Malaysian Nasi Lemak

The Ranting Chef is nothing, if not up for a cooking challenge. It is my eldest son’s spring break and he decided to come home versus spending the week at some party spot, like Daytona, South Padre or Palm Springs. We were happy to not only have him, but to also welcome his roommate, Faris,  into our home.

Farris is a long way from his own home as he hails from Malaysia. Trying to be a gracious host and using that as an excuse to make something new, I decided I’d try to make a few Malaysian dishes to see if I could give Faris a taste of home.

Looking at my 1000+ recipes, I found nothing of Malaysia origin. No surprise there. Next – to the Intranet!

As you can imagine, there were hundreds of recipes out there but one seemed to be the most common: Nasi Lemak. Nasi Lemak (means “fat rice”) is not only a very common breakfast dish, it is considered a national dish of Malaysia. I decided to make it for a lunch while Faris was there as I couldn’t trust college kids to be up for breakfast before noon anyway.

Photo Mar 09, 12 45 48 PM - Featured Size

The center of the dish is the rice made with coconut milk. It is rich, sweet and creamy. To contrast that, the sambal (to the right) is a spicy sauce made with chile paste, onions and anchovies. It is often served with a hard-boiled egg to give you some protein, some deep-fried anchovies to bring some salt, fried peanuts for some crunch and cucumber to cool you down.

Photo Mar 09, 10 09 16 AM

There are a number of ingredients that were new (or almost new) for me. First was the tamarind juice. I looked at not only my local warehouse and grocery stores, but at three “ethnic” markets (Indian, Turkish and Asian). I never found the juice but did find some concentrate that I made into juice. Second was the coconut milk. I’ve cooked with the water but don’t think I used the milk. Lastly was the anchovies. I’ve used them to make a Caesar dressing, but I think that was it.

Photo Mar 09, 12 04 56 PM

The coconut milk was a surprise when I opened it. There was a 2-3″ thick layer of milk solid (think thick yogurt) and coconut water underneath. Once stirred together the milk solid dissolved. You can see bits of it in the picture above.Photo Mar 09, 12 06 29 PM

Frying the peanuts. Don’t let them burn or you’ll have to start over.

Photo Mar 09, 12 10 26 PM

The anchovies went from soft and slimy to an instant crunch. They do not take long.

Photo Mar 09, 12 16 18 PM

Here is where we start to build the sambal. Onions and shallots.

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With some chile paste. At this point Faris walked over and got a little nervous. It wasn’t red like it should be and it really wasn’t a sauce.

Photo Mar 09, 12 34 09 PM

Once the tamarind juice was added, it hit the right color and consistency.

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I employed my expert to put the dish together as it should be.

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It was a good dish. Plenty of flavor and variety.

Photo Mar 09, 12 46 31 PM

You take a little of everything on the same spoon (except the cucumber) and eat it in a bite. A little heat, some crunch and a mouthful of flavor. Faris said I nailed it. I’ll make this again!

Malaysian Nasi Lemak

prep 30 min ∙ cook 30 min ∙ makes 8 servings ∙ source


For the rice:

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 (1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 2 cups long grain rice, rinsed and drained

For the garnish:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 cup oil for frying
  • 1 cup raw peanuts
  • 1 (4 ounce) package white anchovies, washed

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chile paste
  • 1 (4 ounce) package white anchovies, washed
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 cup tamarind juice


1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together coconut milk, water, ground ginger, ginger root, salt, bay leaf, and rice. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until done.

2. Place eggs in a saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil, and immediately remove from heat. Cover, and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove eggs from hot water, cool, peel and slice in half. Slice cucumber.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or wok, heat 1 cup vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Stir in peanuts and cook briefly, until lightly browned. Remove peanuts with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to soak up excess grease. Return skillet to stove. Stir in the contents of one package anchovies; cook briefly, turning, until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Discard oil. Wipe out skillet.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet. Stir in the onion, garlic, and shallots; cook until fragrant, about 1 or 2 minutes. Mix in the chile paste, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the chile paste is too dry, add a small amount of water. Stir in remaining anchovies; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in salt, sugar, and tamarind juice; simmer until sauce is thick, about 5 minutes.

5. Serve the onion and garlic sauce over the warm rice, and top with peanuts, fried anchovies, cucumbers, and eggs.

PREP 30 mins

COOK 30 mins



Calories 578 kcal 29%
Carbohydrates 57.4 g 19%
Cholesterol 140 mg 47%
Fat 31.9 g 49%
Fiber 3.4 g 13%
Protein 19.5 g 39%
Sodium 327 mg 13%

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Breakfast, kosher, Lunch3, Malaysian, Recipes, Seafood

Author:The Ranting Chef

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6 Comments on “Malaysian Nasi Lemak”

  1. March 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Fantastic dish and good any time of the day. Thanks for sharing!!


  2. March 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses and commented:
    Looks delicious, as always.


  3. Heidy L. McCallum
    March 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Great read!!!


  4. March 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    i love Malaysian food and i am so grateful to you for having shared something which isnt the usual pad thai or green/red/yellow/purple curry!


  5. March 13, 2014 at 2:59 am #

    I am in Malaysia and Wow! Your Nasi Lemak is a success ; looks palatable 🙂 Congrats for the dish.



  1. An Ice Cream Trip | Rantings of an Amateur Chef - December 6, 2014

    […] when it came time for spring break, my son invited Faris to come to our house. As I mentioned in a previous post, I attempted to make a few dishes that would remind Faris of […]


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