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How to Make Tasty and Creamy Nasi Lemak at Home

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Brian loves food and enjoys exploring various cuisines. He is a keen experimenter in the kitchen and finds cooking therapeutic.

In a celebratory mood – My wife decided to ‘fancify’ the dish by shaping it as a cake, which we then demolished in order to enjoy it

In a celebratory mood – My wife decided to ‘fancify’ the dish by shaping it as a cake, which we then demolished in order to enjoy it

I have called Malaysia my home for the longest time and have certainly gotten very comfortable with the people, culture, and especially the food. The country is a melting pot of culture comprising different customs and traditions featuring a multi-racial population. If you ever find yourself in Malaysia, you will never be hungry because there is just so much delicious food to sample and savor. One very significant dish that the locals are really proud of is nasi lemak’. The dish is usually consumed for breakfast, although some people do consume it for lunch or even dinner because it makes quite a filling meal when paired with extra side dishes.

Just last week, my family celebrated Malaysia Day with a small feast to mark the momentous occasion. For those who are not familiar with the celebration, Malaysia Day is celebrated on 16th Sept every year to commemorate the ‘birth’ of Malaysia. It was the historical day the Malaysian federation was formed. Considering how important a day it was for the nation, the family wanted to celebrate with a special meal. We unanimously decided on ‘nasi lemak’, which is a popular local food loved by all Malaysians.

The ‘nasi lemak’ comprised several components put together to give us a fragrant and satisfying dish. It does require quite some effort and a lot of time to prepare but I promise you that all the hard work will be worth it once you have your first bite of the ‘nasi lemak’. Here is the recipe with a step-by-step preparation guide for you to attempt.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

1 hour

1 hour 30 min

5 - 6 pax


Fragrant coconut milk infused rice:

  • 3 cups rice, washed
  • 30ml water
  • 220ml coconut milk
  • 1 thumb ginger, sliced
  • 3 screwpine leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 30gm raw peanuts
  • 30gm anchovies
  • 5 pcs egg
  • 1 medium-sized cucumber

For Frying:

  • sunflower oil

Sambal sauce:

  • 15 stalks dried chilies
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • t tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 bulbs shallots
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 1/2 big red onion
  • 1/2 cup tamarind juice
  • 5gm fried anchovies
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Step-by-step Cooking and Assembling Guide

  1. The first step would be to get your dry toppings ready, that is the roasted peanuts and fried anchovies. Firstly, place the raw peanuts on a tray and pop it into a pre-heated oven at 350 F for 15 minutes.
  2. While the peanuts are roasting, fill a pan up to half with oil to fry the anchovies. Set the pan on high heat until the oil starts to bubble. Get your cleaned anchovies and drop it in the pan to fry. Turn the heat to medium-low and keep stirring to make sure the anchovies are cooked uniformly in the oil.
  3. Fry the anchovies for about 5 - 10 minutes or until it turns a golden color with a crispy texture. Once the anchovies are crispy, scoop them out and set it aside to drain the excess oil.
  4. Check on the peanuts and once they are done, bring the tray out from the oven and let the peanuts cool down. Once they have cooled down enough, put into an airtight container to use later.
  5. Next, wash the rice for a few rounds until the water turns slightly clear and less of a milky color.
  6. Pour your rice into a stainless steel round bowl. Add in the coconut milk, water, salt, ginger, and screwpine leaf. Steam the rice for about 20 – 25 minutes.
  7. While the rice is steaming, prepare your sambal sauce. In a blender, combine the cleaned dried chilies, shallots, garlic, salt, sugar, and shrimp paste. Blend until it becomes a smooth paste.
  8. Subsequently, slice the red onion into thin pieces vertically to get onion rings.
  9. Prepare a dry pan and pour two tablespoons of oil onto it. Switch the pan on medium heat and sauté the onions for about 2 minutes.
  10. Next pour in the blended chili paste and stir fry until fragrant, which will take about 10 minutes.
  11. Pour in the tamarind juice and keep stirring. Once the sauce starts to thicken, add in the fried anchovies and mix it well. Set the sauce aside for later.
  12. Check on the rice and switch off the stove once the rice is well-cooked. Lift the lid open to let the rice cool down.
  13. Get a separate pot, fill it up to half with tap water, put the eggs in, and set it to high heat to boil. Once the water starts boiling, cover the pot with a lid and let it boil for an extra 30 seconds. Switch off the stove and let the eggs sit in the covered pot for 10 minutes.
  14. Next, get the cucumbers and slice it thinly. Set it on a plate to use later.
  15. Retrieve the eggs and run it through cold water and peel it. Slice the eggs into half and arrange it on the same plate as the cucumbers.
  16. Gather all the ingredients together before assembling. Begin by getting a flat plate to use as the base to set the cake. Get the rice and use a knife to run it around the edges to loosen the rice. Overturn the steel bowl onto the flat plate.
  17. Remove the steel bowl and the rice should sit nicely on the plate. Start decorating by lining up the cucumbers around the rice.
  18. Next, ladle the 'sambal' sauce onto a ramekin and set it on top of the rice.
  19. Start decorating around the ramekin by assembling peanuts, fried anchovies, and the hard-boiled egg. Be careful to put just enough to avoid the ingredients from spilling over.
  20. Serve the cake, take a picture, and dig in!

