The question I get asked most is what Malaysians eat for breakfast. Most of my western friends were surprised that in Asia, we have a rice dish instead of cereal and cold milk.
In particular, Malaysians love Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai and Toasts with Egg and Noodles. Not necessarily in that order. For me, personally, Nasi Lemak wins hands down. Morning, Noon, Night and after Midnight.
I was with my friends from the USA and they were intrigued that Malaysians and Singaporean are able to eat so many meals in a single day. My retort was that we only eat ONE meal which is broken up by conversations, drinking, traveling, walking, shopping and breathing. Which inevitably bring us back to eating so MUCH rice and still staying so slim?
Malaysians and Singaporeans love flavored rice. It is the rich creaminess of coconut milk infused rice that keeps us going for more. The moment the fragrant coconut rice hits the air, I perk up. When hot coconut cream rice is paired with spicy, flavourful that red rich Sambal Manis, I can feel the rush of saliva in my mouth. I literally drool as I write this. Seriously.
Here are the: 20 Top Delicious Ways to Enjoy Your Malaysian Nasi Lemak
What is Nasi Lemak?
Nasi lemak is a Malay fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and scented with a knotted pandan or Pandanus leaf (Screwpine).
This is considered the national dish in Malaysia and it is also popular in other Asian countries including Southern Thailand, Singapore, and Brunei.
What are the best times to eat Nasi Lemak?
Even though Nasi Lemak is primarily a breakfast meal, some Malaysians love this dish so much that they enjoy making it at home for lunch and dinner. There are some stalls that make this for sale for breakfast and the best and most fragrant are wrapped in banana leaf squares.
For Breakfast, I love these two stalls, which involves queuing like mad. You will want to check out the Ultimate Penang Halal Food Guide for Muslim Travelers for some pointers too.
Here in Penang, we get to eat this six days a week. This is the ultimate pit stop for office workers in the Central Banking District along Beach Street. Mounds of hot coconut infused rice piled on banana leaf squares is a sight to behold.
Ali Nasi Lemak Daun Pisang
Sri Weld Food Court, Beach Street, Penang
OPENING HOURS | Mon-Sat: 6.00PM – 11.00PM, closed Sundays
SPECIALTIES | Malay Cuisine, Nasi Lemak with Add-Ons.
PHONE | 016-407 0717
Eating the Village Park Famous Nasi Lemak at Damansara Uptown feels like a victory when you finally get into the restaurant.
Village Park Restaurant
5, Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
OPENING HOURS | Daily: 6.30AM – 7.30PM
SPECIALTIES | Malay Cuisine, Nasi Lemak, Soto Ayam with Toast Bread
PHONE | 03-7710 7860
For the supper crowd, nothing is more satisfying than chowing down on Nasi Lemak with hot fried chicken drumsticks and watching a good game.
Nasi Lemak Liverpool
92, Jalan Tan Sri Teh Ewe Lim, Jelutong, 11600 Penang
OPENING HOURS | Daily: 7.00pm – 2.00am
SPECIALTIES | Malay Cuisine, Fried Chicken, Nasi Lemak
REVIEW| Alfresco seating. Great for watching football. Liverpool Fans!
PHONE | 017-455 5797
What are the most popular mains to eat with Nasi Lemak?
- Hot Fried Chicken
- Fried Small Fish
- Assam Prawns
- Sambal Prawns
- Sweet and Spicy Cuttle Fish
- Fried Ikan Bilis (Anchovy)
- Fried Peanuts
- Salted Fish
- Sliced cucumber wedges
- Boiled Okra (Lady’s Fingers)
- Sambal Belacan
The Peranakan will not eat this rice dish without the must-have condiment of hand pounded Sambal Belacan. Some will add a little crunch that goes so well with Nasi Lemak.
Best Way to Enjoy Nasi Lemak is Homecooked
My friends often ask if I can cook. The answer is yes BUT my Nyonya hot wok and ladle wielding Mama take center stage in our little kitchen and I am relegated to just eating, tasting and commenting.
When I was working away from Penang I would prepare some simple meals and sometimes breakfast. The lucky ones who live (LOL) after that meal will attest to my culinary skill set. When it comes to certain sureties in life, let’s just say I write better than I cook and a whole gazillion better than singing!
1 Totally Lemak Rice
At home, we love our rice, with the full force of the coconut. Very very LEMAK. Lemak is a Malay word for creamy, think cheesecake and you get the idea. So the only way to enjoy this treat is to cook at home. By treat I mean, we have it once a week. If we have it daily it’s called a staple. And yes, I can at it 4X a day!
2 Creamy Hard Boiled Eggs
If you have been following this blog, and SmartDory FB Page, you will notice that I often get disgusted (totally totally DISGUSTED) with hard boiled eggs with that green oxidized ring around the yolks. So not SEXY!
My fervent wish is for all cafes and restaurants to learn to get get the basics right and the rest will follow. Serving the halved hard-boiled egg, yolk side down for Nasi Lemak will get a smirk from me. So totally unimpressed!
