Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak is a rich and creamy rice cooked in coconut milk. Traditionally it is accompanied with sambal tumis (sauteed sambal), ikan bilis and peanuts, cucumbers and a hard boiled-egg. I can say that Nasi Lemak is our national dish. It is a versatile dish, can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for the night-owls of my capital city Kuala Lumpur, you can even find them past midnight in some eateries. Look here for a quasi musical/documentary about Nasi Lemak that was filmed in Pudu Market.

Nasi Lemak can be served on its own, or with other side dishes. I sometimes make Chicken Rendang in addition to Nasi Lemak, or I make Sambal Tumis Sotong (Squid Sambal). I have made several variations of Sambal Tumis, with aubergines, hard-boiled eggs and even tofu!

I don’t have any Pandan (Screwpine Leaves) at the moment, but cooking the rice with pandan makes the rice smell (and subsequently, taste!) heavenly. I had a stalk of lemongrass which I crushed and added into the rice pot with the coconut milk.

Nasi Lemak is my go-to dish to cook when I feel I need a simple but satisfying pick-me-up from home. There were times when I was ill and about to flee from Greece (usually during the winter) and a plateful of this makes me less homesick.

Ingredients: (serves 2-4)

For the Rice:
1 cup of fragrant Jasmine rice
1 can of coconut milk
Some water (if the coconut milk doesn’t come up to 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
A pinch of salt.
If available: pandan leaf tied into a knot, or a stalk of lemongrass, crushed.
For the Sambal Tumis: Recipe here.

Cucumbers, sliced.
Hard-boiled eggs, sliced into halves or quarters.
Ikan Bilis (Anchovies) and Peanuts mix.


  1. Cook the rice. If you’re using a rice cooker, add the rice and 1 1/2 cups of liquid (coconut milk and water if not enough), a pinch of salt and the pandan or lemongrass. If you’re cooking it in a pot on the stove, add the seasonings, rice and liquid (1 1/2 cups to 1 3/4 cups – no more than 2 cups or it’ll get soggy!). Cook on medium heat until you see small crater holes on the surface of the rice. Cover with lid, and turn off the heat. Let it steam for about 10 minutes. Do not open the lid until after 10-15 minutes, or you’ll stop the steaming and the rice will get all weird. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Cook the sambal while rice is cooking.
  3. Once everything is ready, arrange on a plate with the garnish – cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, the ikan bilis (anchovies) and peanuts.

You can serve it with sambal tumis sotong, or chicken rendang, or a piece of fried chicken, or beef curry.


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