Perfecting the Nasi "Kukus" LemakMonday, 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.
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
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|
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.|
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.
|Fried Chicken (marinated with Spices and Coconut milk)|
|Peanuts and anchovies|
|Cucumber...run the fork on the skin to create the pattern|
|The rice is always the star|
|A visual of sambal cooking|