Nasi Lemak: A Step-by-Step Guide To Malaysia’s Favorite Fragrant Rice Dish

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Nasi lemak, literally meaning “fatty rice” in Malay, is a beloved Malaysian breakfast dish. It’s a fragrant and flavorful combination of coconut-infused rice, fried anchovies, crispy peanuts, a spicy sambal, a fried egg, and an assortment of other accompaniments. While there are regional variations, this recipe provides a well-rounded introduction to this national treasure.


Nasi Lemak Recipe
Nasi Lemak Recipe

2 cups long-grain white rice

  • 1 pandan leaf, tied in a knot
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ½ cups coconut milk
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil, for frying

  • For the Sambal:

    5 dried red chilies, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes

  • 5 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, chopped
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste (belacan)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • Salt to taste

  • Accompaniments:

    Fried anchovies

  • Roasted peanuts
  • Hard-boiled egg, sliced
  • Cucumber slices
  • Sambal telur (optional) – recipe below

  • Sambal Telur (Egg Sambal) – Optional:

    2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, chopped
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf, chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon shrimp paste (belacan)
  • Salt to taste

  • Directions:

    1. Prepare the Rice: Rinse the rice thoroughly in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Drain well.
    2. In a pot, combine the rice, pandan leaf, lemongrass, ginger, coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir once, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through and fluffy. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
    3. Make the Sambal: While the rice cooks, prepare the sambal. Drain the soaked chilies and remove the seeds (wear gloves if working with hot peppers!). Grind the chilies, shallots, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass into a fine paste using a mortar and pestle or food processor.
    4. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp paste and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add the sambal paste and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until the oil separates from the paste.
    5. Add the tamarind paste, palm sugar, and salt to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sambal thickens slightly.
    6. Optional Sambal Telur: If making sambal telur, heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf (if using) and cook for another minute.
    7. Add the chopped tomatoes and shrimp paste. Cook for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes soften. Stir in the chopped eggs and sambal. Season with salt to taste and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until heated through.
    8. Assemble the Nasi Lemak: To assemble, spoon the fragrant rice onto a plate. Top with fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, a hard-boiled egg slice, cucumber slices, and your desired amount of sambal and sambal telur (if using).

    Nutrition Facts (per serving, approximate):

    Calories: 450

  • Fat: 20g
  • Carbohydrates: 50g
  • Protein: 15g

  • Conclusion

    Nasi lemak is a satisfying and delicious way to start your day. The combination of textures and flavors is truly captivating. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different accompaniments like fried chicken, rendang, or pickled vegetables to personalize your plate!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

    1. Can I substitute coconut milk with something else?

    Yes, you can substitute coconut milk with an equal amount of full-fat milk and a tablespoon of melted butter for a richer flavor. However, the authentic taste of nasi lemak relies heavily on the coconut milk.