With a history dating back to 1909, it’s no wonder Malaysians consider Nasi Lemak to be their national dish. Ever met a Malay who didn’t like it? No, me neither!
Nasi Lemak is a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It also popular in neighbouring countries, such as Brunei and Singapore. Nasi Lemak has also been seen more commonly in Southern Thailand in recent times. Nasi Lemak is not to be confused with “nasi dagang”, which is sold on the eastern coast of Malaysia, such as in the states of Terengganu and Kelantan, although both dishes can usually be found sold side by side for breakfast. However, because of the nasi lemak’s versatility in being able to be served in a variety of manners, it is now served and eaten any time of the day. I always compare nasi lemak to nasi goreng from Indonesia, and if you want to know the difference, the latter is a simple (yet delicious) dish of fried rice.
Traditionally, nasi lemak is served with various side dishes, including fresh cucumber slices, roasted peanuts, a hard boiled egg, and plenty of sambal. As a more substantial meal, nasi lemak may also be served with ayam goreng (fried chicken), sambal sotong (cuttlefish in chili), and on special occasions beef rendang. For me, the ayam goreng version was a godsend, as it combined two of my favourite types of meal!
Although it is more commonly consumed for breakfast, nasi lemak is commonly sold at hawker food centres and roadside stalls in Malaysia and Singapore. This version is known as nasi lemak bungkus and often comes wrapped in banana leaves or a newspaper. It reminds me of the way Nasi Uduk is prepared in Indonesia. That said, this Malaysian version is awesome, as there’s nothing better when hunting down some street food to eat from a banana leaf!