Kecap manis (Recipe: nasi goreng/Indonesian fried rice)
An updated post from the archives, with a simpler version of the original recipe, plus new photos and links.
What does ABC mean to you?
Something fundamental, yes? A starting point. A building block.
In the world of food, ABC reminds me of two things.
First, an ABC I don't keep in the pantry: When Ted and Cousin Martin and I traveled through Malaysia, we tasted a dessert called ABC, air batu campur -- literally, "water stone mix" -- a mound of shave ice topped, improbably, with red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly and a drizzle of evaporated milk. Also called ais kacang, it looked like a kind of psychedelic sno-cone.
Second, an ABC I always have in my pantry: kecap manis, a wonderful, sweet soy sauce sold under the ABC brand and, in our house, known as "that ABC stuff in the cupboard."
Kecap -- also spelled ketjap -- manis (pronounced KEH-chup mah-NEESE), is a thick, syrupy, soy sauce fundamental to the cuisine of Indonesia and, to a lesser extent, Malaysia and Singapore. Made of palm sugar, salt, soy beans, garlic and star anise, kecap manis has the consistency of molasses or honey, and an addictive salty-sweet taste.
Used as a dipping sauce, on its own or mixed with sambal oelek and lime, kecap manis also adds flavoring to sauteed shrimp, Penang char hor fun, or squid lo mein, or as a marinade for salmon. Stored in a dry cupboard or in the refrigerator, it will keep almost indefinitely, though it should be replaced after two years.
In addition to ABC brand, you might find Cap Bango, with an illustration of a pelican on the label. Both brands are imported from Indonesia. Cap Bango has a bit of a smoky-sweet overtone. It's harder to find in my local Asian markets, whereas ABC is almost always available.
If you can't find kecap manis, you can make your own. Simmer soy sauce and palm sugar or brown sugar together until the mixture turns to syrup. Or mix one part molasses with two parts soy sauce. Here's another recipe that adds the flavor of lemongrass, garlic and star anise.
Kecap manis would taste great on cottage cheese, but unlike American tomato ketchup (which shares the same word derivation, from the Cantonese koechiap, meaning "sauce"), it could never pass for a vegetable.
Nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice)
The first bite might take your head off, but after that the warm glow of Sriracha, tempered by the sweetness of kecap manis, will be positively addicting. Just ask my friends Bob and Bev, who aren't super-spicy-food lovers; they taste-tested this recipe and couldn't stop eating it. Note: this recipe calls for cold cooked rice, which can be made up to a week ahead of time; or, buy steamed rice from a Chinese restaurant, and chill it. Serves 4-5 as a side dish; can be doubled.
2 Tbsp canola oil
10 large shrimp (21-25 size), peeled, deveined, sliced in half length-wise
1 garlic clove, minced
1-1/2 cups storebought cole slaw mix (or 1-1/4 cups shredded green cabbage plus 1/4 cup shredded carrot)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken from the supermarket)
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cups cooked long-grain or basmati rice, cold
2 Tbsp kecap manis
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Sriracha (or less, to taste)
In a wok, heat the oil over high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic and cole slaw mix, and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the chicken, and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and curled. Push the mixture to one side, and pour in the beaten egg. Let cook 1 minute or until just set. Add the rice, and stir all together, chopping up the rice clumps and the egg with a wooden spoon. Stir in the kecap, sesame oil and Sriracha, and stir to combine all ingredients. Serve hot.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Chicken lo mein
Rice noodle salad with shrimp
Mushroom and asparagus paella
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This looks truly delicious. My husband travels for work, and I frequently make fried rice for myself on nights when I'm eating alone. It's easy and delicious. Now I have a new ingredient and variation to add to my repertoire! Thank you!
I often prefer the flavor of ketcap manis to soy sauce - it's got a slightly sweeter note. i would love to get me a bowl of this.
Im going to try this.....thanks for sharing
This looks delicious and makes me want to eat! I am going to try this.Thanks
I can't wait to go treasure hunting for this sauce and make this recipe! You make it sound so delicious!
Mix some Kecap Manis with some soft butter and some fresh ginger and brush on salmon. Grill or broil. SERIOUSLY delicious.
I order it through Amazon. Good price, pretty quick delivery.
I think that a sweet/spicy nasi goreng followed by a cool ABC has to be the perfect "yin/yang" food pairing for a backyard dinner on a hot humid night!.
"ABC Stew" is a South American dish made from Apricots, Beef, and Carrots -- I wonder how many other foods have an ABC title?
Kecap manis is one of those ingredients I've read about many times but never tried. It sounds like it's got a lot of sugar, but I still think I have to try it!
