Nasi Lemak

By Home cook Sharmini Jayawardena

This is my own recipe put together with hints and tips shared by friends.

Nasi lemak, being a Malaysian milk rice made with pandan leaf and coconut 🌴 🥥 milk. In its traditional form, it is served on a banana leaf with the ikan bilis or anchovy sambal taking centre stage. It is served with side dishes of toppings from halved hard boiled eggs, crisply fried ground nuts and dry ikan bilis and slices of cucumber 🥒 wheels*.

This is the national dish of Malaysia and is usually the everyday breakfast of all Malaysians. With other additions like fried fish 🐠 🐟 🎣 , prawn 🍤 🦐 or squid 🦑, it is had for lunch and dinner.

Anthony Bourdain revered chef, food author and TV super star called the Nasi Lemak the king of breakfasts in an impressive video – Anthony Bourdain No Reservations Penang

Unfortunately the video is no longer available on YouTube because the account has been terminated. Bourdain, even went on to say that it was better than bacon and eggs! A true compliment!

Let’s first make the sambal ikan bilis.


60 medium sized dry red chilies 

180 ml water 

3 tbls coconut oil 

1tsp belacan (pronounced blachan – it is a dry prawn paste)

1 medium sized big onion

6 large cloves garlic

2 tbls tamarind juice

1 tbls thick coconut milk

Sugar and salt to taste

2 handfuls of dry ikan bilis

2 handfuls of ground nuts


1. Clean the ikan bilis and deep fry them  until light brown, (or they stop sizzling), in a kwali or wok. Drain and set aside. 

2. Deep fry the ground nuts, (until medium brown as they keep frying even after removing from fire), drain and set aside.

2. Pick out the chilies and soak them in a pot of water at boiling temperature.

3. Once the chilies are soft to the touch, remove from water and deseed and devein them.

4. Blend the chilies 🌶, and sliced garlic 🧄 together with water, until it turns into a smooth paste. set aside.

5. Slice the onion 🧅 cross-wise and rather thick, in half wheel slices.

6. To make 2 tbls of the tamarind juice – dissolve 1 tbls of tamarind paste in 3 tbls water and squeeze out the seeds and veins. Strain and set aside.

7. Fry the blachan well, in the heated coconut oil.

8. As the blachan gets fried, add the chili paste and fry until it gets well cooked. Stir well, then cover and keep stirring with a flat spoon from time to time.

9. Add the tamarind juice, give it a good stir and let it fry.

10. Add the coconut milk, stir and fry.

11. Add the sliced onion and fry until the onions are slightly translucent.

12.Add sugar and salt to taste. Add half of the fried ikan bilis. Stir well, remove from fire, cover and set aside.

To make the nasi lemak –

1. Wash 7 pandan leaves and make it into a big knot.

2. Wash A grade South East Asian white rice three times, tossing the water each time.

3. Put both ingredients in the rice cooker with a few pinches of sea salt and medium thick coconut milk according to the gauge in the rice cooker. Up to the third mark if you are taking three rice cooker cups of rice.

4. Once the rice is done, mix it all with a spoon, cover and keep.

For the toppings –

1. To hard boil eggs – wash and boil the eggs with enough water to cover the eggs and a few slices of lime or two tbls white vinegar, (to prevent shell from cracking), for 8 minutes from the time the water starts to boil.

2. Drain the water, pour fresh water in to the pot and set aside for 5 minutes.

3. Shell the eggs and halve them.

4. Your deep fried handfuls of dry anchovies/ ikan bilis and ground nuts with skin on, are set aside.

5. To cut cucumber into slices, start by cutting the top off and rubbing the top round and round until a white substance comes out. This is done to remove the bitterness from the cucumber. Wash and cut in to fairly thick rounds.

To serve –

1. Wash a bowl out with clean water. Pack the rice tightly in to a bowl and turn it upside down on the serving plate.

2. Arrange the fried ikan bilis, fried peanuts, cucumber rings and halved hard boiled eggs around the mound of nasi lemak. Top it with the sambal ikan bilis.

This dish is a truly flavorsome dish full of texture.

Enjoy 😋.

*The cucumber slices have been mistakenly cut into halves.

One Comment on “Nasi Lemak”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *