Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng from The Lotus and the Artichoke MALAYSIA vegan cookbook

I couldn’t even tell you how many times I had Nasi Goreng while I was in Malaysia.

It was definitely often. Like, really often. Not only is this traditional vegetable fried rice dish usually totally delicious, it’s also usually easy to find and (with little to no effort) a great vegan option.

Pretty much everywhere I went in the five weeks in Malaysia, this dish was on the menu or easy to order at almost any restaurant. Especially out of the big cities and in the countryside – and particularly on the islands and beaches – this is a vegan/vegetarian stand-by that is never hard to find.

(By the way, based on my travels, this is true for most of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar… but the dish is found under other names and with local flavors.)

This becomes an almost daily meal, if vegan options are limited.

On Pulau Pangkor, there were two food places (more shacks than restaurants) that served fantastic Nasi Goreng and vegetable fried rice. And in Borneo, staying in the Permai rainforest, the local restaurant and the nearby food court had vegetable fried rice, or Nasi Goreng. There were also many breakfast or lunch buffets at hotels and restaurants that had rice dishes like this. Contrarily, when in Penang and Kuala Lumpur I was usually so blown away by other vegan choices that I didn’t eat Nasi Goreng as often.

Nasi Goreng’s flavors and textures forge powerful memories for anyone who’s been to Malaysia or Indonesia – or even just a Malaysian or Indonesian restaurant – whether vegan, vegetarian, or neither.

Just as with so many classic recipes – from region to region and family to family this dish is made a million different ways. This is mine… inspired by so many excellent meals on my adventures.

When I created this recipe for the Malaysia cookbook, I made sure to hit all the best, unique flavors in a good Nasi Goreng:

Fresh galangal root (or ginger), lime juice, spicy chili, and a thin, tangy sauce provided by the mix of Shoyu soy sauce, vinegar, and citrus zest. I also round out the savory flavors with some sweetness. Traditionally in Malaysia, this dish would be served with just a bit of chopped vegetables (and way more rice). For my recipe, I’ve got a lot of the good stuff, included the crumbled tofu – which, by the way, replaces scrambled egg – sometimes found in traditional Nasi Goreng.

By the way, I have many similar recipes inspired by other travels and other countries and cuisines – including: Cambodian Fried RiceMexican Magic Rice, and Vegetable Fried Rice from my World, Mexico, and Sri Lanka vegan cookbooks. After you’ve tried my Nasi Goreng, check out the other recipes and decide which country’s classic fried rice is your favorite.

Nasi Goreng - LotusArtichoke Instagram

Nasi Goreng

traditional vegetable fried rice

recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA available in English & German

serves 2 to 3 / time 40 min +

  • 3.5 oz (100 g) firm tofu
  • 1 cup (190 g) broken jasmine rice or short grain brown rice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 2/3 cup (400 ml) water
  • 1 cup (100 g) chinese cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli or bok choy finely chopped
  • 1 medium (90 g) carrot finely chopped or sliced
  • 2–3 Tbs oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil optional
  • 3 (50 g) spring onions chopped, separated into white ends and greens
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 large red chili finely chopped optional
  • 1/2 in. (1 cm) fresh galangal or ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce (Shoyu)
  • 1 Tbs lime juice or lemon juice
    or 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp lime zest or lemon zest optional
  • 1 tsp sugar or agave syrup
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • lime slices for garnish
  1. Cut tofu in slabs, wrap in clean kitchen towel. Weight with heavy cutting boards to press out excess moisture. Let sit 20 min. Unwrap tofu and crumble into a bowl.
  2. Wash and drain rice thoroughly.
  3. Bring water to boil in a small pot. Add rice and salt. Stir. Return to boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 12 to 20 min as needed. After water is absorbed, remove from heat. Fluff rice with a fork. Cover and let sit and cool, ideally an hour or more.
  4. Heat oil in a large wok or frying pan on medium high. Add chopped spring onion ends, garlic, chili (if using), galangal (or ginger), ground coriander, and black pepper. Fry, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 2–3 min.
  5. Add chopped carrots. Fry, stirring constantly, 2–3 min. Add crumbled tofu. Mix well. Fry, stirring regularly, until tofu begins to turn golden brown, 3–5 min. Add chopped cabbage (or other vegetables). Fry, stirring constantly, until vegetables start to soften, 4–5 min.
  6. Whisk soy sauce, lime (or lemon) juice, zest, sugar (or agave syrup), and sea salt in a small bowl.
  7. Add cooked rice to frying vegetables. Mix well. Add soy sauce mix and spring onions greens. Combine well. Fry, stirring constantly until liquid has been absorbed and rice and vegetables are moderately browned, 5–7 min. Remove from heat. Cover until ready to serve.
  8. Serve with lime slices.
vegan recipe for Nasi Goreng from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA
Malaysia vegan cookbook cover blockprint

