Nasi lemak ~ I don’t know what to say about this. How can I begin to describe this humble meal that has literally fed generations of Malaysians; it is life giving food. Fragrant long-grain rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, then served along side classic condiments like hard boiled eggs, fried baby anchovies, slices of cold cucumbers and a spicy chilli and onion sambal.
Traditionally nasi lemak was eaten in the morning as a breakfast dish, but it has become to popular that society now demands it be available to the masses at anytime of the day. All well and good, but I still prefer to have it in the morning when it is nice and fresh. Speaking of fresh nasi lemak, my ex-flatmate used to beg me to make him this meal when we were living together in Melbourne … and I never did. 🙁 Poor boy. Every time I think about it I feel mean, because nasi lemak isn’t at all hard to make. In light of that I shall dedicate this recipe in his name: Julius, this is for you, even though I know this is a poor substitute.
- 1½ cups long grain white rice
- 150 mls cold water
- 200 mls thick coconut milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 blades pandan leaves, knotted
Gently simmer the rice until there is no more liquid left and the rice if fluffy. You can use a rice cooker or simply use a saucepan on the stove top. See, told you it was easy. Now what makes this a complete meal is all the other condiments that go along with this special rice. Traditionally that meant a boiled egg, salted ground peanuts, slices of cucumber, fried anchovies and a spicy onion and chilli sambal. This is known as ‘nasi lemak biasa‘ or ‘nasi lemak kosong‘ in my country; plain ‘ol regular, no frills stuff. Packets of this can be purchased for as little as RM 2. Fancier versions include a myriad of side dishes from chicken curries to squid sambals. The prices get fancier too once you add in the side dishes, costing up to RM 10 a plate. Heavier and heartier fare is usually eaten as a lunch or dinner meal.
For my recipe today I am only interested in the traditional accompaniments. Without these key components I don’t think you can say you cooked nasi lemak. So into a pot of simmering water went two large eggs. In a shallow frying pan I fried up some sundried salted anchovies. On the side I had some spicy prawn and onion sambal ready to go. The sambal recipe is a very personal one. Some people only want chillies and onions in theirs, while others will swear that the sambal needs to have some of the anchovies in it.
I have to admit that after having me some of this stuff it made me melt somewhere from deep within. It brought back memories of the hours I’ve spent at mamak stalls with Claire and Kerry on weekend mornings. Almost everybody you talk to in Malaysia will have some form of happy memory related to this dish; it has united a nation. It has also divided it on occasions as the battle rages on to ascertain who sells the best nasi lemak in all the land.
So there you have it folks, now you know how easy it is to make nasi lemak I hope you give it a try. I also hope Julius isn’t too mad at me for not making more of an effort to cook him a plate of this when I had the chance. We live on different continents and in opposing hemispheres now, but let it be known that if he ever comes to visit me here in Amsterdam (or wherever I wind up next) I will oblige him and make good on my promise.
~ The End ~