Nasi lemak

Nasi lemak

Have You Eaten
Billy Law

My palate was trained to take spicy hot food at a very young age by eating lots of nasi lemak, the national dish of Malaysia. Nasi lemak directly translates as ‘fatty rice’, a name derived from the process of cooking the rice in rich coconut cream.

Coconut rice


Quantity Ingredient
300g jasmine rice
2 slices ginger
2 pandan leaves, knotted, (see note)
125ml coconut cream
pinch salt

Sambal belachan paste

Quantity Ingredient
20g belachan
150g large fresh red chillies
3 limes, juiced
salt, to taste

Sambal ikan bilis

Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
50g ikan bilis
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
125g sambal belachan paste
pinch salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Fried peanuts and anchovies

Quantity Ingredient
125ml vegetable oil
50g raw peanuts, skins on
30g ikan bilis
1 tablespoon caster sugar
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
4 banana leaves, used as serving mat (optional)
1 lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced


  1. To make the coconut rice, wash and rinse the rice several times until the water runs clear. Put the rice, ginger, pandan leaves, coconut cream and salt in a large saucepan, then top with enough water to come up 2 cm above the level of the rice. Boil the rice over medium heat until most of the liquid has absorbed and bubbles start to appear on the surface. Cover, turn the heat down to low and steam for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it steam for a further 10 minutes (do not open the lid). Fluff the rice with a rice paddle or fork, then put the lid back on to keep the rice warm until ready to serve.
  2. To make the sambal belachan paste, wrap the belachan in foil and toast in a frying pan for 2 minutes on each side. Cool before removing the foil. Pound the belachan, chillies and lime juice together in a mortar and pestle or blend in a food processor to form a fine paste. Season with salt, to taste.
  3. To make the sambal ikan bilis, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat and fry the anchovies for about 2 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Add the onion and fry until soft and translucent, then add the sambal belachan paste and cook for 3 minutes, stirring until everything is well coated. Season with the salt and sugar, cook for a further minute, then transfer to a serving plate.
  4. To make the fried peanuts and anchovies, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the peanuts for about 1 minute until golden brown. Strain the oil into a bowl to be reused, and spread the peanuts on a tray lined with paper towel. Pour the oil back into the frying pan and reheat it. Now fry the dried anchovies for 2 minutes until crispy and golden. Drain the oil and spread the fried anchovies on the tray with the peanuts. Put the peanuts and anchovies into a bowl and sprinkle with the sugar, tossing to mix well.
  5. Pour the vegetable oil into a medium saucepan until about half full, then heat the oil to 180°C over medium– high heat. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dipping a wooden chopstick into the hot oil — if the oil starts steadily bubbling around the chopstick, it’s ready. Gently drop the eggs into the hot oil and fry them for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown, then remove and drain on paper towel.
  6. Wipe the banana leaves with a damp cloth, then brush with vegetable oil. Fill a small bowl with the coconut rice and tip it onto the leaf, then serve with sambal ikan bilis, fried peanuts and anchovies, a few slices of cucumber, and a deep-fried egg with a dollop of sambal belachan paste on top.


  • Pandan leaves are available in Asian grocers, either fresh or frozen. Pandan leaves have a very subtle flavour; bruise the leaves to release the flavour by folding and tying the leaves into a knot before cooking.
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