Nasi Lemak, its name in Malay literally means “creamy” or “rich” rice. This is so called as the rice is basically soaked and steamed in rich and creamy coconut milk together with some other ingredients like pandan leaves, ginger and shallots. Traditionally it is served on a banana leaf with small fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, a hard boiled egg or a slice of omelette and several slices of cucumber with a heaped spoonsful of hot spicy paste called Sambal Ikan Bilis. In fact, this chilli paste is a crucial accompaniment in Nasi Lemak. It is made of dried anchovies, onions, garlics, tarmarind, sugar, salt and shrimp paste all blended and fried till fragrant. Quite a tedious process actually. To cut down the preparation time, I simply go for ready bottled ones from the supermarkets.
Nasi Lemak is a very popular food commonly sold here as a breakfast, lunch or dinner meal. These days, customers are spoilt for choice over the wide varieties of sides such as fried chicken wings or drums, fried fish, sambal prawns, sambal squids, otah, curry vegetables, pickled vegetables, etc.
I’ve tried making Nasi Lemak at home but somehow something just seemed to be missing from the cooked rice. But lo and behold, I finally learnt the secret behind its delectable taste! While on a recent visit to a herb farm in Malaysia this year, we were introduced to FENUGREEK, a wonder herb that was primarily used as a culinary spice in many countries but studies found the seeds to be excellent for nursing mothers (as it helped in the production of breast milk) and in the treatment of type I and II diabetes as well as in lowering blood glucose and cholestrol levels. And yes, it was also the seeds that gave Nasi Lemak its unique flavour! As you would have guessed, I hastily bought some for keep.
Last week I made Nasi Lemak for my family’s lunch and I must say it was as good as those sold by popular food stalls here. Why? because my daughter said, “Mum, today’s Nasi Lemak is really delicious! What did you put in there?”. Need I say more?
(For 4 persons)
2 cups white rice (I used a combination of white & brown & black rice)
150ml coconut cream added with sufficient water to cook the rice (add according to the required volume for your rice cooker)
2-3 stalks screw pine leaves, cut into several segments or simply tied into a knob
1.5 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1/2″ knob ginger, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
salt to taste
3) Serve with preferred sides.
For our dinner tonight, we had Nasi Lemak with panfried mackerel topped with **sambal onions, fried egg and a refreshing cucumber & tomato pickle. To make sambal onions, drizzle some olive oil over a chopped big onion and pop it in the microwave for 90secs. Add and combine well desired amount of sambal ikan bilis paste to it, heat up for another 30 secs and top it on the fried fish.
Other side dishes like Pan-Fried Fish with Sweet & Tangy Sauce, Sweet Anchovies with Cashew Nuts, Spicy Anchovies with Peanuts, Otah Omelette Rolls and Prawns in Spiced Onions and Tomato Sauce go well with Nasi Lemak too.