Additional serving suggestions

You may add-on your favorite side dishes to pair with the ‘nasi lemak’. We actually added cereal prawn fritters and ‘ayam penyet’ to the ensemble.

We shall share the recipe for the cereal prawn fritters and ‘ayam penyet’ in the next round.

As mentioned in the opening, the ‘nasi lemak’ is a dish that requires time and some patience to prepare. However, I hope it will not deter you from trying it. The satisfaction from savoring the meal will all be worth it. You will be amazed by the interesting blend of flavors and textures; the rich coconut milk infused rice pairs really well with the spicy ‘sambal’ sauce and the crispy anchovies and roasted peanuts just gives that extra crunch and bite in every mouthful you take. It is a meal that you must take the time to savor to truly enjoy and derive satisfaction from the mingling flavors and sensation. Bon appétit!

A plate of wholesome goodness that will get you going for seconds!

A plate of wholesome goodness that will get you going for seconds!

Interesting Facts about Nasi Lemak

  1. It is the national dish of Malaysia with many stalls scattered across the country offering this delicious meal
  2. The concept of this dish was originally as a simplified breakfast dish of coconut milk infused rice served with hard-boiled egg, peanuts, anchovies, and sliced cucumbers. Nowadays, there are many variations which include sides of fried chicken, curry chicken, beef curry, mutton curry, and other meat dishes
  3. In the early days, the dish is packed in banana leaves and sold for as low as 30 cents a pack!
  4. Back in 2016, the dish was recognized as one of the 10 most healthy international breakfast by TIME Magazine. However, its’ status as being a healthy meal these days is quite debatable due to the high fat content derived from the store-bought creamy coconut milk that is used abundantly in the rice
  5. The dish was mentioned in a book written by Sir Richard Olof Winstedt, titled “The Circumstances of Malay Life”, which depicted the foods, furniture, dressing styles, and homes of the Malays as well as their customs and traditions
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Brian


Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on September 24, 2021:

Hi, Louise! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the recipe. It is indeed lovely and it tastes good as it sounds. This is what I'd refer to as the Southeast Asian version of soul food. :)

Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on September 24, 2021:

Hi, Misbah! Glad to know you appreciate 'nasi lemak' so well. Happy to know that you managed to get a taste of it during your last visit in Malaysia. There are so many variations available these days, which I hope you will be able to sample if you should come by to Malaysia again.

In the meantime, hope your mom enjoys attempting her own using this recipe for the family to try. If she does plan to make it, you might want to offer to help her cos' it is no easy feat. There's a lot of work to be done before you can sit down and enjoy the 'nasi lemak'. But, it will all be worth your while. ;)

Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on September 24, 2021:

Hi, Liz! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this recipe. The recipe guide was provided by my mother-in-law and she really makes a good serving of it. This is not the authentic version, but is as good and comparable to the original.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on September 22, 2021:

I've never tried this before, but it does sound lovely. Thankyou for the recipe. :)

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on September 22, 2021:

Oh, I adore Malay cuisine. Malaysian cuisine is excellent. In 2007, I enjoyed eating Nasi Lemak. I visited Malaysia with my family and we had a great time. There were also safaris and wildlife that I enjoyed very much. It was a lot of fun. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe; I will pass it on to my mother. It sounds yummy!!

Blessings to you as always!!

Liz Westwood from UK on September 22, 2021:

This sounds like a very interesting and tasty dish. You explain the recipe method well.

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