Malaysia's National Dish Nasi Lemak

Taste the World: Malaysia’s National Dish Nasi Lemak

Malaysia National Dish Nasi Lemak, How to Make Nasi Lemak, Nasi Lemak Recipe / #travelfood #traveltheworld #malaysia

What is traveling without tasting the culture? There’s a reason why specific dishes are a must-try in certain countries, for instance Paella in Spain or Kobe beef in Japan. Each place I visit, I try to eat a meal that is unique to that area. It’s all part of the experience of being abroad. With this new series ‘Taste the World’, I want to bring these local eats to you! I enjoy cooking, so I thought sharing the recipe would be fun. Not only for you to try, but also for myself to keep as a memory. Since I’ve been in Malaysia for almost two months, to kick off this series, I’ll be sharing the national dish Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak is comprised of a fragrant coconut rice, fried anchovies, peanuts, and a boiled egg. To complete the dish there is a spoonful of sambal and a few cucumbers on the side. It’s a simple every day meal that is loved by Malaysians across both parts of the country.

The history of Nasi Lemak began as a farmer’s meal. A filling meal was necessary for a long work’s day in the field. This dish was easy to eat on-the-go and it provided a balanced diet from the rice, oils, and fish.

The word ‘nasi’ means rice and ‘lemak’ means fat, it is named this because of the main component being coconut rice. Rice is steamed in coconut milk to avoid the risk of burning that arises when being cooked. Often times, a little extra ingredient is added to deepen the flavor of the rice. This can be ginger, lemongrass, shallots, or the most popular, pandan.

To bring the dish together, the variety of ingredients are then circled around the coconut rice. The flavors vary from spicy, sweet, salty, and refreshing. It’s a simple dish, but quite diverse much like the Malaysian culture. You can expand this meal by adding rendang chicken or an assortment of vegetables.

A plate of Nasi Lemak is extremely cheap, I’ve found it for 3 RM in local food stalls. That’s about 75 cents USD! It’s definitely a must-try while visiting Malaysia. You’ll be able to find this dish anywhere you go.

Nasi Lemak Recipe

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 75 ml coconut milk
  • 2 pandan leaves (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • cucumber
  • anchovies
  • peanuts
  • sambal (or substitute with a similar chili paste)
  1. Rinse rice and add into a pot. Combine with water, coconut milk, and pandan leaves.
  2. Bring to a boil then set to the lowest heat. Cover the pot with a lid and allow rice to steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the water and coconut milk is absorbed completely, turn off the stove and allow the rice to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
  3. Hard boil the eggs while the rice is cooking.
  4. Fry peanuts over medium heat until browned, should take only a minute or two. Then remove from the pan and place onto paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
  5. Repeat the same process with the anchovies, this time frying until a golden brown color and crispy texture.
  6. Plate the coconut rice with all the sides: hard-boiled egg, peanuts, anchovies, sambal, and sliced cucumber. If you want to be authentic, serve on a banana leaf.

This recipe serves 2.

Want to stay updated on my travels? Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If you like what I do and want to support me, check out my Patreon. Have a suggestion for future content? Let me know!



    • Dianna Allen

      I didn’t know they were anchovies either! I’ve been eating these little fried fishies my entire life and had no idea until now. My mom used to fry them up all the time when I lived at home, snacked on them like chips haha.

  • Linda

    Hi Diana! This looks deliciuos! Thank you for sharing :).

    This is my first visit to your lovely blog and I love it!! A month ago, I quit my office job and started a travel and lifestyle blog about my country, Croatia. Ever been there? We also have some tasty food :D.


  • Mary Joy Cagadas

    I’ve always wanted to try NASI LEMAK! This is such a great series that you’ve started! Now, I’m starving. Oh and I will definitely cook this and share a mouth-watering photo! Amazing post as always!

    Mary xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *