This being my first post, I want it to be special. Hence, Nasi Lemak! It is not that Nasi Lemak is my signature dish or specialty or anything like that. Having said that, Nasi Lemak is my favourite meal of all time. Heck, I don’t know anyone who comes from Malaysia and not like Nasi Lemak. It is just that good. So rich in calories and fatty with coconut cream. Not forgetting all the fried condiments. The operative word here is evidently “fried”.
My oh my, this is the best way to start the day on a Sunday morning or a perfect way to end Friday night after a long night of partying and boozing. Of course these spoken as if I still lived in Malaysia, where every corner there is a hidden gem of a restaurant that serves freshly steamed coconut rice with mind blowing spicy anchovies or shrimp sambal. Bliss!! But here I am, without a choice, forced to cook my own version of Nasi Lemak. Not that I don’t enjoy cooking, but cooking nasi lemak on a Sunday morning or late night on a Friday is a big no-no. So, nasi lemak has become more of a lunch or dinner meal these days…sadly.
Truthfully, I attempted making nasi lemak at least five times before I got it right. The first two attempts were disastrous! On both occasions, the sambal was potent. It turned out to be an uncooked chili concoction with a strong stingy taste. My husband who normally enjoys my cooking, spat his first mouthful of the awful tasting sambal and rice. I don’t blame him since I didn’t attempt eating it at all. Sadly, I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. My recipe was right and I didn’t miss any ingredients. Luckily on my 3rd attempt, I sort of got it right. The trick is to use lots and lots of oil to make the sambal. Stirring constantly for a really really long time. So it appears, perseverance was the key. And by my 5th attempt, I was able to get a close to perfect nasi lemak as pictured above.
The other thing that sets apart normal rice to nasi lemak is the coconut milk rice. The sweetness of the coconut milk infused with rice is something quite wonderful. And what makes this rice even more irresistible is the sweet aroma of pandan (screwpine) leaves that fills your nostrils and awakens a hungry beast in your stomach. In an event that you can’t find pandan leaves, use small pieces of ginger as replacement. The effect is equally inviting.
If you get the sambal wrong the first time around, fret not and try again another day! And as a precaution, maybe don’t invite friends over if you are going to try this for the first time, if you know what I mean.
Coconut Milk Rice
- 2 cups of rice (Typically I use Jasmine rice, but this is really a matter of preference)
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 2 cups of water
- A pinch of salt
- 2 screwpine (pandan) leaves – use 2 small pieces of ginger (skin removed), maybe a 2x2x1cm in size as a replacement
Sambal Belacan (Shrimp paste)
- 5~10 dried chilies soaked in hot water (use accordingly to achieve desired heat)
- 4~5 small shallots
- 2~3 cloves of garlic
- 1 red onion thinly sliced in rings
- 1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
- 1~2 tsp of chili powder (optional)
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp tamarind paste
- 4 Chicken drumsticks
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp tumeric powder
- Hard boiled eggs
- Thinly sliced cucumbers
- Fried peanuts (with skin)
- Fried anchovies
- Like cooking normal rice, once rice is rinsed and drained, add the coconut milk, water, salt and the screwpine leaves to the rice pot and cook. You might want to knot the screwpine leaves so that it is easier to remove once your rice is cooked. If you are using a rice cooker, you have less to worry about. But if you are using a steel pot to cook the rice, be warned that the coconut easily burns at the bottom of the pot. Best to grease the pot before cooking.
- Grind the soaked dried chilies, shallots and garlic in a blender.
- Heat pan with 4~5 tbsp of oil and add the ground paste into the hot pan. [Warning, the paste can splatter at the first introduction to the hot oil] Add in the belacan that has been crumbled or dissolved in very little water. Keep frying the paste till it becomes caramelized and fragrant and starts to get darker in shade.
- Add the red onion and chili powder (Remember, chili powder is optional. You don’t want to end up making a chili concoction. Exercise heat accordingly). Let the red onion caramelize in the sambal. Adding more oil as and when needed.
- Once the sambal is fully cooked, add sugar, salt and tamarind paste dissolved in 1/2 cup of water. Let this simmer for a while before turning off the flame and setting aside
- Mix all the spice powders and salt in a bowl. Toss the chicken drumsticks in the bowl to evenly coat it with the spices. Deep fry the chicken till its dark brown and fully cooked.
- Serve the rice hot from the pot with the sambal, fried chicken and all the condiments on the side as shown in the picture. Bon apetit!