Nasi Lemak Recipe (Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice with Anchovies Sambal)
January 09th, 2007 161 Comments

Nasi Lemak Recipe (Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice with Anchovies Sambal)

Nasi Lemak Recipe (Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice with Anchovies Sambal)
Nasi Lemak Recipe (Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice with Anchovies Sambal) pictures (3 of 3)

As a self-proclaimed Malaysian home cook, it’s a shame that it took me so long to prepare nasi lemak, the de facto national dish of Malaysia. In my opinion, a truly remarkable nasi lemak is not to be taken lightly; it should fulfill a few requisites: quality, texture, flavors, and, of course, the right ingredients. This past weekend, I finally found the time and dedication to make this legendary dish.

The difference between a good nasi lemak and an exceptionally marvelous nasi lemak lies in the use of pandan leaves/screwpine leaves. Possessing highly fragrant floral smell, these leaves are used abundantly in Malaysian cuisine to infuse rice dishes or desserts with the signature aroma; a nasi lemak will not be a true nasi lemak without their presence. The other main ingredient of nasi lemak is dried anchovies, or known locally by ikan bilis. These little salted fish are used in the sambal.

As sambal is of the essence when making nasi lemak, I was extremely zealous when preparing it. I shun away from electrical appliances. Nasi lemak deserves better, it deserves to be prepared the traditional way, that is, with mortar and pestle.

Nasi Lemak

I gathered all the ingredients for my rempah (spice paste), patiently and gracefully pounded away just like any traditional Malaysian home cooks do. This very exercise brought back a flood of memories. As a child, I loved observing my grandmother, my mother, and my aunt when they prepared their rempah with batu giling (a flat surfaced granite grinding stone); I would always volunteer to help them with the chore as it was pure fun playing real life masak-masak (cooking). As I reminisced back those childhood days in my family’s kitchen, I came to realize that it was probably the beginning of my life-long passion for cooking.

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161 comments... read them below or add one

  1. dbsgege says:

    I wish to apologize for the misunderstanding caused but the article was meant to translate to Chinese in CHina by showing them your best food.

    we did write down your url but due to some technical errors, it was covered by the last 2 photos ….

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the nasi lemak recipe. I have recently migrated to Canada and I’m now pregnant with my first child. Craving for all the local food that I always take it for granted. Now I got the recipe, I have some hope that I can cook them at home. Keep the good food recipes posted. I can’t thank you enough Rasa Malaysia.

  3. Will says:

    This looks delicious. I have a Malaysian Roommate who has been very homesick as of late. I am going to try to make this for him! Thanks!!

  4. fashion shopper says:

    can i ask whether there is a need to put garlic, ginger n shallots to prepare d nasi?
    and how much water is some water?
    amateur cook ni…. thanks.

  5. Can u please tell me where did Nasi Lemak originate from?

  6. shakheela says:

    awesome food…i love this…and i miss it!!!!
    nasi lemak i love you hahaha
    and thanks for the recepie

  7. My friend has a story, when he left Singapore, he was served nasi lemak, but when can I find nasi lemak in Surabaya East Java Indonesia? Thanks

  8. Hi there! I’m a Malaysian living in Italy. I’ve made nasi lemak a number of times since moving here a year ago. Unfortunately, I can’t find pandan leaves here. I usually have to use the food processor for the sambal, but just like you, I prefer the lesung batu. My hubby bought me a teeny delicate one pestle and mortar, more suitable for use in apothecaries, not for stuff like onion and chili! I searched the Ikea Italy site, and they stock the same pestle and mortar that you have. May I ask whether it is in any way delicate? Coz if its hardy and not too small, I will make a trip to the next town to get it from Ikea. Thanks a bunch!

  9. lg says:

    I love your site and I love Nasi Lemak. Great! I also support Autism awareness.

  10. Camsy says:


    How many does the recipe serve? :)

  11. Cyrus says:

    Where can I get the tamarind fruit here in Vancouver?

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  13. Pingback:Pandan Leaf (Screwpine Leaf) | Nyonya Food & Recipes

  14. Sue says:

    Hi! Gosh this recipe brings back some great memories of my trip to Malaysia umpteen years ago! I’ve missed the yummy food but never thought of trying to making it. Just found this recipe a few days ago. Had a question for you though. I’ve bought a bag of dried anchovies from the Asian market, but they don’t look like the ones in your pic. Mine are silvery w/eyes. I’ve been told they need to be cleaned before…however, I don’t know how to…any tips?

