Nasi lemak is a rice dish that is widely popular in Malaysia, Singapore and even Brunei. The rice is cooked in coconut milk along with fresh and fragrant spices like lemongrass and pandan leaves. First time eaters always describe nasi lemak to be an experience. The spices make the dish fragrant, even from afar!
Every bite is then enjoyed with some fried anchovies which are crispy. Fresh cucumbers are also a must. Most importantly, sambal! It is made a chilli paste condiment that is savoury and spicy, with a hint of tamarind. This dish has it all flavour profile you can ever imagine!
Meaning of Nasi Lemak
In Malay, it means ‘rice’ and ‘fat’. However, the ‘fat’ refers to the creaminess of the coconut milk which is used in cooking the rice. It is a very popular dish that is widely available at roadside stalls, markets, food courts in shopping malls and even in 5 stars hotels throughout Malaysia.
Why this recipe works
The rice is a crucial component to the dish. A Malay uncle (family friend) once said, most nasi lemak today are not good because they tend to cut down on the coconut milk due to cost. In this recipe, I made sure that the coconut milk is sufficient!
Do not use too much coconut milk or you will notice the fats clumping up in the rice once cooked, making it soggy instead of fluffy.
A super simple recipe is also available for sambal, the spicy and savoury chilli paste that is a must have in the dish.
Basic plate of nasi lemak
A basic plate of nasi lemak consists of coconut milk rice, 'sambal', fried anchovies, slices of cucumber and a slice of fried or hard boiled egg. Additionally, curry chicken, squids sambal, fried fish, spiced fried chicken or chicken rendang may be added. The list could go on according to individual preferences. It is actually a wholesome meal by itself and often eaten throughout the day. Of course, do not forget the cup of teh tarik as it complements the dish fantastically.
Ratio of water and rice
Many of you asked regarding the amount of water needed to cook the perfect pot of rice. In this recipe, we used a 2 to 1 (liquid to rice) ratio which means using 2 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice. Ensure to get rid of all excess water after rinsing the rice before adding the required amount of liquid.
As the nasi lemak recipe requires 0.5 cup of coconut milk, the suggested amount of water needs to be reduced accordingly. That is to use 1.5 cup of water instead plus 0.5 cup of coconut milk to one cup of rice. Hence, the ratio of 2:1
Is nasi lemak healthy?
I grew up with the advice to reduce the intake of nasi lemak because it is high in saturated fat. That’s why it is advisible to eat it occasionally. However, a plate of Nasi Lemak has both protein and nutrients. I like to ensure that there are enough vegetables on the plate too. Pair it with fresh cucumbers, Acar Awak (pickled spicy vegetables) or kangkung belacan.
To reduce the amount of saturated fat, simply reduce the amount of coconut milk.
How to prepare nasi lemak in advance
As simple as it may seem, the preparation can be quite tedious. Cooking the sambal one day before definitely shortens the cooking time. Besides that, anchovies and the peanuts may be fried in advanced too. Once they are cooled to room temperature, they can be stored in air tight containers for up to 3 days.
The nasi lemak sauce
The dark red sauce which is served alongside nasi lemak is known as sambal. It is made up of a combination of mainly chillies, shallots and garlic. There are many varieties and recipes of this sambal. Normally, nasi lemak is served with a simple sambal but depending on the vendors, anchovies, prawns or squids are sometimes added to it.
Nasi lemak is a great recipe for gatherings especially when you are planning to introduce Malaysian food to foreign guests. To make it more authentic, wrap nasi lemak in banana leaves to make it distinctively a Malaysian tradition.