Sounds delicious, guess I have to go search out the Asian markets in Providence. Thanks.
Haley, I'm a big fried rice fan, too. This is a great version, and if you have kecap manis in your pantry, try it with other fried rice combinations too.
Meeta, it's a wonderful blend of sweet and salty in one jar, isn't it?
Milton, Akwe, Natasha: have fun shopping at your local Asian markets, or see Brenda's comment about finding this on amazon.com. I hope you enjoy it.
Brenda, seriously, that sounds amazing. I will try it this week. Thanks!
Cousin, are you offering to cook? Sounds like it would be a perfect meal.
Mae, fascinating question. Let's do some research, shall we?
Kalyn, it does have sugar, but overall it is more salty (like soy sauce) than sweet. And you don't need a lot of it to make an impact on a dish.
Janet, Chinese American Mini Mart in Cranston always has kecap manis; I'm sure that some of the market in town do, too. Let me know if you have trouble finding it and I'll "import" some from the Asian supermarket in Boston.
I forgot about the asian stores,,,not to many around this neck of the woods. I did try three supermarkets yesterday....none had it on the shelf. If today is a no go will just grill the shrimp and dip in lemon butter :)
I love kecap manis. Regular soy sauce just doesn't give the same taste. I guess it's because almost all the food in the Indonesian region where I live are characterized by the sweet-salty taste. One can practically have everything with kecap manis!
So now I must add kecap manis and Sriracha to my list of "elusive ingredients I'm looking for". Although these two sound like I have a better than average chance of actually finding them.
This fried rice looks wonderful. Fried rice is my very favorite thing in an oriental kind of restaurant. I can usually be surprised but delighted at the variations.
I love fried rice any which way. This sounds great, I'll have to try this.
Thanks for the info - a colleague gave me his Bami Goreng recipe & asked if I had any Kecap Manis. Not wanting to look foolish, I said "of course"! Now I finally know what it is! btw: it's also good on burgers! :-)
I love nasi goreng - had it for breakfast just about every morning when I was in Kuching on the island of Borneo. Can't wait to try your version. Thanks!
Milton, there are lots of good online sources for ABC, ify ou can't find an Asian market nearby. Look up at the top of this page, under "Where to shop".
Ika, I'm always looking for more recipes that use kecap manis. What are your favorites?
MyKitchen, these two ingredients are really ones you'll use over and over, especially if you're a fried rice lover.
Gina, this is a great, spicy fried rice. I'm sure you'd like it.
Beth, now that you know what it is, you'll definitely want to get it. Bami goreng (the Indonesian version of mee goreng, which I've posted about a couple of times) is one of the great noodle dishes of the world.
Teresa, now I'm wondering what you had for breakfast in Kuching? In peninsular Malaysia, I had noodles for breakfast every day, and loved it.
My favorites are kecap manis on stir-fry recipes, you might not like the idea of combining veggies with kecap, but we do just about that, with veggies like green beans, also with tofu and tempeh, and many other typical stir-fry ingredients. But my number one is kecap manis on meat like ayam goreng kecap (fried or stir-fried chicken with kecap manis sauce), it's like making sweet and sour chicken only the sweet and sour sauce is replaced by kecap. If you want, I could send you a recipe or two with kecap manis :-)
Having kids in public school, I'm glad that the whole ketchup as a vegetable thing passed.
This is a lovely looking recipe, and I'm looking forward to trying it (minus the shrimp of death) sometime soon. I have to laugh at my self though...I was puzzled by what Sriracha could be and followed your link...only to see the same bottle I bought on impulse in the Asian aisle at the store and haven't opened in six months. Good to know I have a year and a half to rectify that.
Oops...I mean I'm glad ketchup as a vegetable didn't pass. It's a sleepy night on the ol' graveyard shift.
This was amazing - I am so surprised that a simple sauce makes a difference to fried rice like night and day.
I couldn't find your ABC brand, but we live in the Midwest with a large Dutch population. I found the Conimex version in the Dutch section of a regular grocery store. They spell it Ketjap Manis though.
My friend finally brought over a bottle of ABC yesterday. The only thing I don't like about it is that it looks like a bottle of fancy micro-artisanal beer :)
Im going to try make the recipe this weekend. Happy 4th of July
but how to find kecap manis in nigerian contry?
kecap manis is like soy sauce but more sweet. how i know because i'm indonesian. sory i'm not fluent speak english
wow, didn't know that kecap manis has gone global. i think its a necessity to have it in ur cupboard. try to drizzle it over warm rice & sunny-side-up egg. love it!