Recipe: Indonesian Fried Rice with cow’s eyes (Nasi Goreng)

Serves 2-4

Let’s get up and greet the day like an Indonesian. Stretch your arms to the sky. Touch the earth. Pile your plate with fried rice.

And cow’s eyes.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I don’t mean a cow’s cow eyes. I mean fried eggs. That’s simply what they call them in Indonesia.

As far as breakfast goes, Nasi Goreng is incredibly satisfying. Especially if you eat it on top of an 8th century Buddhist monument.

And why not? With stove-top travel, we can go wherever we want.

Note: This recipe is best made with day-old rice. If you cannot take the time for this, cool your rice in a thin layer on a cookie sheet in the fridge. You should be able to use it after an hour or two. You’re basically looking for it to be dry to the touch. Moist rice will not fry up right – it will get mushy. Also, I left out the chili pepper so Ava could eat it, but locals would often add sliced red chili pepper to this recipe.


1 1/2 cups dry jasmine rice cooked and refrigerated overnight

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 large shallot bulbs, minced (or 1 small onion)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
chili pepper, minced to taste (optional)
1/8 cup kecap manis (or to taste)


1 cucumber, sliced thinly
2 tomatoes, sliced in wedges
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 egg per person


Off we go. First, whip up a batch of rice and refrigerate overnight. Then fly over to Borobudur, the 8th century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Indonesia.

Settle into a peaceful, cozy spot to watch the sun come up.  As the sun lifts, watch the strange sculptures come to life.

Stupa domes at Borobudur overlooking Mount Merapi. Photo by CT Snow


In a minute I’ll show you what’s inside those stupa domes.

For now, let peace settle into your bones. Take inventory. How are you? How do you feel? If you notice your tummy rumbling, prepare a happy batch of Nasi Goreng, Indonesian fried rice. It’s the breakfast of Indonesian champions. You’ll be glad you did.

In a large pan or wok, heat up oil over medium high. Toss in the shallots and garlic. You can also add hot chili peppers, if you’re using them.

Cook until soft and beginning to brown.

Pour on the kecap manis – sweet, sweet soy sauce available at Asian grocers. You’ll want to swim in this stuff. But you can’t, because it’s thick, like molasses.

Pile on the glorious, cooled rice, breaking up any clumps as needed. Fry in the oil while stirring.

The sun should be all the way up by now. As you cook, look around and enjoy the scenery. What a magical, timeless view… silken mountains, mossy trees, latticed monument.

Appreciate the view. Just don’t burn the rice.

You’re done when the rice is evenly coated with the sauce and little crispy bits begin to form, making each grain of rice irresistible.

Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed. Perhaps a bit more kecap manis? You decide.

Now for the healthy part. Nasi Goreng is typically served with cucumber, green onion, and tomatoes. These tomatoes are from our garden. Red, red, red.

Oh, and now for the “cow’s eyes.” I like one cow eye per person (yes, these are words I never thought I would utter).

Assemble everything and…

… take your vibrant, happy dish to a special spot. Keep hiking – up, up, up – until you find it. Perhaps you’d like to sit inside one of those stupa domes and share your meal with a stone dining companion?

Overview of Borobudur, stairs to enlightenment and statue of Buddha. Photos by Gunkarta Gunawan Kartapranata

Me, too.

For your reference, that Buddha man has 503 buddies just like him at the monument, inside stupa domes, so you can take your pick.

Thank you, Indonesia!

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  1. “I like one cow eye per person (yes, these are words I never thought I would utter).”

    Do you mean udder? :)

    This sounds so yummy. Did you buy the kecap manis at Nam Hai?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Ha ha, very punny ;)

      And yes, I found the kecap manis at Nam Hai. It’s also known as sweet soy sauce, and should be available at almost any Asian market. If you make it let us know what you think. Enjoy!

      • Brian S. says:

        And of course the word kecap, which is used for a variety of Indonesian condiments, gave its name to the most famous of all United States condiments.

        • Sasha Martin says:

          Very true. I recently read that salsa now outsells ketchup in the US (it’s old news, but not to me).

  2. Brian S. says:

    Whoever took those Borobudur photos was lucky. When I visited, the entire monument was covered with scaffolding and planks for restoration. I could see a few tiny portions through gaps in the fence. Years later I mused: “When I traveled much of my time was spent like that: peering through a fence, catching glimpses through a veil.”

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’ve had that happen in France with Notre Dame. Luckily I just went a few months later, as I lived there. It’s worth checking into the “status” of the places you most wish to see before going, although I’ve never been that organized myself.

  3. elisa waller says:

    I think I am enlightened….thank you!

  4. I was at Borabudur at sunrise and roamed the amazing place with barely a monkey around… peaceful and serene as mist slowly lifted and faded into the sky as the sun’s rays pierced the veils of those stupas… I love Indonesia and your version of Nasi Goreng just fantastic way to take a trip back there — without leaving the kitchen!

    thanks Sasha!

  5. In Germany we call these eggs “Ochsenaugen” = Ox Eyes.

  6. What a beautiful, peaceful looking place. I would love to be there eating that. By the way, in Italy a fried sunny side up egg is called cow’s eye too. Or an ox’ eye to be exact (uovo all’occhio di bue). Funny

  7. Wow so gorgeous! great tip about the rice too!

  8. Wow – sweet soy sauce, where have you been all my life! This stuff is sooo good!

  9. Funny I cooked nasi goreng for dinner for my family tonight. Before I read your post. When I miss Indonesia I cook it. About 2 or 3 times a month. Most often for breakfast or dinner. I know you didn’t mention it but Sambal Olek , red chili sambal or my favorite sambal Bajak red chili sambal with onion. It is a great if you like heat. You can stir fry very thinly sliced white onions in oil, Med. low till light brown and crispy to top the egg. but you have to stir them non stop or they will burn. Takes 15 min. or so. To round out the meal serve sweet fresh ripe pineapple done the Indonesian way. Cut off the top leaves and bottom so the pineapple sits flat on the cutting board cut 1″ to 1 1/2 ” wide strips of the rind off so that the brown eyes show, all the way around the pineapple. take a pairing knife and notice all the eyes swirl down the pineapple in a diagonal pattern. Cut shallow ‘ v ‘ shaped lines top to bottom by following the natural diagonal pattern of eyes, cutting the eyes out as you go. then cut horizontally in 1/3″ slices. When you look at the slices from the top the, outside edge will look somewhat like petals. Thanks for the Indonesian recipes.

  10. Hi Sasha, I’m Ardita, who happen to be from Indonesia (to be specific, I work in Jakarta, the capital but come from another city).

    It’s good to see “Nasi goreng” and “Telur mata sapi” (that “cow’s eyes egg”) featured in your website. Fried rice is indeed a staple, though breakfast comes in 1001 variety from this country of many islands. Some have sweet tones, other have spicier and sour flavors.

    Breakfast from Sumatra island are mostly rice or rice cakes with vegetable or chicken curries, some parts start their day with porridge and noodles. Sulawesi island and some part of Kalimantan island have the best yellow rice (with turmeric and coconut milk). Javanese brekky is either steamed vegetable with peanut sauce, rice, or porridge. The Balinese have killer rice mixed with various condiments.

    Being a Javanese, I add shrimp paste (terasi) while preparing local meals as “secret ingredients” that boost the tasty flavor. I believe you would find the paste in some Asian grocery shop. Add in moderation as it have pretty strong smell and taste (1 tsp for 3-4 person, or perhaps less).


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