Perfecting the Nasi "Kukus" Lemak

Monday, January 07, 2013

I have just turned 50. Many things in life get better with time. Some say you go downhill after 50. I think I will stay on top for a while and enjoy the view.

My Mum's Nasi Lemak recipe gets better with time, it seems. I did one party for more than 50 pax recently. The good thing about repeating recipes - Nasi Lemak is such a great party dish - is that you get to improve them. Good as my Mum's recipe is, she will be the first to tell you that hers can be improved on. The last party one would have made her proud and I wished she was around.

I will pen down some notes here for my own future reference. Cooking for such a large party has its challenges when it comes to estimating the quantities and ratios. Taking notes will be helpful if these parties are to be repeated. This won't be the last NLP in 2013.

The heart of the dish is of course the "nasi." It is always difficult to cook a huge lot of rice well. This time round, I think we (I was assisted by Auntie Lucy) got it perfected. Nasi "Kukus" (steaming) is still the best way to go if you want rice grains which are separated. To cook for 50, we needed 30 cups of rice. We cook it in two batches in the rice cooker. And then we transferred it to the steamer (two trays) for another half and hour of steaming till the rice has the texture we like. I list the recipe here but scale it down to serve 25:

Nasi Kukus Lemak
To serve 25

15 cups of rice (preferably long grain)
2 freshly grated coconuts
Pandanus Leaves
4 Tsp of table salt
2 litres of water (or 15x150ml cups)

Squeeze the grated coconut using a cloth or sieve/strainer. The first batch of pure milk is the cream. Set aside. Then you add some water to the coconut and squeeze again for the second batch of more watery milk.

Steaming the rice
Put the rice grains in the electric rice cooker. Add 15 cups of the watery milk. If your milk do not measure up to 15 cups, just add more water. Note: this is the a 1:1 rice:water ratio. The cream to be added later will also add more liquid to the rice. Add salt and some pandan leaves. Shred the leaves to some degree so that the fragrance can be easier released. Cook the rice till the rice cooker button change to "warm" setting. Now, add the first batch of thick coconut cream and mix it into the rice.

Then transfer to the steamer. Line the steamer with clothe so that the rice stay in the container. Steam high (flame set to medium-high) for about 20 minutes. Dig in and taste the rice to get to the texture you like.

The great thing about steaming is that is it keeps the rice nicely moist and cook it evenly across the batch. The rice is fluffy and every grain is separated. This is great for Nasi Lemak. Every spoonful is a treat!  

What I have used here is a 2 step electric rice cooker cum steamer process. Actually, wiht the right steamer, you can just use the steamer all the way and this way, you do not even have to think abut the water:rice ratio. Check out this great video on how this is done in a Nasi Lemak shop in Malaysia.

You should serve the rice hot and what we did was to bring the container straight to the buffet table when dinner started. You can warm up the rice before you serve.

It takes more effort but getting the rice right is important.

The next thing you need to do well is the Nasi Lemak Cili.

The chill was fantastic. I like the texture.
Nasi Lemak Chilli

Soak 100 pieces of dried chillies in warm water. Peel 60 pieces of shallots. I normally buy peeled ones from a stall in the wet market. Blend the chillies and onions separately. As I like texture in the sambal chill, I blend them coarsely. Some prefer the chilli smooth. Up to you.

Add 1 bowl of oil into the wok and heat up. Add the onions in first and slowly simmer for 15 mins till they are soft and fragrant. Then add the chill paste. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add salt, tamarind sauce (for the sour), gula melaka and sugar to taste. The chill needs to be sweet enough with a tinge of saltiness and sourness. Taste and adjust till you are satisfied with it.


For the rest of the condiments, you should know how to cook them i.e. deep-fry peanuts and anchovies, hard boiled eggs and cut cucumber and tomatoes. At the party, I added Beef Rendang, Fried Asam Prawns and "Malay" Rempah Fried Chicken. These three dishes are everyone's favorite and you won't go wrong with them.

Use shallow -pan fry if you want it to caramelize properly. If you deep fry, the marinate will scatter.

Beef Rendang

Fried Chicken (marinated with Spices and Coconut milk)
Peanuts and anchovies the fork on the skin to create the pattern
The rice is always the star
A visual of sambal cooking

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  1. Love the recipe for NLP. Thanks for sharing. Appreciate your effort.

  2. Hi, nice blog, i am going to try your glutinous rice cooking method for my lo mai kai tomorrow. My husband some times make nasi lemak for me, he adds sliced ginger, lemon grass and onions into the rice and they smell fabulous. You might want to try adding these into your nasi lemak and see if you like it!

  3. wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing your passion