The ever-versatile nasi goreng (fried rice)

Penang fried rice © Adrian Cheah

Thanks to its unique cultural mix, food lovers in Malaysia get to enjoy a mouth-watering blend of various flavours in their victuals (or makan-makan in local speak). Think sambal belacan with wantan noodles, Nyonya curries, Malay char koay teow and the ever-popular and versatile nasi goreng or fried rice. It can be eaten any time of the day and is found on the menu of any Penang or Malaysian eatery, from street vendors to five-star hotels.

The base ingredient, rice, is a major staple of all Malaysians. What else goes into the wok is up to the imagination of the cook. Indians and Malays like it spicy and aromatic while the Chinese prefer a drier and lighter version. But more often than not, fried rice has a little of everything – spices, chillies, meat and vegetables. The end result is always a palatable dish that is easily enjoyed by all Malaysians.


  • 5 cups cooked rice (best kept overnight)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 4 red chillies, seeded and pounded or blended into a paste
  • 10 medium-sized prawns
  • Meat from one chicken breast, diced
  • 1 tablespoon spring onions, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 eggs, whipped
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • Thick soya sauce (for colour)
  • Light soya sauce, salt and pepper to taste

For garnishing

  • Celery (daun sup)
  • Cilantro or coriander (daun ketumbar)


  1. Heat oil in wok until it smokes lightly
  2. Sauté or tumis onions till fragrant
  3. Add the pounded chilli and stir fry until your eyes smart!
  4. Stir in shelled prawns
  5. Add diced chicken and fry until meat is cooked
  6. Make well in centre of wok and pour in eggs. Scramble eggs until almost cooked.
  7. Add rice and peas, and mix well into the other ingredients.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste. A dash of soy sauce adds zip. Serve while hot!

Helpful tips

  1. For moister fried rice, add in the eggs after the rice.
  2. Adjust the amount of thick soy sauce according to how 'dark' you want the end result to look.
  3. A side dish of fresh greens and fruits like lettuce leaves, cucumber slices and tomato pieces 'balances' the oiliness of fried rice.
  4. If you prefer a little extra fire, sprinkle fried rice with finely chopped, freshly plucked cili padi! Guaranteed to leave your guests with smoke coming out of their ears.

As mentioned earlier, fried rice is available almost anywhere in Penang, done in any style – Chinese, Nyonya, Malay or Mamak. But nothing beats making it yourself or with the help of your friends.

Written by Raja Abdul Razak
Photographed by Adrian Cheah © All rights reserved
Updated: 8 March 2019