Nasi Lemak 101: The Making of Simple Nasi Lemak

Written by @joehairie
(Photos by


This entry is written after we tasted some yummy packed Nasi Lemak days ago. Nasi lemak is a Malay Fragrant Rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It is commonly found in Malaysia, where it is considered the national dish and also popular in neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Indonesia especially in Eastern Sumatra, Brunei and Southern Thailand. Malaysian normally have this meal for breakfast but then some people have this for lunch and even post supper!! Nasi Lemak can be found in all parts of Malaysia, be it at street vendors, cafes and even in a 5 star restaurant.

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Nasi Lemak-View from the top

 Since we were making photo shoot of the cooking demo, I will take this opportunity to share the 101 cooking lesson to make Nasi Lemak. Apart from rice, there are some condiments on the plate. Let me show the condiments one by one and after that I will continue with the full recipe.

Fried dried Anchovies

Nasi lemak is rice being cooked in coconut milk. The rice is lightly salted and made fragrant with a knot of pandan leaves added while the rice is still cooking. It is the Malaysian most popular breakfast, traditionally served with fried fish known in Malay as ikan selar kuning, ikan bilis (anchovies), kangkong (water spinach) and a dollop of sambal (a type of chilli paste). The fish is fried so crisp that it can be eaten whole.

Ground Peanuts

The anchovies are fried with salted peanuts, the dish topped with thin slices of cucumber and a fried or boiled egg. The rice and all its condiments and side dishes are kept warm in a banana leaf folded into a conical pocket.The sambal is the dish’s signature condiment.

Boiled Egg

Malays prefer their rice with sambal ikan bilis (chili paste made of local anchovies), while Peranakans prefer sambal belacan (shrimp-paste chili). The sambal is a combination of dried chilies, shallots, garlic and belacan (shrimp paste), sometimes with sliced lemongrass added. Sugar and tamarind give the chili sauce a sweet and tangy taste.

Sambal-This is the MOST important element in Nasi Lemak
Deep Fried Marinated Chicken (Optional and can be substitute with anything you like)

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Recipe (For 4)


3 cups of rice (wash and drain)
4.5 cups coconut milk (Original or canned)
1 tea spoon salt or just a little bit more
3 Pandan leaf (screwpine leaf). Do use essence if Pandan is not available at your place.
1 inch ginger
1 lemon grass ( bruised)

Put the rice into the rice cooker
Put the Pandan and ginger into the rice
Then add salt to coconut milk and stir. After that pour into the rice and stir.
Cover the pot with aluminium foil and place the lid. This is to ensure the rice cook thoroughly and the aroma stick inside the pot. Cook the rice.
When cool stir the rice and ready serve. Use bowl to make round shape.


Ingredients A
1 big onion slice into rings
1 lemon grass bruised
1/2 cup tamarind juice
salt and sugar to taste
1/2 – 3/4 cup of oil for frying

Ingredients B-Chilly paste
20 dried red chillies (Also use few bird eye chili if you crave for spicy chilly paste)
1 big onion and 1-2 shallots
2 cloves garlic and about 10 dried shrimps
1 inch shrimp paste
1/2 cup water
Blend all above with half cup of water

Heat oil and fry chilly paste (B) until oil separates
Put ( A) lemon grass, tamarind juice,salt, sugar, anchovies and onion
Simmer until cooked


Deep fry a handful of Dried Anchovies (Until Crispy-do wash and dry first)

Boil 1-2 eggs until cooked. Cool and peel it and cut to desired sizes.

Deep fry some ground peanuts-until brown (you can always store leftover for future use)

Deep fry Marinated Chicken (Any part that you like)…It will be best if you marinate the chicken for about 4-5 hours earlier. Remember, chicken can always be replaced with anything you want to, squid, prawn or just anything. Here is a suggestion on how you should marinate the chicken:


  1. Lemongrass-1 cut to small pieces
  2. Shallots-1-2
  3. Salt for taste
  4. Onion 1-cut
  5. 1-2 teaspoon curry powder
  6. 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder. Much better if you use the real turmeric, pound it first.

With the blended ingredients, apply to the chicken parts with some curry leaves (if available) and leave it for 4-5 hours in the fridge. You may use some flour if you want to produce crispy fried chicken but then without flour your chicken is actually good to go into the frying pan.

With all the ingredients prepared in advance, scoop the rice using a small bowl to make round shape, place it on the middle of plate. You may now arrange all the condiments side by side according to your creativity or you can actually put the ingredients on a small plate and served em’ individually.

Good luck!

Untitled - 12 0 team home made Nasi Lemak and Achar
Achar-Another recipe, version

Apart from that Nasi Lemak, we also added one dish which is Achar. Will do a post about Achar at a later stage in this blog.