Considered as a national Malaysian dish, nasi lemak comes with incalculable variations, all featuring a dome of coconut and pandan rice. Adam serves his with spicy prawns.






Skill level

Average: 4.6 (13 votes)


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, bruised
  • 2 makrut lime leaves
  • ¼ cup tamarind pulp, mixed with 375 ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 500 g shelled raw prawns, intestinal tract removed

Coconut rice

  • 400 g (2 cups) jasmine rice
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 3 pandan leaves, tied into a knot
  • pinch salt


  • 3 large red chilies, seeds removed
  • 8 dried chilies, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 2-cm piece ginger, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 candlenuts
  • 2-cm cube belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste)

To serve

  • ½ cup dried anchovies (ikan bilis)
  • ¼ cup shelled peanuts, skin on
  • 1 short cucumber, sliced
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, cut into wedges

Cook's notes

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.


  1. For the coconut rice, wash the rice and place in a saucepan. Add the coconut milk, pandan leaves, salt and enough cold water to cover the rice by 2 cm. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the level of the liquid reaches the top of the rice. Reduce the heat to very low and cover the pan. Cook for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and stand for another 5 minutes without opening the lid.
  2. Meanwhile, for the rempah, place all the ingredients in a blender and process into a smooth paste.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-frying pan and fry the rempah for about 6 minutes or until deeply fragrant and the oil has separated. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves and strain in the tamarind water. Add the sugar and salt and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the prawns and stir to combine. Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the prawns are just cooked.
  4. Heat a little extra oil in 2 small frying pans over medium heat and cook the dried anchovies and peanuts separately until crisp. Drain on paper towel. Serve the prawn sambal with the coconut rice, cucumber, anchovies, peanuts and egg.


Adam Liaw cooks, laughs, and explores culture with some of Australia's most beloved in The Cook Up With Adam Liaw.

Photography by Adam Liaw.