Nasi Lemak Recipe (Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice with Anchovies Sambal)
January 09th, 2007 158 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 (1 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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158 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Eddie Hoos says:

    Nasi Lemak was one of the first Malaysian things I learned to make. But I want to try this recipe now. It is a little different than the one I used and have been thinking about making it again for the last few weeks.
    Thank you!

  2. NZL says:

    What type of rice do you use? Also, could it be cooked in a rice cooker?

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  4. Rachel says:

    How many people does this serve? Am thinking of making it for our student flat dinner party in Birmingham XD!

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  6. S says:

    What kind of chilli do you use?

  7. Lynn Chua says:

    Can I prepare the sambal ikan bilis in advance, say one day? If yes, how do I store it? Inside the fridge or at room temperature? Thank you

    • june says:

      yes. just cook the sambal first by ommitting the anchovies. put it in an airtight bowl, store it in fridge.

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  9. Jillian says:

    Hi, I was wondering why my sambal is dark-ish in color instead of red. I used dried chilies as the recipe. I thought of substituting with fresh chilies to get the beautiful red color. The recipe didn’t say soak the chilies, but should I have? Thanks

  10. Alex Wong says:

    Like you, I didn’t perfect my technique for Nasi Lemak until late in life – it is definitely not a breeze in the wind making this beguiling dish. I discovered from my last trip to Malaysia last year that adding some slices of galangal, Lengkuas, adds a subtle dimension to the dish, in addition to the Daun Pandan. I cook my rice in two stages to avoid gumminess in the final product; 3/4 cooked with water and the rest 1/4 with the salted coconut cream. I must say that it came out the best ever in all the years of cooking the dish. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Meli says:

    I was wondering if I can use tamarind paste instead of the juice

  12. Will be in Irvine next week, can you help for me to buy a pandan plant home to S.C. ? Thanks.

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  14. thongweilong says:

    for cooking the rice , how much water do you need to add ? thanks

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  16. says:

    I love your
    cookbook and I love your web page Thank you for sharing your wonderful gift of cooking with us!

  17. zafran says:

    u forgot the beans :)

  18. Daniel says:

    Really good recipe! I, as well, don´t get the redish color for the ikan bilis sambal so I added some red-chilli paste – worked fine and makes it a bit more spicy (nice) Used tamarind paste, diluted in water – works fine. When we ate it in KL mostly served with fried peanuts and ayam instead of fish.

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  20. Phyllis fred says:

    Instead of sambal chilli, can i subtitute that with ayam masak merah but not hot. Nasi lemak ayam masak merah. Becos my daughter is craving for nasi lemak but not spicy. Pregnancy doctor’s order.

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  24. Labanca says:

    Hey your dishes are specifically an asian and indian style of recipes… I like the way you present the recipe…

  25. Suzi S.H.Koh says:

    Living in a rather off-beat town in Italy, Trieste, with only 2 stores catering for Asian ingredients and the better of the 2 is closing down ai the end of this month….. !!! How I envy all of you who live elsewhere…..

    My thanks and compliments to those who made this website possible,for bringing me back all those fond childhood memories of daily food fragrance wafting in the air, as Ah Foon (our amah) struggled to drag us off to the doctor, the dentist whatever….

    None of the Peranakan/Nonya food I try to cook here really measures up to what my memory holds… 70 percent of the spices are substitutes… and the remaining 30 percent is genrally stale… Oh, how I envy all of you……

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