Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

Nasi Lemak. What not to love. In Singapore we eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. At the popular stalls, the queues are endless. The rice and sambal (chilli paste) are the heart of this dish. Get them right, you have a winner but get them wrong it’s almost unforgivable. I must admit, making the sambal was the hardest for me. I have seen my Mum prepare this sambal countless times and I’ve also helped her with it but when it was time for me to replicate it all on my own, I was out of my depth. My first try was quite a disaster. In the middle of it, I had to ring Mum to go through the steps again. The tricky bit to this sambal is to get the balance of the sour, sweet and spicy right. You also need to have a lot of patience. Now after several attempts, I’ve gotten better. Although not quite perfect but it’s close enough.

Over the years more side dishes have been added to this dish but I like to stay true to the original version. An authentic Nasi Lemak consists of omelette, fried anchovies, slices of cucumber, fried yellowtail scad and of course the sambal. I have replaced the fish with grilled chicken instead. In my lifetime, I have eaten this dish a million times and now when I miss my family this is one of the dishes that brings comfort to me.
With the cheapest of ingredients I can evoke my dearest memories.

For the rice:
4 cups of white rice
2 cups of coconut cream
2 cups f water
2 pandan leaves, knotted
1/2tsp salt

For the omelette:
4 eggs, beaten and season with white pepper and salt

For the fried anchovies:
Dried anchovies (Ikan bilis)
Roasted peanuts

For the sambal (chilli paste):
10-15 dried chillies, de-seeded
1 med red onion
2 cloves garlic
1tsp belachan, (dried shrimp paste),briefly fry without oil for 1 or 2 mins
1-2tbs sugar
2-3tbs tamarind juice or lime juice
salt to taste

Slices of cucumber

For the rice: Mix all the ingredients together and cook the rice accordingly.

For the omelette: Season and fry accordingly. Note that the omelette should not be of a gooey texture. Omelette should be well done.

For the anchovies: Wash, drain and pat dry. Fry on med-low heat.

For the sambal: Soak the de-seeded chilli flakes in hot water for 5mins. Blend the onion, garlic, chilli and belachan to a really fine paste. Add a little water to get it to blend better. Heat up about 2tbs oil over med-low heat and fry the paste till it cooks through and fragrant. Add the tamarind juice, sugar and salt. Season accordingly as the spiciness depends on the dried chillies used.

Once rice is cooked, serve it immediately with the omelette, anchovies, peanuts, sambal and cucumber slices. You may also add fried yellowtail scad, mackerel or chicken wing to this dish.

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4 Responses to Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

  1. a special treat for sunday bfast while i was growing up. The smell of the fragrant rice greets me when eyelids are opened. Instantly i know mum has cooked nasi lemak for bfast! Instantly i know its Sunday. And i like it. Coz Sundays are nice – thats when all my sisters and brothers will be at home! ahh.. 🙂 the smell will always bring me to that waking-up moment. always. bliss.

  2. Anonymous says:

    hey hey!! I second that!

  3. OK that’s me, “anonymous”. My memory, exactly. And we’d have it for breakfast and lunch and dinner too, if there was any left!

  4. Yes I still cook it on Sundays. And not just for breakfast, always reminds me of home, especially the smell of the rice when it’s cooking.

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