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
- sambal (or substitute with a similar chili paste)