  15. Jessica says:

    just wondering, can i change coconut milk with others? like yogurt or milk maybe?

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  17. Pingback:Sambal Nasi Lemak | Canadian Treats

  18. Dan24 says:

    Wow, excellent description of the Nasi Lemak preparation!
    I tried mine but the rice came out soft and breaks easily.
    I have tried lessening the water but not sure if there are other
    things to consider, like the type of rice, coconut powder over coconut milk, etc?
    I used long grain thai rice with coconut milk (packet)

    How can I make my rice slightly harder and not stick together
    too much(like individual grains). Not sure if you understand what Im trying to say.


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  20. Hi,
    Can I ask what kind of rice do you use to make nasi lemak? Jasmine or basmati? I usually use jasmine and somehow it doesn’t taste authentic (my recipe is similar to yours) but just wondering if using basmati will yield a better result…Thanks!

  21. moamrif fadzil says:

    thanks to RASAMALAYSIA!!

    im in single status..
    full time work + part time study..

    a lot of recipes i have tried myself
    d taste..not bad, juz nice for me!!

    and recipe of nasi lemak had been chosen for
    my presentation of English subject


  22. Jenny says:

    I wasn’t sure how these flavors would go together, but it turns out awesome. I can’t imagine it without the anchovies! They add the perfect amount of salt.

  23. Shireen says:

    A very detailed recipe you have here. I have tried preparing nasi lemak with prawn sambal. Must try your version soon!

  24. WorldFoodLover says:

    omg..i can’t but help applaud your devotion to food at its simplest…just looking at the pictures bring back home memories and the irresistable flavour that your pics just conveys…thank you so much..

  25. hunnyshinez says:

    Hi just to ask.. is there any difference between shallot and onion? what do they called shallot in Malay?

  26. Andy says:

    Went to Malaysia last year and the food was amazing! Had nasi lemak for breakfast every morning and have been wanting to make it back home in NZ. Have found some ‘must have’ ikan bilis so now I can make it. Miss all the fresh fruit that was also had for breakfast. Also need to find a recipe on how to make a clay pot meal with rice as the rice went crispy around the edges, yum. Thanks for your recipe.

  27. Anty Harton says:

    Hi. I just made your sambal blinis and I was wondering if you used up all the 1c of tamarind juice. I just put half of it and the sambal is sour enough already. Or the original malaysian sambal blinis is really sour?
    Thanks for the recipe. I’m going to make nasi lemak soon but I’m going to put lemon grass instead of pandan leaf.

    • fae says:

      your nasi lemak will taste weird if you replace the pandan leaf with lemongrass..they have different smell

      • junhoe says:

        Wow, thanks Andy for mentioning lemongrass! I completely forgotten about that! I was thinking of trying this version of nasi lemak..when you mentioned lemongrass I recalled one of the best nasi lemak I had was at this place called Lemongrass Cafe (too bad they closed down). And yeah, some nasi lemak versions do use lemongrass and I think it adds nice flavour to it.

        Going to look for a version with lemongrass now.. (but still keep this Rasa Malaysia version bookmarked :P)

  28. cat says:

    thank you for the recipe! I tried the sambal recipe and it turned out well! I think the tamarind juice requested in the recipe is a little too much. My sambal is slightly too sour, I added more sugar than you suggested, it still very delicious!! Thanks!!

  29. raid says:

    Dear All …
    Good Day

    kindly,can you plaese send to me all Recipe of Nasi Lemak .

    Best Regards
    Raid M.Ashi

  30. Peter Kong says:

    Usually I blend some old ginger (fine) and throw into the pot also to cook the rice.

    Some hawkers add some cloves to the rice.

    Fried assam fish (kembong or other similar sized fish) served piping hot from the wok to go with the nasi lemak and sambal or sambal blacan is truly fantastic.

  31. sri suryanti says:

    I love very much the sambal blacan, but in my country hardly find the best yummy shrimp paste, What kind of brand may I know? thanks very much for sharing the recipe.
    Best rgds

  32. Jaclyn Chan says:

    Every time I try to cook sambal (I blend it with a food processor) I get a very bitter aftertaste. I suspect it’s from the shallots, but is there anything can I do about it? Adding sugar doesn’t help at all.

