November 8, 2010

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

As I'm writing this post, it's rightfully Spring here in Australia.  However, the weather has been rather atypical and temperature for much of last week was meandering between 12*C and 15*C.  That's prominently cold for someone like me who hailed from a perpetually sun-kissed island where humidity is overdone.  Thus, I felt it appropriate to knock out the unseasonal chills with a familiar food that guarantees me good warmth and gratification - Nasi Lemak.  

To add to your Malay vocabulary, "nasi" means rice while "lemak" has two meanings: (i) fats (ii) creamy.  The latter sounds more palatable than the former, of course.  But you can't go around Singapore or Malaysia asking for Creamy Rice.  If you do, you will be greeted with a You-Must-Be-Nuts and confused look from the food seller.  It's the same as how in Italy, you won't ask the waiter for "Pick-Me-Up" which is English for Tiramisu.  You have to say it in the native language.

I'm a real sucker for Sambal and Kangkong Belacan.  Those plus the fragrant
coconut rice make this meal superbly satisfying 

Although Nasi Lemak is an original Malay dish, over time, it's been given many facelifts and customisations to suit different taste buds.  I must have tried more than a dozen varieties that are great but my favourite is still my mum's (and mine!).  That's the beauty of home cooked meals.  Regardless of all the fancy restaurants in the world, mum's cooking is sentimental and one-of-a-kind. 

The secrets to a good Nasi Lemak lie in the pandan leaf that's cooked with the rice, good quality coconut milk and the sambal (chilli paste sauce).  When I made this dish for lunch, I wasn't sure how my husband would take to it as it can be pretty chaotic for someone who is not used to a myriad of things on a plate.  I mean, for Nasi Lemak there's rice, sambal, egg, cucumbers, anchovies, peanuts and in my case I love it with Kangkong Belacan too.  To my surprise, my husband loved my Nasi Lemak, belacan and all.  As he waxed lyrical about the fragrant rice and how interesting the sambal tasted, albeit it's chilli hot, all I could do was to sit there and wonder how I had managed to swing his European palette to like belacan ;)  
No, these are not my ingredients for Nasi Lemak but my coconut-based
toiletries that I love. Organic, fragrant and superbly moisturizing 

(Serves 4)

For rice
2 cups of long grain rice
250ml coconut milk
2 pandan leaves - tied into a knot
2 tsp salt

For prawn sambal (chilli paste sauce)
12 dried chillies - washed and soaked in warm water for 5 mins before using
1 large onion - peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic - peeled and chopped
3 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)

250gm prawns - washed & de-shelled
3 tbsp tamarind juice
2 cups water
Sugar & salt to taste
4 tbsp cooking oil
Cucumber - sliced into 1/2 inch circles
4 hard boiled eggs
Fried peanuts & crispy anchovies for garnishing (optional)
Kangkong Belacan (optional)

(See Kangkong Belacan for recipe)


1.  Rinse rice cleanly, add salt and pandan leaves to rice and cook with water quantity according to rice cooker instructions. 

2.  Grind all chilli paste ingredients with a bit of water to form a fine paste.  In a medium saucepan, heat oil and fry chilli paste for 3-4 mins until fragrant and it changes to a darker shade.  Do not let it burn.

3.  Add water and tamarind juice and let it simmer.

4.  Add prawns, sugar and salt to taste.  Cook for a further 5-8 mins until prawns are thoroughly cooked and sambal gets a little thick.  Turn heat off.

5.  Serve rice with sambal.  Garnish with hard boiled eggs and cucumbers.  Optional garnishes can include fried peanuts, crispy anchovies and Kangkong Belacan.

- Besides hard-boiled eggs, Nasi Lemak can be served with egg omelette or sunny side up.
- Prawns can be substituted with anchovies, squid or simply plain sambal.
- Good quality canned coconut milk can also do a good job with the rice.

Fearlessly Simple & Home Cooked


  1. I have only just discovered coconut rice, and it has fast become a family favorite, the aroma of it cooking is so nice. Kind of reminds me a bit of lotions, and love the smell of a nice lotion.

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  3. Hi Stair Climbing - that makes the 2 of us. I love coconut rice and I love coconut-based toiletries. So much so that I've been tempted to eat my body lotion sometimes (kidding!). Thanks for visiting my blog, do come back again as I've loads of recipe backlogs yet to post ;)

  4. Hello Vincent! Thanks for dropping by and for the invite. Yes, I would love to be on and will visit your portal really soon! G'day!