Nasi goreng (fried rice) is one of the most popular dishes in Asia. Almost every Asian country has its own version. But did you know that in Malaysia alone, there are more variations of fried rice than you can count on one hand?
Whenever I have foreign friends in town, I would take them to local restaurants and let them try one or two out of the myriad of choices available. But I realized that in most of these restaurants, the menus are written in Malay with no illustration or English translation to help non-Malay-speaking customers make their decisions.
So, in this article, I will be listing down the 10 most common types of fried rice in Malaysia, along with their pictures. With this comprehensive guide, you are sure to impress your Malaysian friends and the restaurant staff with your outstanding knowledge of nasi goreng.
1. Nasi Goreng Biasa
This is possibly the most boring nasi goreng on this list. Biasa means normal, and we all know how boring normal is. This nasi goreng is fried with some sauce to add color and flavor, and that’s pretty much it. Additional ingredients may include eggs and chili if the cook is feeling generous. It’s usually served for breakfast.
2. Nasi Goreng Cina
Translation: Chinese fried rice. No, it didn’t originate from China. Instead, it got its name from its color, which is lighter than the other types of nasi goreng. It’s also the least spicy because it’s not cooked with any sauce other than a dash of sesame oil. Therefore, if you’re averse to spicy food, this should be your safest choice. Those craving for some flavor may request for chili and soy sauce to be served on the side. Nasi goreng cina is cooked with scrambled egg and frozen mixed veggie (green peas, diced carrot, and sweet corn).
3. Nasi Goreng Mamak
The word ‘mamak’ refers to the Indian Muslim community in Malaysia. Mamak food is basically a halal version of South Indian cuisine. It will almost always taste of curry, no matter what you order. Nasi goreng mamak contains tofu, fish cakes, and — most importantly — Maggi instant-noodle curry powder.
4. Nasi Goreng Kampung
This is my favorite among them all because of its strong flavors. Nasi goreng kampung is cooked with soy sauce, bird’s eye chili (very tiny but spicy), water spinach, blended shrimp paste, and anchovies. Very rich in taste. Unlike other types of nasi goreng, this one does not contain eggs.
5. Nasi Goreng Ikan Masin
Translation: Dried Fish Fried Rice. That’s a tongue twister right there. As the name implies, nasi goreng ikan masin is fried rice with dried fish. If the description doesn’t turn you off, then the pungent smell will. I think we Malaysians have an affinity for strong-smelling (read: smelly) food. And we get so defensive about it too. Just look at how offended we get when someone insults our national fruit — the infamous durian.
6. Nasi Goreng USA
Nope, this one doesn’t have any American influence.
Otherwise, the Islamists in Malaysia would have deemed it non-halal. U.S.A. actually stands for ‘udang’ (prawn), ‘sotong’ (squid), and ‘ayam’ (chicken). At least, that was how it started. But for some reason, this dish has evolved into something totally different from its name. Now, if you order nasi goreng USA, you will have a choice of two meats: beef or chicken. This will be cooked in red sauce (not very spicy by Malaysian standard). Served with a sunny-side-up egg.
7. Nasi Goreng Pattaya
This is another one that has nothing to do with the place it was named after. In fact, the people in Pattaya have no idea that there is a dish in another country that was named after their city (I asked). Nasi goreng Pattaya is plain fried rice wrapped in a thin omelet, drizzled with chili sauce, and served with a few slices of cucumber.
8. Nasi Goreng Ladna
Nasi goreng ladna is fried rice served with a side of seafood and vegetables (usually cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, and tomato). The gooey gravy is made of oyster sauce and thickened with cornstarch. Sometimes it is also poured on top of the rice. Sounds and looks disgusting, but actually tastes pretty good to me. I like my rice swimming in gravy. Kind of like porridge, but with more texture.
9. Nasi Goreng Paprik
Now, this one actually originates from Thailand. The word ‘paprik’ is a combination of two Thai words: ‘pad’ (fried), and ‘prik’ (chili). Nasi goreng paprik is served with a side of vegetables and chicken, cooked in sauteed chili paste.
10. Nasi Goreng Tomyam
Another one with a heavy Thai influence, nasi goreng is fried rice seasoned with tomyam paste, lemongrass, fish sauce, and lime to give it that distinct Thai flavor. Usually contains seafood.
Now that you are an expert on Malaysian nasi goreng, go ahead and order yourself one. But where can you find them? Just go to any Malay restaurant. Some mamak restaurants also serve Malay food. The nasi goreng dishes are usually only available in the evening though – from 6 pm onwards. Good luck!