There is a way to make eggs this creamy I assure you. You will want to eat at least 2 whole eggs with your Nasi Lemak. I eat this with the yolks mashed in a little soy sauce and Sambal Udang gravy. And if I am lucky, (YES) a tad of that sweet Assam Prawn sauce.
3 Assam Prawns
We like a double prawn dish for our treat meal. Fat juicy pan fried Sea Prawns coated in thick gooey sweet tamarind infused black sauce. Chew on the Prawn head and you will know what I mean. Quality control is cooking just enough for a meal. Not rushing and watching the fire.
4 Sambal Udang
Small prawns cooked in red sweet Gulai gravy with sliced cucumber and Limau Parut (kaffir Lime) leaves.
5 Sambal Belacan
Sambal is a spicy hot pungent condiment best served with hot rice. The sound that never fails to draw me near is the pounding of mortar and pestle for first the Sambal Belacan… and then the rest is a wonder!
The best condiment for Nasi Lemak for a Nyonya home is that thick red sambal made by hand pounding the chillis in a Lesong. The louder and more intense the noise, or if Nyonya pounds it in anger, the hotter the sambal will taste!
Nothing quite equals toasting belacan over a charcoal stove at the crack of dawn. No one gets up annoyed but rather smile with anticipation. If you don’t have a charcoal stove, don’t worry. Use a non-stick pan to toss the belacan until fragrant! Only use premium good quality belacan, else everyone will run in the opposite direction. Away from the kitchen!
After that, all you need is just elbow grease to pound away.
Simple Sambal Belacan Recipe
20 red chili
10 bird eye chills
Add a pinch of sugar
Serve with a halved Limau Kasturi (Calamansi Lime) and a pinch of sugar.
Cultural Tips: Sometimes we will add some rice into the lesong to clean up the leftover sambal. Guaranteed to give you the runs if you should go Tanjung (out to town) after eating this. Don’t ask me why. I just happen oddly enough times to my neighbor that we never try this. LOL.
Which bring us to this. If all you can think about is Nasi Lemak, perhaps you want to check out your Nasi Lemak personality.
What is Your Nasi Lemak Personality? How do you like your favorite meal?
#1 I like Nasi Lemak Bungkus (wrapped in banana leaves!)
#2 Great as a rice dish for dinner
#3 I like it dry with red spicy sambal belacan mixed in the rice
#4 Make mine banjir with lots of gravy
#5 I like it with three types of meat and two types of vegetable dishes
#6 Got to eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper
#7 I MUST have it with TehTarik!
#8 Telur Mata (Sunny Side Up Eggs) over boiled eggs
#9 It must be cukup LEMAK
#10 I HATE the crunchy bits. No peanut and No Ikan Bilis, please!
#11 Assam Prawns…. <drools>
#12 I like it with Fried Fish.
#13 Make mine hot from the wok Fried Chicken.
#14 I like it for picnics.
#15 A must have at buffets, parties, and a potluck.
#16 Nasi Lemak Burger anyone?
#17 I like Nasi Lemak Cake.
#18 Nasi Lemak Sushi, seriously?
#19 I like Nasi Lemak Cheese Cake.
#20 A Nasi Lemak Dress!
Alas, I can’t promise to help you prepare the above out of the world fantastic Nasi Lemak Ideas. Seriously, Malaysians are so darn creative. I’m so impressed <touched> Eventually, I will try to taste all the new ideas. Some sounds weirdly tempting.
How to prepare the rice in Nasi Lemak?
In Asia, there are three other ways of cooking the deliciously fragrant and creamy rice. The first is boiling the rice with coconut milk in a covered pot (takes some skill to get it right). The second is to use an electric rice cooker. The third method of preparation called Nasi Lemak Kukus (Steamed) makes the rice more fragrant and it is sprinkled over with more santan when the cook checks it periodically.
The stall that I like but don’t get to eat that often is in Pulau Tikus.
Jin Hoe Cafe Nasi Lemak
46, Jalan Cantonment, Pulau Tikus, Penang
OPENING HOURS | Daily: 8.00am – 12.00pm
SPECIALTIES | Nyonya Cuisine, Steam Nasi Lemak with Assam Prawns, Fish, Fiery Sambal Belacan
Another interesting was to savor Nasi Lemak is the by frying up the rice, the same way you would when making fried rice with overnight cooked rice. This santan infused cooked rice is fried in a wok-like Nasi Goreng and served with fried chicken and sambal gravy.
Finally, I leave you with this achievable hunt!
I’ll make my way to this stall in PJ Old Town one of these days to try this version. Ah Boy Paul says it’s quite tasty as it was a staple for the college kids.
You can beat me to this place, check it out and let me know how you like it.
Nasi Lemak Goreng Chef Fauzey
Jalan Sentosa 3/57, Petaling Jaya Old Town,
46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
OPENING HOURS | Mon-Sat: 6.00pm – 11.00pm Closed Sun
SPECIALTIES | Malay Cuisine, Fried Nasi Lemak
PHONE | 019-376 5886
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