My Savoury Malaysia: Nasi Lemak AKA Coconut Rice

I wish Babe in the City- KL would also host a My Savoury Malaysia. I made this for dinner yesterday. I think if there is a My Savoury Malaysia, nothing beats Nasi Lemak if you wanna expose Malaysia to the world. This coconut infused rice is usually served with side dishes as you could see from the picture. The sambal is a must, with things like cucumber, kacang putih (which we all hate so you don't see it here!), hard-boiled egg slices, deep-fried ikan bilis or anchovies and sometimes with things like Achar with toasted peanuts or some meat dishes to make this more complete as a one wholesome meal.

Sambal is an acquired taste but I believe every Malaysian would love it! It has got belacan or belachan in it which to some, are stinky prawn paste. They are very fragrant and you need to toast them before using them.

The thing about Nyonya cookins is that it always call for a lot of ingredients and you need to get the proportion right. You need a lot of spices for Nyonya cooking and certainly a lot of cooking need to be done separately before they can be assembled together to form the final product.

The recipe below is very forgiving and could be modified to suit one's taste and is what I've been using for some time. It originated from my Grandma as well so do try with no worries.

Just a side tip, if the sambal is too hot for you, don't go running for cold water, try a glass of cold milk instead. It's been scientifically proven and it works for me all the time! The chilies proportion in this recipe could be easily modified anytime. I sometimes use 6 and I've tried using up to 20 of the dried chilies. I have also occasionally substituted the bird's eye chili or chili padi with normal red chili and it was very great too.

Finally, the golden rule of sambal is to pound them to let flavour come through. Blending them is just chopping them up fine. The best way is to blend them and transfer them to batu giling or just mortar and pestle would do. Pound them even just for 10mins makes a whole lot of difference. I really might consider buying one from Ikea. They have it but they are not those heavy stone type ones which was why I procrastinated.

Sambal must always be made with lotsa sugar and little salt so make yourself comfortable by being generous with sugar and stingy with salt, you get the idea. Below makes enough to serve four to five people.

Sambal Ikan Bilis:

10 dried chillies, seeds removed, soaked in hot water till very soft
3 chili padi or normal red chilies
5 cloves of shallots, skin removed
1/2 tbsp of turmeric powder (optional)
1 stalk of lemongrass, use the bottom white part only, chop it finely
1 ping pong ball size of belacan (I use approximately 1 tbsp)
1/2 a golf ball size of tamarind paste (I use approximately 1.5 tbsp)
3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup oil
1 cup ikan bilis/ anchovies2 large onions, thinly sliced into half circles
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt or more

Toast the belacan in a hot pan with no oil until it is crumbly and fragrant.
Transfer that along with the lemongrass, shallots, all chilies and turmeric powder into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little water if necessary.

Mix the water with tamarind paste and rub and squeeze it to infuse the water with tamarind flavour. Strain it and discard the seeds and remaining.

Heat up the oil until very hot and fry the ikan bilis until they turn golden brown. Dish them up and drain them on a paper towel.

While oil is still hot, add in all the blended sambal paste and cook it over high heat until flavour comes through, oil is red and rises to the surface of the pan. Stick to high heat and stir often.

Next, add in the sliced onions and half the fried anchovies. I like using yellow onions because they are sweet. Stir them and coat with gravy until they soften up a little.

When you see them softer, add in the tamarind juice and let it simmer until your desired consistency. I sometimes like mine dry and sometimes wet so simmer for 5 mins or so and add in the sugar and salt.

Do a taste check and when it's done, dish it up.

Coconut Rice:

2 cups or rice, washed and drained
1 can coconut cream
4 cloves of shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
3 pandan leaves, washed and knotted
1 big thumb size of ginger, bruised
Remaining of the lemongrass (the top part)

Mix well the coconut cream, rice and shallots. Add in enough water to cook rice like you normally would. Place the ginger, lemongrass and knotted pandan on top. Cook it with a rice cooker and let it keep warm.


1/2 a cucumber, sliced into rings
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced into 4 each
Remaining ikan bilis
Coconut Rice
Kacang putih (if you like them in yours)
Beef Rendang or any chicken curry would do (optional)
Banana leaves, washed and pat dry

Place a banana sheet underneath the serving plate and spoon 1 cup of rice, slightly compacted onto the leaves. Scoop a little of everything and serve.

This is a plate of Nasi Lemak that I've made previously and you could see that the sambal is more red and dry for this. I also served this with butter style fish and a little Sambal Hae Bee(this is really good, more about that when i make it!).

Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaves can keep up to 2 days without going bad. Finally, if you wanna be a little adventurous like me, do try Nasi Lemak Goreng. I know it sounds weird but it's really yummy.

It all happened as an accident when I told my maid to reheat my pack of Nasi Lemak for breakfast and she was busy. Being busy, she throw the whole packet into a wok and toss them until well combined and she serve that to me. Ever since then, I always would love to have Nasi Lemak Goreng. I would on purpose save some for this!

Happy Merdeka Malaysians!

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Seafood Penne in Rose Sauce

Rose (pronounced rho-zhe) sauce is something new to me and my love-hate relationship with tomato is about to end. I used to like Carbonara a lot until I found this beautiful orangey, pinky Rose sauce. This is not as filling as Carbonara and is equally yummy.

In fact, I think this is a lot healthier compared to Carbonara. This is my first time making a complete stir fry myself and I have to admit it is not that terrifying after all, apart from the few splatters of garlic on my hand which felt a little uncomfortable. I have adapted the sauce from Tessa Kiros's book, 'Apples for Jam' and greatly modified it to suit my liking.

Seafood Rose
(serves 1 big eater)

The following seafood ingredients could be modified to suit your taste:

8 uncooked prawns, shelled, peeled with tail intact (about 150g)
1 small fresh fish fillet (about 100g), sliced thinly
3 to 5 medium size frozen clams

Rose Sauce:

20g butter
1/2 cup of diced canned tomato, pureed
125g penne pr any other pasta
1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced finely
1 tbsp dry white wine, brandy or Calvados
1 heaped tbsp cream
1 tsp dried parsley
Dash of salt and pepper

Melt half the butter in a smallish pan and when it starts to sizzle, add in the tomato puree. Season it with salt and pepper and a good dash of dried oregano. Cook over medium heat for about 10 mins until it is thick and reduced.

In another pot, cook the pasta in boiling salted water, according to the packet instructions. Multi-tasking, heat another non-stick pan with enough capacity to accommodate the tomato puree and all the pasta. When the pan is hot, add in the olive oil and remaining butter. When it is sizzling, add the prawns, fish and garlic. Over the highest heat possible, cook the prawns and fish until they are bright, crusty and golden in places. Toss and turn them often and when they are cooked, scatter them with salt. Add the white wine and cook until it evaporates.

Drain the penne, retaining the water. Add the tomato puree and cream into the pan and heat until just bubbling. Add the pasta and toss to coat well. If it seems like you need it, add a little of the retained pasta cooking water to help the sauce coat the pasta.

Serve immediately with a grind of pepper and a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh parsley.

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