Nasi Campur (pronounced Nasee Champoor) is the most popular Indonesian dish. The name means “mixed rice” and consists of small portions of either vegetables, fish or meat, with a mound of steamed rice. The contents vary from region to region, but there are always plenty of vegan options such as tempeh, tofu, tapioca leaves, jackfruit, veggie fritters and so on, which all taste incredible.
The beauty of this dish is that it is always changing, and there are numerous combinations of flavours, and because these are all small portions the individual flavours are all unique and interesting. I would compare nasi campur to tapas or antipasto as a western equivalent, but eaten as a main instead of an appetizer.
In Indonesian or Malaysian restaurants there will usually be large buffet-looking table with a selection of prepared foods in chafing dishes. A server places a mound of rice (nasi) on a banana leaf, and you point to the things you want to eat.
Usually 4or 5 items will be selected and because of this, it is seldom prepared at home because of the time involved in preparing 5 separate dishes in such small quantities.
In Indonesia, the cost of this dish ranges from $0.40 to $2 for this dish and your mouth will be blasted with several different flavours! The combo is up to you, just make sure that there are no hidden meat surprises, as you should do with all east Asian food.
I made nasi campur for a group of friends recently and had a lot of fun creating the small portions which included vegan satay, plantains, bok choy, papaya salad, stuffed tofu, and yellow split peas. You can always change what is on the plate and add your favourites.
For a fun alternative to steamed rice, try coconut pandan rice (pandan is sometimes known as “screw pine”). Pandan is a palm leaf that some say has a flavour reminiscent of vanilla. If anything, it adds a tropical fragrance to rice and makes the dish a little more interesting. You can find pandan leaves in most Asian grocery stores, and if not fresh, you may find it as an essence in a can.
Coconut – Pandan rice
- 2 cups medium grain rice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 4 pandan leaves, knotted
- In a rice cooker, combine all ingredients and steam until ready.
- Once cooked, discard the pandan leaves.
- Scoop into a small bowl and press the rice firmly.
- Invert the bowl on a plate and tap gently so that the rice falls into a perfect mound.
- Arrange your favourite foods around the mound of rice, and dig in!
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