Apam Balik

Apam Balik from The Lotus and the Artichoke MALAYSIA vegan cookbook

It was my first day in Kuala Lumpur…

I’d just arrived and was at the start of a 5 week culinary adventure to get a taste of Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo. The sun shone bright and the sky was that deep, satisfying shade of blue. I was on a short morning walk from the Winsin Hotel on the edge of downtown Chinatown, heading towards the Indian neighborhood.

Just outside the subway station on a particularly more urban street corner was a line of shiny, silver food trucks. My eye was caught immediately by one in particular: A woman was spilling roasted, candied peanuts and then corn kernels from a can onto a golden, round, thin pancake. She folded it over – making sort of a sweet taco – and placed it on a rack on the chrome counter of her street food cart. She caught me watching and smiled.

“Hey Mister! You try Apam Balik!”

Well, what could I say? I got closer and watched her make another two crepes. First, she stirred a simple batter of mostly rice flour and coconut milk and poured and spread the crepe on the sizzling griddle. Moments later, she pried up an edge, slid her spatula tracing under the circle, and flipped it over. I watched her again top the thin, crunchy crepes with peanuts and corn before folding them in half and setting them on the rack just in front of me.

Just then, a colorfully dressed Indian woman parted from a few family members and approached the cart from my side. She reached out an anxious hand in a dance-like gesture, rattling rows of wrist bangles, and scooped two of the Apim Balik pancakes from the rack. She rattled off a few sentences in Malay to the seller, they exchanged some money, and both giggled briefly. The Indian woman turned to me and extended one of the crepes until it was right in my face. She said to me in melodic Indian English:

“This one for you. Apam Balik. Peanut Pancake!”

It was in my grasp and between my teeth before I knew it. The crepe was crunchy on the outside but then soft and chewy, quickly giving way to the delightful combination of sweet and salty flavors from the roasted peanuts, punctuated by bursts of fresh corn juiciness. It was perfect. I devoured the rest of it.

Weeks later, back in Berlin, I set about to re-create the deliciousness.

For the vegan recipe in my MALAYSIA cookbook, I made a simple, sure-fire formula for making Apim Balik at home in the kitchen. I didn’t have to veganize anything. It’s a pretty much straight-up thin pancake batter based on rice flour, coconut milk and sugar, lending a crunchy thin crepe. For the filling, I simplified it going with just candied peanuts. My variations (below) include optionally topping it with a sweet syrup and going authentic street food style with sweet corn kernels.

Apam Balik

crispy, crunchy peanut-filled pancakes

recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA

makes 4 to 6 / time 30 min +

  • 3/4 cup (100 g) peanuts crumbled or very coarsely ground
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) flour (all purpose / type 550)
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (45 g) sugar
  • 1 Tbs corn starch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) coconut milk
  • 2 Tbs water
  • agave syrup or coconut (palm) syrup optional
  • vegetable oil for frying pan
  1. Crumble or coarsely grind peanuts and dry roast in a pan on medium heat until golden brown and dark spots appear, 4–5 min. Add sugar and salt. Mix well. Stirring constantly, roast until sugar melts and mix starts to stick together, 1–2 min. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine flour, rice flour, sugar, corn starch, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in coconut milk and water gradually. Mix until mostly smooth, but do not over mix. Cover and let batter sit 20–30 min.
  3. Heat frying pan on medium high heat. Put a few drops of oil on pan and rub it around with a paper towel. Do this before each pancake. When a drop of water sizzles and dances on surface, pan is ready.
  4. Pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup (60–80 ml) batter in the center of the hot pan. Tilt and turn the pan to form a large, thin, circular pancake.
  5. After bubbles appear on surface and underside is golden brown (about 2–3 min), use a spatula to carefully peel up the edges around the pancake and then flip it over. Cook the other side for 1–2 min, then flip it back over. Put 2–3 Tbs of the sugary peanuts on the pancake and roll up or fold over. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with other pancakes.
  6. Serve plain, or drizzle pancakes with agave syrup or coconut syrup.

