In Malay, nasi means rice, while ulam relates to the mix of herbs in the recipe. While versions of this dish exist throughout Malaysia, it is especially common in the state of Kelantan, where the rice is tossed with local wild herbs such as jungle pepper leaves, Indian pennywort, cashew leaves and betel nut leaves. The subtle nuances of the fresh herbs, along with crunchy dried shrimp and fish, complement the fragrant rice. Like many South-East Asian dishes, there’s a world of goodness to be found in a simple, herb-scented salad.
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp dried shrimp (see Note)
- 2 tbsp dried anchovies (see Note)
- 35 g (½ cup) fresh or frozen shredded coconut (see Note)
- 4 cups cooked jasmine rice (made from 2 cups uncooked rice), chilled
- 1 cm piece ginger, finely grated
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 3 Asian red eschalots (see Note), thinly sliced
- 4 betel leaves (see Note), shredded
- ⅓ cup Thai basil leaves (see Note), shredded, plus extra leaves, to serve
- ⅓ cup mint leaves, shredded, plus extra leaves, to serve
- ¼ cup Vietnamese mint leaves (see Note), shredded
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (see Note), shredded
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.
DRINK 2011 Hugel Gentil, Alsace, France ($24). This aromatic blend of six classic Alsatian white varieties includes Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Pound lemongrass with a mortar and pestle until a fine paste forms. Add the dried shrimp and fish, and pound until a coarse paste. Set aside.
Place shredded coconut in a frying pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
Place rice in a large bowl with ginger, 1 tsp salt, peppers and sugar, mixing well to combine. Add lemongrass mixture, eschalots, betel leaves, Thai basil, both varieties of mint and kaffir lime leaves, mixing well to combine. Serve scattered with extra Thai basil and mint leaves.
• Dried shrimp, dried anchovies (ikan bilis), frozen shredded coconut and Asian red eschalots are available from Asian food shops.
• Betel leaves, Thai basil, Vietnamese mint and kaffir lime leaves are from select Asian food shops and greengrocers.
Photography by Chris Chen. Drinks suggestions by Dan Coward.