Nasi lemak

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Nasi lemak
Nasi Lemak, Mamak, Sydney.jpg
Nasi lemak served with anchovies, peanuts, boiled egg, lamb curry, cucumber, and traditional chili paste.
Course Main course, usually for breakfast
Place of origin Malaysia
Region or state Nationwide in Malaysia, also popular in Brunei, Singapore and Riau Islands
Creator Malay cuisine
Serving temperature Hot or room temperature
Main ingredients Rice cooked in coconut milk with leaves of Pandan screwpine and served with traditional anchovies chili paste, cucumber, and various side dishes
Cookbook:Nasi lemak  Nasi lemak
Nasi lemak is traditionally sold wrapped in banana leaves.

Nasi lemak (Jawi: ناسي لمق) is a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and "pandan" leaf commonly found in Malaysia, where it is considered the national dish.[1] It also popular in neighbouring countries such as Brunei; Singapore;[2] Riau Islands; and Southern Thailand. Nasi Lemak have been seen to the Southern Philippines prepared by Filipino Muslims, it is considered as one of the famous for malay-type breakfast. It is not to be confused with nasi dagang sold in the Malaysian east coast states of Terengganu and Kelantan although both dishes can usually be found sold side by side for breakfast. However, because of the nasi lemak's versatility in being able to be served in a variety of manners, it is now served and eaten any time of the day.


Sir Richard Olof Winstedt has written about "nasi lemak" in Malaysia 1909 in his book "The Circumstances of Malay Life".[3] With roots in Malay culture and Malay cuisine, its name in Malaysian literally means "oily or fatty rice", but is taken in this context to mean "rich" or "creamy". The name is derived from the cooking process whereby rice is soaked in coconut cream and then the mixture steamed.

Traditionally, nasi lemak is served with various side dishes, including fresh cucumber slices, small fried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, hard boiled egg, and hot spicy sauce (sambal). As a more substantial meal, nasi lemak may also be served with an additional protein dish such as ayam goreng (fried chicken), sambal sotong (cuttlefish in chili), cockles, and on special occasions rendang daging (beef) stewed in coconut milk and spices). Other accompaniments include stir fried water convolvulus (kangkong), and spicy pickled vegetables salad acar. Traditionally most of these accompaniments are spicy in nature.

Nasi lemak is widely eaten in Malaysia and Singapore. More commonly consumed as breakfast in both countries, it is commonly sold at hawker food centres and roadside stalls in Malaysia and Singapore. This unique dish often comes wrapped in banana leaves, newspaper or brown paper, or it in some shops served on a plate. However, owing to its popularity there are restaurants which serve it as a noon or evening meal, making it possible for the dish to be eaten all day. Nasi lemak kukus which means "steamed nasi lemak" is another name given to nasi lemak served with steamed rice. In Malaysia, nasi lemak also can be found in a pasar malam (night market) with a variety of dishes.


Nasi lemak, here served with fish cake, ikan bilis, egg, and buah keluak chicken

In Malaysia and Singapore, nasi lemak comes in many variations as they are prepared by different chefs from different cultures. The original nasi lemak in Malaysia is arguably a typical Southern and Central Peninsular Malaysia breakfast, and is considered of Malay origin. However, due to the popularity of the dish, it is regarded as a national dish.

The rice cooked in coconut milk is actually common in Southeast Asia. This is the same process used to make similar rice dishes from their neighbouring country Indonesia, which are nasi uduk from Jakarta, nasi gurih from Aceh and Javanese nasi liwet. However, there are differences in taste because knotted leaves of Pandan screwpine are steamed with the rice for impart flavour and fragrance. Less often other spices such as ginger and occasionally herbs like lemon grass may be added for additional fragrance.

Nasi lemak in the Northern West Peninsular tends to include curry. The sambal tends to range from fiery hot to mildly hot with a sweet under taste. Nasi lemak is not as popular as the indigenous nasi berlauk, nasi dagang, and nasi kerabu in North East Peninsular Malaysia. It is regarded as a speciality imported dish in Sabah and Sarawak. Hotels often feature nasi lemak on their menu with elaborate dishes, such as beef rendang and the addition of other seafood. Hawker centres in Singapore and Malaysia usually wrap them in banana leaves to enhance the flavour. Roadside stalls sell them ready packed, known as "nasi lemak bungkus", with minimal additions that cost between RM 2.50 – 10.00 per pack. Seafood outlets often serve the basic nasi lemak to accompany barbecued seafood. There are Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian versions, and Singaporean Malay and Singaporean Chinese versions. Some people suggest that sambal is the most important part of a nasi lemak meal. If not prepared properly, it could ruin the dish, since Malaysians love food that is hot and spicy. A good deal of spirited and good-natured debate exists around this point.

The traditional Malaysian version[edit]

This traditional favourite offers sambal,ikan bilis (anchovies), peanuts and boiled egg. This is the most traditional version. You can find Nasi Lemak stalls serving them with fried egg, sambal kerang (cockles) - local favourite, sambal squids, sambal fish, chicken or chicken/beef rendang, squid fritters or even fried chicken or fish. An absolute all rounder, you can have it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner and even supper. (In Malaysia this is a meal that takes place after dinner, from around 10 pm to 4 am.)

Malaysian Indian variation[edit]

The Malaysian Indian variation is similar to the original version. However, many Malaysian Indians are Hindus, and do not eat beef. Nasi lemak in the Malaysian Indian version is served with curry, such as chicken curry, fish curry or lamb curry.

Malaysian Chinese variation[edit]

Although it is not common to see Malaysian Chinese stalls and restaurants selling nasi lemak, there is a non-halal version that contains pork, sold in towns and cities such as Malacca and certain parts of Kuala Lumpur. Some Malaysian Chinese hawkers are known to make minced pork sambal.

Riau Islands variation[edit]

Similar to Malaysian variation with a kind of small fish called ikan tamban, usually fried with sambal and very crispy, whole fish is edible.

Singaporean Chinese variation[edit]

Retaining the familiar aroma of pandan leaves, the Chinese variation comes with a variety of sides that includes deep fried drumstick, chicken franks, fish cake, curried vegetables and luncheon meat.

Vegetarian variation[edit]

In certain parts of Kuala Lumpur, hawkers also offer vegetarian nasi lemak in which the dried anchovies is substituted with vegetarian mock anchovies.

See also[edit]


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Dwayne A. Rules (7 April 2011). "Nasi lemak, our 'national dish'". The Star. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Nasi lemak". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Winstedt, Sir Richard Olof; Winstedt, Richard (1909). The Circumstances of Malay Life. Ams Press Inc. ISBN 978-0-404-16882-7. Retrieved 23 February 2014.