Variations:

Creamy: Use peanut butter instead of roasted, crumbled peanuts. Bananas: Add sliced banana to filling. Traditional: Add 1–2 Tbs sweet corn kernels to each pancake filling.

Apam Balik - Malaysian Peanut Pancakes on Instagram (The Lotus and the Artichoke)

vegan recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA available in English & German

Malaysia vegan cookbook cover blockprint

 

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak from The Lotus and the Artichoke MALAYSIA vegan cookbook

In the five weeks that I spent exploring Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo there were a few dishes that I just had to try whenever I had the chance.

Nasi Lemak is a national favorite – and one of my favorites, too! The name technically means “fatty rice” but “creamy rice” sounds a least a little bit better. Traditionally, as with this recipe, Nasi Lemak is rice cooked in creamy, coconut milk – often along with fresh herbs and spices such as pandan (which you can replace with bay leaves if that’s what you’ve got.) The bright yellow hue comes from turmeric. Though it’s a breakfast dish, it can be eaten at any time of the day, and many variations cross firmly into Savory Culinary Territory. I eat this all times of the day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack, whatever!

I tried Nasi Lemak in lots of places: Kuala Lampur, Penang, Malacca, and Singapore.

Inspired by those dishes and their accompaniments – and my own imagination, I’ve created a complete meal set: Coconut Pandan Rice served with stir-fried Lemongrass Ginger Tofu, crunchy, charred Spicy Nuts, and a delicious sweet-chili sauce known as Sambal Belacan.

These are actually four different recipes from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA which I’ve put together in this one post. You can of course substitute or simplify the dishes for a less involved meal set designed how you like it. Nasi Lemak is equally awesome even when it’s just served with the fresh cucumber, lime slices, and nuts. I love going all out and doing the Lemongrass Tofu cubes, too. Also, I find the hot, spicy Samabal Belecan completes the dish fantastically.

How to eat it? Mix it up and eat it with your hands!

Serve this meal set up on a banana leaf, wash your hands, mix everything together, and dive in… wild and forkless. (By the way, frozen banana leaves are often available at your local Asian import grocery shop. Just thaw them, rinse them, and eat off of them.) If you prefer a more modern approach: Make it all, arrange it perfectly on plates, eat it with a fork and spoon. It’s up to you!

Nasi Lemak

Malaysian Coconut Pandan Rice with Lemongrass Ginger Tofu, Spicy Nuts & Sambal Belacan

recipes from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA

serves 3 to 4 / time 60 min

Coconut Pandan Rice:

  • 2 cups (375 g) broken jasmine rice or basmati rice
  • 1 2/3 cup (400 ml) water
  • 1 2/3 cup (400 ml) coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric ground
  • 2 pandan leaves or bay leaves
  • fried onions for garnish
  • 1/2 small cucumber sliced
  • lime slices for garnish
  1. Rinse and drain rice thoroughly.
  2. Bring water and coconut milk to low boil in a medium pot with good lid. Stir in rice, salt, turmeric, and pandan (or bay leaves). Return to simmer. Cover and steam until most liquid is absorbed, 12–15 min. Remove from heat. Stir a few times. Cover and let sit 10 min. Remove and discard leaves before serving.
  3. Garnish with fried onions, cucumber, and lime slices.

