Saturday, December 20, 2008
NASI LEMAK - BOILED COCONUT RICE WITH SAMBAL
Nasi lemak is synonymous with Malaysia. Nasi Lemak is Malaysia and Malaysia is Nasi Lemak. Apart from Singapore, which was once a part of Malaysia anyway, I doubt that Nasi Lemak, as in the complete package, exists anywhere else (But do correct me if I'm wrong). I think it is the most authentic Malay dish ever. A rustic paddy farmer's food. It is not an Indonesian carry over nor is it a dish that is a result of Indian or Chinese influences.
No Malaysain food blog would be complete without Nasi Lemak. A supposedly breakfast food; it's sold by roadsides, bus stops, on walkways, amidst snarling morning traffic and sometimes under 'NO HAWKING' signs; these stalls often snare the first pack of hungry breakfast-hunting salivating Malaysians.
That was what we thought it was until one day some one decided that Nasi Lemak had no reason to stop there. The fact that it was rice made it qualify as a lunch food, Kopitiam food, Mamak shop food, food court food, snack food, restaurant food, 5 star hotel food and finally it made it as a dinner food. Just last night I overheard a Chinese family ask for nasi lemak at an eatery where my husband and I frequent.
That was it. I snapped. I have to do the nasi lemak. This food is getting everywhere, all over the place and into every Malaysian's life, hair, blood, body and soul. And book.
Yes, if you have read my previous post where I had promised to post recipes of food that have been mentioned in Preeta Samarasan's book - Evening Is The Whole Day you know now that in Malaysia nasi lemak is as unavoidable as ...as ...as falling asleep in the middle of a conversation once you're on the wrong side of fifty or incontinence when you're old enough to have it.
Nasi Lemak is the common denominator of all Malaysians, young or old, city slicker or rural, rich or poor, blue blooded or not and last but not least, Malay or Indian, Chinese or Kadazan, Iban or Lain Lain (others). Now isn't that charming?
So tell me not to post this recipe and I will tell you to go have a nasi lemak.
More ornate versions exist nowadays with fried crispy chicken, fried crispy fish, a variety of curries, rendang and so on and so forth (the choice is yours), all tumbled onto your plate with the boiled coconut rice and the sambal but never without the token boiled egg and peanuts. Some nasi lemak comes as cheap as 1 ringgit per packet and comes wrapped in a banana leaf, kept snug and tight and ready to go. Others, more embellished, can go up to 12 ringgit per plate especially if you have it at restaurants or hotels.
However, I have made the elemental and fundamental version. I have even wrapped it in a banana leaf to give it that authentic look and feel when opened. With the must have Sambal Ikan Bilis (anchovies), hard boiled egg, fried peanuts and sliced cucumbers on the side.
Some say it is the anchovy sambal that makes the nasi lemak. Yet others say it is the coconut rice that makes it. I suppose it is both. The one without the other does not a Nasi Lemak make.
Serves 2 or 3.
The coconut rice/nasi lemak :
1 1/3 cups rice, washed and rinsed
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 or 3 pandan or screwpine leaves
1 lemon grass, crushed
2 slices ginger
1 tsp of cooking oil
salt to taste
Place rinsed rice in a rice cooker. Throw in the pandan leaf, lemon grass and slices of ginger. Pour in the coconut milk which should be of medium consistency (more or less like fresh milk) and the teaspoon of cooking oil. Add salt. Stir.Turn on the rice cooker and let cook till done.
TIP : The cooking oil keeps the grains seperate and fluffy.
The Anchovy Sambal :
1 cup of dried anchovies
3 - 4 tbsp chillie paste
2 medium onions
3 garlic, peeled
1 tsp tamarind paste mixed with 1/4 cup water, the juice strained
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1/4 cooking oil
Pound or process the onions and garlic and mix with chillie paste. Keep aside.
Heat up the oil in a pot medium sized pot and fry the anchovies till lightly brown and crisp. Drain and keep aside. Remove some of the oil leaving about 4-5 tablespoons. While the oil is still hot saute the onion/garlic/chillie paste until the mixture turns darker red and the chillie is well cooked and some oil rises to the top. Add the strained tamamrind juice, and let simmer a while longer, about 3 - 5 minutes until the gravy turns a little thicker. Add salt and sugar. Add the fried anchovies and mix well. Adjust salt to taste. Because the anchovies are already salty be careful of adding too much salt. Done. Keep aside.
Other ingredients :
a few slices of cucumber
Some fried peanuts
Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a teaspoon of vinegar and then an egg or two. Boil 10 - 12 minutes and then remove egg, plunge in cold water and peel. Halve or quarter the egg.
To serve :
Place a serving of coconut rice on a plate and surround with the anchovy sambal, peanuts, slices of cucumber and half or quarter of a hard boiled egg. Serve.