I have a new food obsession. Like I need another…really. It is a dish called Nasi Lemak.

Nasi is traditionally a Malaysian dish, but you can also find it in other parts of Southeastern Asia. There are several versions of Nasi, but they are all mostly composed of rice soaked in coconut cream and then steamed. The name ‘Nasi Lemak’ means “cooked in cream” in Malay. Sometimes the rice is flavored with Pandan leaves to make the rice more aromatic. The rice is then accompanied by vegetables cooked with chili paste, garlic, shallots, fresh ginger and sometimes anchovies, as well as hard boiled egg, slices of cucumber, roasted peanuts, pickled vegetables and hot chili sauce.

So I don’t know if you have figured out the pattern here, but basically this dish is spicy. Very spicy. And that is why I dig it. But it is also very flavorful, and you can control the heat to meet your needs…or weakness. This version has the addition of yogurt, which helps cool off the heat. I first tasted the deliciousness here in Amsterdam at a friend’s house. He made it with a packet of ‘Nasi’ spices, and a pre-cut package of ‘Nasi’ vegatables from Aha. Quite convenient. However I wanted to take it a step further as usual. So here is my take on Nasi Lemak using ingredients you can find in your supermarket, and it takes very little effort for something so tasty.

Sara’s Nasi Lemak Recipe

(for 4 starving persons)

Coconut Rice
2 c Jasmine Rice (get Pandan rice if you can find it)
1 c coconut milk
3 c chicken or vegetable stock
Smallest dash of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, big dice
1 large onion, sliced
2 inches fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c to 1/2 c (or more!) nasi gorenge chili paste
1/4 tsp cumin


Thick yogurt
Chili sauce
Squeeze of lime

Rinse the rice and drain. Then combine all RICE ingredients into a pot, cover and bring to boil. Once it reaches a boil, lower temp to simmer. Be sure to stir every few minutes as it has a tendency to stick easily because of the high starch content of the rice. Cook until liquid is gone, approximately 10 minutes. Check it!

While rice is cooking, heat the EVOO in your saute pan, or wok, or skillet over low to medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, salt, ginger and garlic. Sweat the vegetables until soft, and onions are translucent. Sweating means to cook the vegetables until they are soft, without browning or caramelizing them.

Once the vegetables are soft, add the chili paste and cumin. Stir to heat through. If you want more of a saucy consistency, add 1/4 c. of chicken or veggie stock and cook til you find your desired texture.

To serve, make a big pile of the rice. Pile the Nasi mixture on top of the rice. Spoon the yogurt around the rice. Sprinkle cumin, or curry, on top of the yogurt. Squeeze 1/2 a lime over the dish. Eat!

2 thoughts on “nasi lemak

  1. Very interesting! A completely new type of nasi for me, I guess more Malaysian than Indonesian, with the yogurt. Sounds yummy!I wouldn't have used the EVOO, but just a plain sunflower or other oil. Olive oil has too much of a Mediterranean flavor to it, for Asian dishes, I find. Ah, and chili paste. I don't know if you've visited one of the many tokos around Amsterdam (there's a really good one on Hoofddorpplein, next to the very wonderful Ton Overmars liquorshop). There are so many different varieties, in so many different levels of spicyness. I love the badjak and brandal types. A little less heat, much more flavour. But many options. Try the one with fermented shrimp! Other spices that might work well in dishes like this, and you will find in the tokos: Koenjit or Kurkuma (type of curry)Djinten (I think a combination of ground cumin and paprika)Laos (type of gingerpowder)Ketoembar (dried and ground coriander seeds) and Djahé (dried ground ginger root)Anyway, enjoy your cooking! I'm a little jealous, don't do much cooking in our apartment/walk-in closet…

  2. It's my own twist. I know a light oil is typically used, but I just love olive oil. To each his own.As far as tokos, I found a fantastic Middle Eastern store on Kinkerstraat just east of the market. That is where I get my pandan jasmine rice, coconut milk and chili paste. There must be 10 different chili paste varieties. They also sell spices from large barrels.Your suggestions sound great. I'll have to check them out. Especially since I'm just by Hoofddorpplein.

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