Thursday, 16 September 2010

Taste Test: Instant nasi goreng

We heard that one of our readers, who shall remain nameless, was so inspired by Mrs K's nasi goreng recipe that they went out looking for an instant version in the shops. Sad, but true. But it did give us an idea - Taste Tests. These are where we take some off-the-shelf products and use Mrs K's culinary wizardry and Mr K's stomach to see what they taste like.

We hope these Taste Tests will be useful for those who come across Indonesian products in a shop but aren't sure what on earth they taste like, or whether they taste anything like the real thing. It's only a bit of fun, and gives us a chance to try out some different things - Mrs K isn't averse to ready-made stuff at all, in fact she has a cupboard full of ready-made sauces and mixes (don't tell her I told you, though).

Anyway, for our first attempt we're going to compare a couple of 'instant nasi goreng' products. Actually, one is sold as a 'kit' while the other is just bottled paste, but the intent is the same. It was fun trying them, and the results  even surprised the unflappable Mrs K.

We bought both of the products from our local Tesco (as an aside, apologies if Tesco gets mentioned a lot here, not for any nefarious reason, but simply because our local one - a Tesco Metro - has a large 'World Food' section, no doubt catering for the large Chinese student contingent at the local university. We also now have a Chinese store that's sprung up for the same reason, but they tend to be best for fresh veg or smelly dried fishy things).

World Foods Indonesian Fried Rice "Nasi Goreng" Paste

This 220g bottle cost £1.59 and is made in Thailand for a Malaysian company before being imported by an outfit in Lancashire. It's supposed to feed 2-4 people and the recipe on the bottle requires 300g boiled rice, 200g of chicken meat, 100g of raw prawns and 2 eggs. Ingredients look fairly wholesome with no artificial preservatives, no GMO, no MSG and no gluten. Crucially, it does contain 9% chilli powder.

Go-Tan Nasi Goreng Meal Kit Indonesian Fried Rice

In a garishly-coloured 380g box costing £3.25, this hails from Singapore via Holland and, again, Lancashire (what is it with Lancashire?). It claims to feed 2-3 people and consists of four sachets: 225g of rather cheap looking boil-in-the-bag rice, 110g of nasi goreng paste, 25g of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and 20g of fried onion topping. In contrast to the World Foods paste, the ingredients include lots of preservatives, sugar and molasses, flavour enhancers (including MSG*), loads of assorted oils (sunflower, palm, rape) and zero chillies or tomatoes.Not a particularly appetising collection.

*We have no great qualms about MSG (monosodium glutamate), and Indonesians use tons of it, but Mrs K doesn't use it these days. It does make things taste great, but unfortunately it also tends to make things taste the same. We prefer to get our glutamates from the soy sauce.


We prepared both products strictly according to the instructions on the packaging, which required monumental (and at times, physical) restraint from Mrs K. The Go-Tan product needed the most preparation as it calls for a chopped leek and a pepper. The method is to stir-fry the chicken  for 5 minutes, add the vegetables, then the nasi goreng paste then finally add the boiled rice (the rice takes 10 minutes, but Mrs K said it was still raw so added a few more). When cooked, the kecap manis is added, and the fried onions added as a topping along with a shredded omelette (2 eggs).

The World Foods paste is simpler, although as it needs raw prawns it's a bit more expensive. The paste is fried in oil for a minute and then the meat and prawns added and cooked for 5 minutes. Then 300g of boiled rice is mixed in and cooked for a further 3 minutes. The dish is also served with a 2-egg shredded omelette.

Of the two, the World Foods paste was by far the easiest to make. We reckon either product will easily feed 2-3 people using the quantities on the packet.

Go-Tan on the left, World Foods on the right

The Taste Test

We both tried each dish. During the cooking Mrs K reckoned the Go-Tan smelled the best, but eating was a different matter. We both agreed it tasted smokey, salty and very sweet. The lack of chilli didn't help at all, and neither of us could eat more than a few spoonfuls. Mrs K said it 'sticks to the roof of your mouth', and attributed this to the palm oil. The use of vegetables makes the dish look a bit more attractive than the other one, however.

We agreed unanimously that the World Foods result tasted remarkably good, although not quite hot enough for our tastes. A dollop of sambal goreng tomat would easily fix that, and the addition of a few peas or mangetout would round it off nicely. It wasn't too salty, and certainly not sweet. Mr K polished off the entire plate.

So for our first Taste Test, the winner is World Foods Indonesian Fried Rice"Nasi Goreng Paste; if you fancy a quick plate of nasi goreng without too much hassle, this is the one to choose. And it's damned cheap, too.

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