India has biryani, Spain has paella and Italy has risotto. What about Indonesia? According to Statista.com, in 2020/2021, Indonesia was the 4th biggest rice consumer after China, India and Bangladesh. And as one of the top rice-consuming countries, Indonesia is blessed with tons of delicious rice dishes. The variety is huge, but today I’m placing in the limelight the divine, aromatic nasi bakar.
Nasi bakar literally means “grilled rice”. The dish is not as popular as the world-famous nasi goreng (fried rice), but it’s quite well known in Indonesia, especially in West Java, where the dish is thought to have originated.
When eating nasi bakar, you’re given a banana leaf packet that’s stuffed with rice and other ingredients. It’s delightful to unwrap the packet and unravel what’s inside! Is it filled with a generous portion of succulent juicy shredded meat? Or is it fresh vegetables, grilled to perfection? Eating nasi bakar is always a fun adventure!
What makes nasi bakar so special is the way it’s prepared. There are a few different preparation steps involved in order to make a delicious nasi bakar with its fragrant, smoky flavour. These steps are:
- Cooking the rice with spices and other additional ingredients, such as dried anchovies to give it a little punch. Coconut milk is usually added too, to smoothen the flavour, though some people prefer not to use it.
- Preparing the filling, which can be anything, ranging from beef, chicken, fish, salted fish, smoked fish, mushroom, vegetables, or even tempeh or tofu. Some aromatic herbs such as daun kemangi (Indonesian basil) or scallion are often added to make the dish more fragrant.
- Wrapping the ingredients in banana leaves. In this process, a layer of rice is spread on top of banana leaves, and then some filling is added on top of the rice, then again, a layer of rice is put on top of the filling to cover it. It’s then rolled tightly and both ends are secured using a toothpick.
- Steaming the rice parcels to further cook and set the rice and the filling, and infuse the banana leaf flavour.
- Grilling the rice packets. This is the most exciting part as we are approaching the end of the whole process. The aroma of the charred grilled banana leaves will surely tantalize the nostril and send the hunger pangs down to the tummy. Waiting for it to be well-cooked is torture!
Nasi bakar can be stored in a fridge for a few days after the steaming process. To warm it up, re-steam the parcel for about 15 minutes, and grill it just before serving. It will taste freshly-cooked.
Nasi bakar is great for parties, BBQs and picnics. It can be served on its own, or accompanied by other dishes such as varieties of fried meat dishes and sambals.Print
Nasi bakar ayam suwir is a dish of grilled rice with shredded chicken. Nasi bakar, or grilled rice, is a delicious dish of rice wrapped in banana leaves, and then grilled for a charred, smokey flavour.
- 500 gr uncooked rice
- 1 tbsp small dried anchovies (optional)
- 1 lemongrass, use only the white parts, cut into smaller stalks, bruised
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, shred into half
- 1 salam leaf, shred into half
- 500 ml water
- 1 small packet ready-to-use coconut milk (around 65 ml)
- 300 gr chicken breast fillet
- 3 big red chillies (2 chopped, 1 sliced diagonally)
- 3 bird’s eye chillies (optional)
- 8 peeled shallots (5 chopped, 3 thinly sliced)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
- 3 cm fresh turmeric, peeled, chopped
- 2 cm ginger, peeled chopped
- 2 cm galangal, peeled, chopped
- 2 candlenuts, chopped
- 1 small spring onion, chopped
- 1 handful kemangi (Indonesian basil leaves)
- 1 tomato, deseeded, chopped (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Pinch of sugar (optional)
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- Fresh banana leaves for wrapping
- Toothpick to secure the banana leaves
For the rice: Wash the rice thoroughly, set aside
Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a frying pan, and fry the 3 thinly sliced shallots until fragrant and almost golden.
Add the dried anchovies, and continue frying until the shallots and anchovies turn golden brown.
Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and daun salam, and fry until fragrant, around 1 minute. Set aside.
Put the rice in a rice cooker, add the water, fried herbs, coconut milk and a pinch of salt.
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and cook the rice as indicated in the rice cooker.
When the rice is done, leave it in the warm mode for about 10 -15 minutes to let it set, then carefully open the lid and fluff the rice. Set aside.
For the chicken breast filling: Wash the chicken thoroughly, and then steam for around 15 minutes. Leave it to cool and then shred to smaller pieces. Set aside.
Using a food processor, blend into a fine paste: 2 chopped big chillies, 3 bird’s eye chilli, 5 chopped shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, candlenuts and galangal.
Heat 2 tbsp of cooking oil in a wok over medium high flame, and sauté the blended spices until fragrant, around 4 minutes.
Add the shredded chicken fillet.
Add a little bit of water (around 100 ml) to prevent it from burning.
Add salt and sugar.
Cook the chicken over medium heat for about 15 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated.
Add the sliced spring onion, red chilli, diced tomato and daun kemangi.
Cook for about 2 minutes, and turn off the heat.
Wrapping the rice: Clean the banana leaves using a piece of cloth or paper towel to remove the dirt.
Cut the leaf around 11 cm, keeping the smaller pieces for the inside.
Place 1 big banana leaf piece with the inner side facing you, and place the smaller piece on top, in the centre.
Put 1 scoop of rice, add the chicken breast filling on top of the rice.
Then put another scoop of rice to cover it.
Compress the rice using both hands to create a dense, long oval shape ricecake.
Carefully roll the banana leaf to wrap the rice.
Compress the rice using a small spoon, one side at a time before securing it with a toothpick.
Do the same thing for the rest of the rice and the chicken filling.
Steam the rice for about 15 minutes (optional) and grill the parcel until the leaves are charred.
Serve while it’s still hot.
- For a healthier version, brown rice can be used as a substitute for white rice.