The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

vegan Indonesian-style fried rice

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We are all going to die one day, one way or another, but there is a growing chance that for many of us it will be as a result of the biggest cause of death in the developed world today: so-called non-communicable diseases.

These include cancer, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. And the biggest principal cause of death from non-communicable disease is obesity.

According to calculations by the World Obesity Federation, on current trends the cost of treating ill health caused by obesity alone will be over $1.2 trillion every year from 2025.

Not long after his appointment, the UK’s National Health Service executive, Simon Stevens, warned that the cost of treating obesity-related illnesses could bankrupt the NHS, and the cost continues to rise.

According to the World Obesity Federation, a staggering one third of the world’s population will be overweight or obese by 2025.

We have to take drastic action to reverse this trend.

Political parties must be forced to cut all sponsorship ties with the food industry. Sugary drinks and other unhealthy food must be taxed to the hilt. Taxation must be linked directly to the benefit or damage a product causes, and the money raised used to pay for the cost of treating the illnesses it helps create.

More resources need to be directed into prevention and early intervention – through education (for example, teaching children how to prepare a nutritious meal) and encouraging more exercise (for example, providing more cycle paths and walkways). There must also be a greater emphasis on primary and social care, so that those in danger of becoming obese are identified early on and given encouragement and support to take remedial action.

These are but a few proposals, all of which would have far greater long-term impact than continuing this losing battle of dealing with the problem after the damage has been done.

On to the recipe.

This is my vegan take on an Indonesian street food classic called nasi goreng. Translated simply as “fried rice”, this is a stir-fried rice like no other, with a unique, powerful, spicy flavour.

In Indonesia it is eaten at all times of the day, sometimes with a fried egg on top. I have been known to eat it for breakfast on the rare occasion when there is any left from the night before.

You can vary the vegetable ingredients according to taste and what you have available. Sambal oelek is a traditional and unique Indonesian chilli sauce, available from Asian stores (just check the list of ingredients before purchasing because some versions include fish sauce). Crispy shallots are also available from Asian stores, but you can very easily make your own, as I prefer to do, by deep frying thinly sliced shallots in very hot oil and then draining well on kitchen paper. Once cool, these crispy shallots will keep in an airtight container for about ten days and can be used as an interesting garnish to any number of dishes.

vegan Indonesian-style fried rice


320 g brown basmati rice
2 banana shallots
1 leek, finely sliced
200 g sprouting broccoli
200 g shiitake or oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 red pepper, finely sliced
160 g marinated tofu pieces
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally
2 tbsp crispy shallots
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsps toasted sesame oil
1 lime, cut into wedges

for the sauce

2 red chillies, seeds in, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cm piece ginger, finely chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce for GF version)
2 tbsp sambal oelek
1 tbsp maple syrup

1. Cook the rice according to the instructions. Drain and set to one side to cool.

2. While the rice is cooking, make the sauce. Put the chillies, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sambal oelek and maple syrup in a food processor and blend to a paste. Set to one side.

3. Place a wok over a high heat, and add the groundnut oil and the toasted sesame oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, quickly add the shallots, leek, sprouting broccoli, mushrooms, red pepper and spring onion. Stir fry for 4 minutes then add the tofu pieces and fold in the cooked rice. Reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry for a further 4 minutes. Add the sauce. As soon as it bubbles up, stir in half of the crispy shallots and half of the coriander. Remove the wok from the heat.

4. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining crispy shallots and chopped coriander and accompanied by lime wedges

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

Tags: , ,

20 replies

  1. I love fried rice but haven’t tried with brown rice and sesame oil.. will try definitely.. thank you for healthy vegan fried rice

  2. Hip, hip, hip hurrah Steve! I could not agree more . . . and actually this is my area of study and expertise to a large degree! With all the pertinent information so easily available I cannot understand the idiocy people, basically in First World countries, tend to show . . . . products like soft drinks, lollies and Nutella should be banned or taxed out of existence! Let every person enjoy their ‘democratic right’ to put ‘poisons’ into their body: but the community should not pay for their careless hedonism out of the public coffers or insurance funds!! Am smiling at your rather different but tasty STIR-FRIED rice with quite a few ingredients I have not used but shall try. I hope readers realize this is not what I would call fried rice with lots of oil involved . . . . oh, a wee bit of ketjap manis will find its way into mine also 🙂 !!

  3. I’m a big fan of nasi goreng, with an egg on top. I think it’s the squeeze of lime added at the table that makes this dish sing

    • I agree Sandra, the lime is essential. I must admit that I have yet to try nasi goreng with a fried egg on top, despite that being the Indonesian way: perhaps I will try it next time. Steve

  4. Sing Hallelujah and pass the tambourine to that man! It is one of the greatest disgraces of our so called first world that governments sit by and allow the big food corporates to effectively poison the population. And it is often the poor and less educated who fall most easily into their sugar-baited traps. And health services are breaking with the burden of trying to cope with the sick and dying caused by this endemic. Tax them harder than hard and put the money into the health service. How hard is that to work out!

  5. Nice recipe

  6. Steve, my husband’s doctor told him he had a huge blood sugar reading. He stopped the fizzy drinks and cut down on snacks. In a month’s time the blood sugar was down to almost normal. I’m all for governments cutting sponsorship with the food industry, but that doesn’t let adults off from taking responsibility for their own and their children’s health. Too many people are counting on the government to make the hard decisions and do their job for them.

    • Hi Mary. Thank you for your interesting comments.
      I do understand your rather hard-line attitude, but I do not agree with it. When so many children are already obese at the time of leaving primary school then it is surely time to step in. Part of the problem is that many of these children have parents who do not cook, and so they are fed on a diet dominated by microwaved meals and take always. Unless we educate those children by teaching them where their food comes from, how to appreciate good food and how to prepare a healthy meal then those children will simply repeat the same pattern with their own kids, and we will never see the cycle being broken.
      The real villains, of course, are the food manufacturers who put company profit ahead of customers’ health. If their unhealthy products were subject to high taxes then people wouldn’t buy and consume so many fizzy drinks and snacks in the first place, and so would be less likely to become ill and put a strain on our health services. Steve

      • I know I should leave it alone, Steve, but I’ve been watching my state government taking charge of our children on all sorts of fronts. It doesn’t trust parents to do it right. And parents are too darned busy with their careers to notice. Tax those purveyors of poison by all means, have teachers teach children about eating healthy. In the meantime make sure parents are shamed into,taking some responsibility for their progeny, or ask them why Ithey bother.

  7. “teaching children how to prepare a nutritious meal” YES!!! We need to do this and teach them to grow food.
    You are right our kids need to learn how to grow, cook and take care of nature in the schools. They are becoming so removed from the best ways to keep themselves healthy. They don’t even spend time outside anymore.
    Great POST!!! Your food looks amazing:-)

    • Thank you Robbie, I totally agree.

      When I used to have an allotment plot some of my fellow plot holders would come down to tend their plots with their very young children. Over the course of a few seasons those kids learned how things grew, along with experiencing the thrill of picking ripe, fresh strawberries, raspberries, peas and so on.

      If we could get more parents, schools and community projects to teach children these basics, and to instil in them an understanding of, and a pleasure in, the importance of fresh, organic food then we would have the generational building blocks for a happier, healthier future.

  8. The flavours in this dish are so yummy, a great idea for a workday dinner!

  9. This looks so great! Love fried rice. All of the flavors combined is the best!


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