For the Love of Rice

We, Indonesians are absolutely obsessed with rice. If we haven’t eaten rice, we simply HAVE NOT EATEN.  Yes, we love rice and we cannot live without it. Some of us even eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Seeing rice on our plate day after day after day becomes routine, but it just wouldn’t be a normal meal if a small heap of that steaming, fluffy white grain isn’t sitting next to our favorite dish.

Many Indonesians feel that sandwich, burger, noodles, pizza, potatoes and other non-rice entities are snacks. That’s why it is common to see a person eating a plate of rice just 10 short minutes after eating a bowl of noodles.

“I haven’t had my lunch yet. Chicken Noodles? That wasn’t lunch, that was a snack!” Or, “I am still hungry, the burger and pizza just won’t cut it, I need rice.” And the ever popular, “I get sick if I don’t eat rice three times a day. These are common answers you hear when you ask us why we eat rice after we have just eaten a Big Mac and fries.

We feel rice is neutral and very versatile. You can eat rice with sweet dishes, spicy dishes, tasty and salty dishes, watery dishes as well as dry dishes. It tastes good fried, steamed, microwaved and even baked or grilled. You simply can’t go wrong with rice.

Aside from our national dish of NASI GORENG that actually make use of day-old rice, such rice can also be used to make NASI BAKAR.

What is “Nasi Bakar”? 

“Nasi Bakar” is a grilled rice dish and usually served with other traditional Indonesian dishes such as grilled or fried chicken and sambal.

Add some herbs and spices in cold rice, wrapped them up in banana leaves and bake or grill. Not something that is utterly brilliant, but it can be quite interesting dish.

Grilled rice started becoming very popular a couple of years ago. I remember one of the stalls got so many customers, one of our friends was queuing up in line for a couple of hours during lunch time rush just to bring us these tiny rolls of rice with some fried chicken and sambal.

The spices used to cook the rice would be the ones easiest to find and cost the least such as basil, lemongrass, salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaves). 

There are many varieties of ‘Nasi Bakar’ and here’s the recipe and step-by-step of making the most simple Grilled Rice or ‘Nasi Bakar’:


  • 10 kaffir lime leaves
  • 20 g lemon basil (kemangi), remove the hard stalks
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, halved and lightly bruised
  • 2 teaspoons of chicken powder or 2 chicken cubes (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 800 gram cold cooked rice
  • banana leaves, for wrapping


  • Stir-fry kaffir lime leaves, lemon basil and lemongrass over medium heat in a wok

  • Season with salt and chicken powder.
  • Add rice into the wok. Stir-fry until all the spices and seasonings are evenly distributed, about 2 minutes.

  • Remove from heat.
  • Place two cups of prepared rice on a sheet of banana leaf
  • Roll it up. Not too loose nor too tight

  • Fasten both ends with toothpicks.
  • Continue to roll and wrap the rice until finish

  • Bake the wrapped rice in preheated oven for 10 minutes or grill on stove top for 15 minutes.

  • Remove from heat and serve with fried chicken and sambal.



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