Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak is a popular hawkers dish that is commonly eaten as breakfast in Singapore and Malaysia. It is a rice dish cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves (also known as screwpine leaves). It is originally from Malaysia and often considered as a national dish due to its popularity. Nasi Lemak is also an absolute favorite with the Singapore crowd. That is why it is now served not only as breakfast but also as lunch and dinner due to its popularity. Besides Singapore and Malaysia, you can also find versions of this dish Riau Islands, Brunei, and Southern Thailand.

What is nasi lemak?

The term ‘nasi lemak’ means ‘oily rice’ which is derived from the use of coconut cream to cook the rice instead of water. Knotted pandan leaves are added for additional fragrance. As you can imagine, this method improves the plain rice to a special, creamy rice dish that puts nasi lemak on any top Singapore comfort food lists.

In its traditional serving, the dish includes fresh cucumber slices, crunchy fried anchovies (also called ‘ikan bilis’ in Malay), toasted peanuts, hard boiled eggs and the tasty sambal which gives nasi lemak its classic appeal.

How is nasi lemak eaten?

Singaporean Chinese adapted this Malay specialty and added more to the basic ensemble. It is often accompanied with spiced fried chicken (ayam goreng), cuttlefish (sambal sotong), fried mackerel (ilan kuning), otah (grilled fish paste), grilled seafood, or beef rendang on special occasions. In the Singaporean Chinese version, sometimes luncheon meat is added (asian Spam). There are also versions when the egg is fried rather than boiled. This complete meal is sometimes wrapped in banana leaves when served.

It is easy to make your own version at home. Fresh ingredients are the key to a good nasi lemak. In this version, we’ll be preparing the basic nasi lemak and use a rice cooker for convenience. If you want instructions on how the classic accompaniments are cooked, click on the links in the text.

Sources of this article on nasi lemak

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  • 1. Prepare the coconut cream and the milk by placing the grated coco meat in a cloth. (Or use alternatively the bought coconut milk)
  • 2. Drench with warm water and squeeze. The first squeeze will be the 'coconut cream' which we will set aside.
  • 3. Drench again with warm water. The second squeeze will be the 'coconut milk'.
  • 4. Wash the rice until the water runs clear.
  • 5. Tie the pandan leaves in a knot.
  • 6. Now bruise the ginger.
  • 7. Add salt to taste. Without salt, the nasi lemak will taste a bit flat.
  • 8. Place all the ingredients in the rice cooker except the coconut cream. If you add coconut cream from the beginning, the rice will burn, so only use the coconut milk at this stage. If too thick, you can always add some water to dilute.
  • 9. When the rice is cooked, and the cooker is switched to 'warm', stir in 1 cup of coconut cream and switch it on again until done. Be sure to mix and fluff up the rice during this last step.
  • 10. Enjoy your homemade nasi lemak!

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