggs in nasi goreng, but it also enhances the dish’s nutritional value. Talk about a delicious healthy vegan version that's gluten-free too!


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