Lemongrass Ginger Tofu:

  • 14 oz (400 g) firm tofu cut in cubes or strips
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) pineapple chopped
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 2 shallots finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass finely chopped
  • 3/4 in (2 cm) fresh ginger finely chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander ground
  • 1 Tbs lime juice or lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce (Shoyu)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • fresh coriander or parsley leaves chopped, for garnish
  1. Cut tofu in slabs and wrap in clean kitchen towel. Weight with a heavy cutting board and press out extra moisture, 15–20 min. Unwrap and cut in cubes or strips.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan or wok on medium high heat. Add chopped shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and ground coriander. Fry, stirring constantly, until shallots being to soften and brown, 2–3 min.
  3. Add tofu cubes. Mix well. Fry, stirring regularly, until tofu cubes are golden brown and crispy on the edges, 5–8 min.
  4. Add chopped pineapple, lime (or lemon) juice, soy sauce, and salt. Fry, stirring regularly, another 5–10 min. Remove from heat.

Spicy Nuts:

  • 1/2 cup (50 g) peanuts
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) cashews
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or paprika ground
  • 2 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. Heat a medium frying pan on medium heat. Dry roast peanuts and cashews, stirring regularly, until light golden brown and dark spots begin to appear, 4–7 min. Do not burn.
  2. Add chili powder (or paprika), sugar and salt. Mix well. Continue to cook another 2–3 min, stirring constantly, until sugar has melted and nuts are well coated. Remove from heat. Allow to cool.

Sambal Belacan:

  • 2–3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 5 large (90 g) red chilies chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce (Shoyu)
  • 1 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs lime juice or lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. Blend all ingredients in a small food processor or blender until smooth, adding more oil (or some water) as needed.
  2. Heat a small frying pan on medium heat. Add blended spice paste to pan and fry, stirring regularly, until sauce darkens, thickens, and oil separates, 8–12 min.
(available as printed cookbook & ebook in English & German)
Malaysia vegan cookbook cover blockprint

Cabbage Coconut Curry

Sri Lankan Cabbage & Coconut Curry - Gowa Mallum

Just one week into my ten weeks of travels through Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity to go in the kitchen at Mango Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka to help prepare the New Year’s Eve dinner. The head cook showed me how to make a number of amazing vegetarian (vegan) Sri Lankan curries and dishes, including this one. I also learned how to make Pol Sambol for the first time, always awesome Beetroot Curry, fantastic Leek Curry, Dal Curry (of course), Green Bean “Bonchi” Curry, and Snake Gourd Curry (which can be made with any squash, such as Zucchini.) Continue reading

Deviled Chickpeas – Kadala Thel Dala

Deviled Chickpeas - Kadala Thel Dala from The Lotus and the Artichoke - SRI LANKA vegan cookbook

This is another one of my favorite, quick-and-easy Sri Lankan recipes. I tried many versions of this spicy chickpea curry dish all over Sri Lanka during my 10 week adventure all across and around the island.

You can serve it as a main dish, but technically it’s a short eat (the Sri Lankan term for snack or appetizer or small meal.) Like most short eats, it’s a common snack from street food vendors, but also appears on restaurant menus and is often available from many take-out places… and on buses as a cheap finger food snack – in it’s much drier variation.

Traditionally it’s not served in a curry sauce, but is made “dry”. (This is something I found a lot in India and Sri Lanka — also with dishes such as Vegetable Manchurian or Gobi 65, and such.) I like cooking Kadala Thel Dala all kinds of ways, but usually make it without a really runny, liquid-y curry. Limiting the amount of chopped tomatoes (and cutting larger pieces) as well as using enough grated coconut (to soak up liquid) gets the chickpea curry to desired consistency. Note that rinsing and draining your chickpeas very well before cooking will help, and adding a few minutes of stir-frying on high, while constantly stirring, will also get rid of excess liquid.

Like my Jackfruit Curry, this dish is very popular with all types of eaters, it can be made spicy or not spicy (great for kids!), and is an excellent introduction to Sri Lankan flavors. It’s another one of my go-to recipes for dinner parties, cooking classes, cooking shows. I make it at home pretty often, too.

In addition to being in my third vegan cookbook The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA, it’s been published in several vegan magazines in Germany. It’s such a simple and satisfying recipe. Also I love this photo! The little green hand-painted demon guy is on a decorative wooden thing I picked up at a shop in touristy – but gorgeous – Galle Fort, not too far from Unawatuna, and where we spent our last two weeks on the southwest coast in the beach village of Dalawella. Continue reading