A basic and delicious Nasi Lemak recipe

Sunday, January 05, 2020

This is another set of cooking notes on a recipe I love very much, our local Nasi Lemak. 

In this post, I want to focus on a recipe which is replicable for a simple home dinner for 4 or 6. I will try to keep the steps simple, with only some brief explanation. 

I used the word “simple” and this is how I like you to see this recipe. It is a Kampung recipe after all, a very cheap breakfast “bungkus" start to a day. And as we know, Nasi Lemak is an all day dish. 

Cook a pot of good rice.
Prepare some delicious sambal.
Fry some ikan bilis and peanuts.
Make some hard-boiled eggs.
Cut some fresh cucumbers.
As you can see, you are actually only cooking two items: rice and sambal. 

Rice (using electric cooker)
5 cups basmati rice
coconut milk ( 200ml)
2 tsp table salt
10 stalks pandan leaves.

1.  Wash the rice 2-3 times and drain.
2.  Add equivalent amount of water (5 cups) and salt.
3.  Start cooking the rice.
4.  When the rice has risen (button on rice cooker turns to "warm”), add the coconut milk and knotted pandan leaves.
5.  Stir and mix the rice and milk. Keep the rice warm till you serve.
Notes: Basmati is forgiving and stays separated and less likely to be mushed up when cooking in a rice cooker cf to jasmine rice. It is also lighter than jasmine rice. Don't cook rice with coconut milk at the start. It will end up looking like chicken rice with the oil soaked through. Jasmine or regular Malaysian rice has a fluffiness which you can’t find in Basmati. You can still make good NL rice with  it (my Mum uses Jasmine rice) but sticks strictly to a 1:1 water:rice ratio. See this post for some tips when using Jasmine rice.

As for coconut milk, any kind will do. If you are squeezing your own coconut milk, the steps are different as spelt out here.
20 stalks red chillies
5 pieces bird-eye chillis or chilli padi
4 large Red Onions
100gm fried ikan bilis (dehydrated anchovies)
1 tsp of tamarind paste
2 tbsp sugar or equivalent sweetness from palm sugar (gula Melaka)
2 cups oil
2 cups water

1.  Blend or dice 2 onions.
2.  Slice 2 onions and set aside.
3.  Blend the chilli into a paste.
4.  Heat up the oil in a wok on low fire.
5.  Add the blended/diced onions. Simmer for 15 minutes.
6.  Add the chilli paste, water, sugar and simmer for 10 minutes.
7.  Add the fried ikan bilis and sliced onions. Stir and mix.
8.  After 2 minutes, the sambal is done.
Cucumber - sliced into rounds
Hard-boiled eggs - quarter
Peanuts - roast in a wok or oven. 
Ikan bilis - fry it.

This dish is a coming together of a sweet sambal with slightly salty rice, crunchy ikan bilis and peanuts, comforting hard-boiled eggs and refreshing cucumber. The aim is to find a delicious balance when the items are eaten together. This is the kind of Nasi Lemak I grew up with from the streets of Malaysia. I have a craving for it sometimes at breakfast time and in fact, I can have it anytime of the day.

Some extra side dishes which you can add: Fried Assam Prawns (amazing with NL), fried ikan kuning ("nasi lemak fish” - can replace ikan bilis), Sambal sotong (the brown variety), mild curry chicken with small yellow potatoes (good if you want to add more sauce for a wetter dish), fried chicken or fried chicken wings (NOT my favourite NL add on). 

I would say that one should master the the basic NL dish first and work on the extra sides later. 

The Nasi Lemak condiments (Sambal, fried ikan bilis, peanuts) keep well in the fridge and can be prepared way beforehand.  

Fried Assam Prawns: Marinate in tamarind sauce, pepper, salt and dark sauce. Pan-sear each side for 2 minutes. 
The NL Sambal
Dinner Spread.

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