Searching for Close-to-Authentic Nasi Goreng in Manila

It was Indonesia that made me a foodie. I never realized how many tastes, textures, and flavors there were until I bit into a nasi goreng special. Cooking Master Boy, an anime, described certain flavor fusions to be like “A tornado in my mouth!” I first laughed at the horrible metaphor until I actually realized what it meant to have a tornado in the mouth. It’s damn good stuff, that.

Mom worries that I have spoiled palate. I have been fortunate enough to travel around Asia and Europe and taste cuisine as it should be. I’ve had escargot in France, I’ve had dimsum in Hong Kong, lauriat in China, ramen in Japan, and pasta in Italy. I’ve even had kangaroo jerky from Australia. My Indonesian maid cooked nasi uduk from scratch, as in, she would get an entire coconut and grate it herself from scratch. That’s a big deal to even locals, who don’t mind stir-frying in the instamix – that’s what they’re made for anyway.

The good news is, I’m not that spoiled. I can still be happy with Chinese and Japanese fast food. I find though that I’m ridiculously hard to please with Indonesian food. The closest I got to authentic was a stall in Salcedo Market that even served a recipe for rendang. Sadly, It closed shop some time ago.

Banana Leaf isn’t perfectly authentic, but they got the Nasi Goreng right. It has the right color and texture, and goes great with their satay. For some semblance of Indonesian cuisine, it works. It keeps my taste buds happy for a little while. Banana Leaf’s flavors are far more satisfying than Nasi Lemak at Robinson’s Galleria, which an acquaintance recommended to me as Singaporean-owned with authentic Singapore-Malay-Indonesian cuisine. I had high hopes for Nasi Lemak but was very disappointed when I recognized their nasi goreng as a fushion of nasi uduk with ikan asin. There is a stark difference, ok? Nasi Goreng is supposed to be reddish and pasty, while Nasi Uduk is a coconut-based rice.Their laksa was also disappointingly thin, though it captures a similar flavor to the Singaporean laksa we all know and love. Not great, but ok. Probably better as long as you haven’t tasted the real thing.

For authentic, you’re better off buying instant.

Matahari snack stands in some branches of SM and Metro Gaisano malls stock Indofood instant noodles and other products. Their stock is limited and differs from branch to branch, but it works. You might also get lucky at Robinsons Supermarket’s Asian Food section, which has excellent instant pho noodles called Oh! Ricey! and instant laksa that noodle fiend-friend, Khursten, highly recommends.

Are there any IndoMalay food places I’m missing in Metro Manila? Let me know! Sate this foodie, let’s put it to my nasi goreng or mie goreng taste test!