"This has to be the best loved Malay dish of all time; it’s considered the national dish of the country and although traditionally served for breakfast, you’ll find it available at any time of the day. There are tons of variations but essential to nasi lemak is the heap of fragrant coconut and pandan-scented rice, a large spoonful of sambal ikan bilis, toasted peanuts, a hard-boiled egg and slices or chunks of cucumber. From there, you might get a serve of curry, rendang or fried chicken on the side – there are endless possibilities, depending on the vendor." Luke Nguyen, Luke Nguyen's Street Food Asia
- 2 pieces banana leaf, about 30 cm long
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced
- 2 tbsp whole roasted peanuts (skin on)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
- coriander sprigs, to serve
- 400 g (2 cups) jasmine rice
- 3 pandan leaves, knotted
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, bruised
- 160 ml coconut milk
- 160 ml water
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups dried anchovies (ikan bilis)
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 3 red Asian shallots, chopped
- 8 dried long red chilies, deseeded and sliced
- 1 tsp shrimp paste (belacan)
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 150 ml tamarind water (see Note)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time 10 minutes
To prepare the coconut rice, wash the rice three times, then drain and place in a medium saucepan with all the remaining ingredients. Level the rice with the palm of your hand, then rest the tip of your index finger on the surface of the rice. Add more water until the water level reaches the first knuckle. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the liquid comes to the boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stand, without removing the lid for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, to prepare the sambal, rinse the dried anchovies, drain and pat dry. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the anchovies and stir-fry until light golden. Pour into a sieve placed over a bowl, then drain the anchovies on paper towel and set aside.
In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, red shallot, dried chilli and shrimp paste until a smooth paste forms.
Pour the oil used to fry the anchovies back into a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook the garlic and shallot paste for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the red onion and half the fried anchovies and combine well. Add the tamarind water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sambal has slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To serve, place the banana leaves on 2 plates. Spoon the coconut rice into two rice bowls, then invert them onto the banana leaves. Surround the rice with the sliced cucumber, peanuts, boiled eggs and remaining fried anchovies then top with a large dollop of sambal and coriander sprigs.
• To make the tamarind water, soak 50 g tamarind pulp in 200 ml boiling water, breaking it up a little with a whisk and stand until cool enough to handle. Using your hands, work the mixture into a thick paste, then push the mixture through a sieve, extracting as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. The tamarind water can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Lucy Tweed. Food preparation by Tammi Kwok.