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Best loved Malay dish—Nasi Lamak with the coconut rice you dream about

Updated: May 5, 2023

It’s one of the world’s most famous rice dishes and widely considered the national dish of the country. Once a humble breakfast dish to fuel workers, nasi lemak has become so popular it is now eaten at anytime of the day or night.

A bowl of coconut Nasi Lamak, with roasted peanuts, half boiled egg, sliced cucumber, Sambal ikan bilis
Best loved Malay dish—Nasi Lamak with the coconut rice you dream about

The Story

Many believe that nasi lemak came about from the local Malay communities who lived by the seafront. All the ingredients were easily available to the farmers who lived by the ocean, and the dish is a lovely balance of something from the ocean and something from the hills. The story also goes that the meal was wrapped up in banana leaves and taken to the fields, which is where the dish gets its classic look from.


The recipe


Nasi Lemak (coconut rice)

2 cups basmati rice


1 can coconut milk

4cm ginger (smashed) or 1 lemon grass stick (alternative to Pandan leaf)

375ml water

Sambal ikan bilis (dried anchovies)

10 dried long red chillies (soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes)

2 fresh long red chillis

2 red shallots, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp shrimp paste

¼ cup peanut oil

1 cup dried anchovies

1 small red onion, sliced onto rings

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp tamarind puree


2 hard-boiled eggs, halved

1 cucumber, sliced

1 cup fried dried anchovies

1 cup toasted peanuts


Fried chicken


Coconut rice

Wash and rinse rice. Add the coconut milk, water and a pinch of salt. Add the ginger or lemongrass into the pot and cook.

Sambal ikan bilis

Place the soaked chillies into a small food processor along with the fresh chilli, shallot, garlic and shrimp paste. Process until a coarse paste forms.

Heat oil in a pan over high heat. Add the anchovies and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towel. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Add the chilli mixture to the pan. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and tamarind. Simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced. Stir in the anchovies and onion. Transfer to a bowl.

To Serve

Plate up the coconut rice and scoop some sambal ikan billis on top of the rice. Serve with cucumber slices, fried ikan billis, toasted peanuts and hard boiled eggs.

Nasi Lamak
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