  33. june says:

    anyone know what brand of rice should be used? )could give a sticky/starchy)

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  35. tim says:

    This is my all time favorate food.I could eat it all day long.Thanks for the recipe. I tried it at Panang Restraunt in Boston. Your recipe is way better. Two thumbs up!!! :)

  36. chinchyesek says:

    Don’t they sometimes make it using lemon grass
    as an additional ingredient?

    All specified ingredients available in London that I shall
    certainly have a go at making this dish…. on the upside, it’s
    an economical dish too especially in view of
    generally the very high costs of other foods imported
    from Malaysia and elsewhere.

    Is there a Popiah recipe here?

  37. chinchyesek says:

    Made the dish yesterday following recommended steps…
    find the ginger I used somehow detracts from overall
    flavour of finished rice product…. next time shall use
    lemon grass instead which btw was if I correctly recall,
    used in the nasi lemak dish I bought from school tuckshop
    so very long ago…pandanas does indeed add
    fragrance and enhances flavour to some extent.

  38. chinchyesek says:

    Hello again

    Re (Shrimp & Boy Brand) Petis Udang

    I notice I have a 230 gm jar,UNOPENED and lurking in my
    store cupboard unrefrigerated having an expiry date of some 6 years ago… rather not throw it away if still usable….can I safely still use it?

  39. Hani says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I’ve been missing and craving for nasi lemak! Ok, so a few things… I don’t know if Spain has daun pandan or belacan. I’m getting my friends to bring me belacan, but daun pandan? Is there an alternative?

    Also, what in the world is tamarind pulp? :P Maybe if you say it in Malay I will understand.. lol! Anyway, thanks again!

  40. Prashant says:

    Hi for how many Pax will the recipe above be for..?

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  42. chinchyechia says:

    Greetings RM, you’re a veritable repository of Malaysian recipes with enviable looks to die for….. no problem getting pandanas in London but sometimes belacan hard to come by… what then do I use as substitute or alternative…. ?

    Ever been to London….? very nice city as you may you know.

    (Hani of Espana… pandanas also comes in essence form lah…. passable fragrance
    /flavour but not as nice as the real McCoy!… ditto tamarind extract possibly….)

  43. Clarissa says:

    I had forgotten about this dish, thanks so much for sharing it! Once I make it to the grocery store, I am going to try to make it!

  44. Pingback:Malaysia – a Multicultural Country « Around the World by a Click

  45. John Wong says:

    Recipe with photos to follow through

  46. nicole says:

    It’s best to use long rice as it absorbs liquid well. I’ve tried jasmine & basmati and they turned out a bit mushy!

  47. J&S says:

    Bee, thank you so much for making these recipes available to the community! My boyfriend is from Malaysia and he often tells me how much he misses the food. Awhile ago I asked him what his favorite dish was and of course, without hesitance he replied, “Nasi Lemak”. I’m sure you can guess what I ended up doing next. ;)

    He is away on a business trip and won’t be back til the weekend. I am going to attempt this dish and surprise him! Please wish me luck as I am not that gifted in cooking :P

  48. Sha says:

    Hi there,
    Thanx so much for the great recipe.
    This is the first time I’m trying it out based on ur suggestions.
    It turned out superb. I’m indeed very happy.
    Just a few comments to share with the rest, I used betas jati the ordinary rice, used the same amount of liquid for cooking but half was water and half was coconut milk. The rice turned out very fluffy and soft. I also added a few slices of onion and ginger and it worked like magic. The rice smelt so good.

    I had also blend my chilly in the grinder separately and then mixed all the other ingredients and ground them together in the mortar and pestel. It was my husband’s idea, I guess he was too hungry by then. But hey, guess what, it turned out just fine.
    I think I’ve made him very happy and we just finished eating our second plate. The only problem I have now is that I have more work at home as he is never gonna have nasi lemak other than mine :-) .

    Thank you so much. You’ve made both of us happy.

  49. Sha says:

    Oh yea, just a question, how could I get my sambal to look dark in colour as in the photo here, do I need to add the commercial chilly paste or colouring or something ? Thanx…

  50. lauren says:

    I used to pick out the anchovies when I ate this in KL. Can you make the sambal without the achovies or would there be no point? Any ideas for making it vegetarian besides leaving them out? thanks. Love your site.

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