Party Notes: The Marvellous Morsels of Nasi Ulam

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Nasi Ulam (photo: Joyce Ho)
We love making Nasi Ulam for gatherings.

It is a favourite at the Alpha Courses held at St Andrew's Cathedral.

It always put a smile on people's faces. The explosion of indescribable flavours fills one's senses with every spoonful. It is decidedly local and yes, very cheap to make.

The meal do not sit heavily in your stomach. It is light and refreshing. These herbs have their health value, rich anti-oxidants and all. Not that anyone cared too much for that.

If you are a vegetarian, you will be very happy to have this on the dining party table.

Ulam means herbs in Malay. I have already blogged the "recipe" here. I am not sure recipe is the word I should use as each lot of this has turned out slightly different.

I have come to use these herbs more often than others:

Basil (sweetish)
Daun Keduk (Pepper leaves)
Mint Leaves (slightly bitters)
Turmeric Leaves (gingerly)
Laksa Leaves (Daun Kesum, strong flavour - us win moderation)
Torch Ginger Bud (Bunga Kantan)
Kaffir Lime leaves (leaves are hard, strong flavour, use in moderation)

You can get these herbs easily in many wet markets. Tekka Market is my favourite source.

Some of the herbs I normally use, left to right, : Turmeric leaves, lemon grass, torch bud,
Daun Keduk (bottom), Mint leaves (top), Basil Leaves (right),
Kaffir lime Leaves(top right)
(photo: Goh Eck Kheng)
Salt, toasted and crumbly salted fish and sugar are also added to the rice. And for the refreshing crunch, garnish with thin slices of shallots, carrot strips and tiny cucumber cubes.

After you wash the leaves, it is important to ensure it is dry before you cut it. A sharp knife is needed so that the herbs are diced finely and neatly. If you use a blunt knife, you are crushing the leaves and the diced herbs will be wettish.

The rice must be cooked perfectly as mushy rice is a disaster for Nasi Ulam. We normally use the 1:1 water-rice ratio. Basmati is our favourite as it is light. After the rice has been cooked and cooled down, we mix in the herbs. If you add the herbs into steaming hot rice, the herbs will be cooked and lose it's freshness.

The beautifully pink Torch Bud Ginger (photo: Joyce Ho)
For the Nonya or Malay pairing dishes, a sambal dish goes well with it. Sambal Prawns is our usual favourite or simply, a plain Sambal Belachan. As for meat, a mildly flavoured meat dish will go well, such as Ayam Sioh or Inche Kabin (nonya friend chicken). We sometimes offer Buah Keluak flavoured meat but we will dial down the intensity of the bush Keluak paste so that its do not compete with the herbs. The rice should not be drenched in gravy either and so, soupy dishes are out.

Explosion of flavours in every spoonful
I will share our notes on dishes which we cooked to pair with Nasi Ulam: Buah Keluak flavoured "Tau You Bak" (pork belly) and sambal prawns with the crunchy four corner beans (kacang botox) in the next few posts.

Meanwhile, I hope this post will inspire you to try making this. Unless your guests are on an Atkins diet, expect them to return for multiple helpings.

Garnished with cucumber and carrot strips

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