Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

Hello Everyone! I’m back tonight with a recipe for you guys. So I did a little bit of reading on what Nasi Lemak actually translates to – I knew “Nasi” (pronounced nah-see) meant rice, but I was not sure what “Lemak” (pronounced leh-mahk) meant. Lemak apparently, if directly translated means “fat” and therefore Nasi Lemak means “fat rice”, but in the cooking context, lemak means enriched, and in this case, rice enriched with coconut milk.

The truth is, no one really know where the dish originated from as coconut rice is common in many other South-east Asian cultures such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Apparently there is an old folklore story from a village just south of the country’s state, Kuala Lumpur, where a village girl accidentally spilled a cup of coconut milk in a pot of rice while she was helping her mother cook. Though her mother was enraged, she ended up liking the taste of the rice with coconut milk, and hence the birth of Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

Traditionally, the two elements that make up this dish are the rice of course, and the spicy sambal (a chilli-based sauce) that either has anchovies or prawns in it accompanying the rice. Sliced cucumbers, half a hard-boiled egg, and roasted peanuts are also essential condiments found in this dish. Nowadays, many variations of accompaniments are served with the dish, such as chicken, beef or prawn curry, and even fried chicken. It is then wrapped and packed in a banana tree leaf as this gives an added fragrance. Restaurants nowadays serve up a modernised version on a plate with all the trimmings.

Back home in Brunei, Nasi Lemak was practically on every menu in every restaurant. They were sold in almost every stall at the Gadong Pasar Malam (Night Market) and even on the side of the streets if I’m not mistaken. All ranging between $1.00 to $3.00, probably a little bit more in restaurant, but surely no more than $5.00. I remember I went to Mamak in Chinatown somewhere in the middle of last year to meet up with Sam’s friends (now my friends too) from the Netherlands. I had a sudden crave for Roti Kosong and Nasi Lemak, but it was so difficult to order it. I think I may have complained about this place before in terms of price comparisons to back home, and I am about to do it again. Their Nasi Lemak here was $9.00, and if you wanted a curry or fried chicken to go with it, it was another $3.00 extra, $4.00 if you wanted seafood. After that, never getting Nasi Lemak here ever again. Thus I decided to give homemade Nasi Lemak a go! Now, I may have steered away from ‘traditional’ by using pre-made sambal, but it tasted pretty good!

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice) Ingredients

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice) Ingredients

Here is where you can get quite creative yourself. As I’ve mentioned before, the rice and the sambal is essential. The other components are basically up to you. I paired my Nasi Lemak with Sambal Kangkung, which is basically water spinach stir fried in the chilli-based sauce with garlic and onions, and a piece of fried chicken. You can whip up your own curry with your choice of meat or vegetables to accompany this dish.

Ayam Goreng Ingredients

Kang Kong Belacan Ingredients



For the coconut rice

  • 2 cups long grain rice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 pandan (screwpine) leaves, tie them into a knot as shown above
  • 1 small can (170ml) coconut milk

For the fried chicken

  • 4 pcs chicken thigh cutlets, skin-on, washed and cleaned
  • 1/2 vegetable oil, for shallow frying
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash of ground black pepper

For the sambal kangkung

  • 1 bunch kangkung, washed, leaves separated from the stems, and stems cut into short lengths
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp sambal belacan
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • Handfull of small-sized ikan bilis (dried anchovies), fried
  • Handfull of peanuts, roasted
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Banana leaf


  1. First things first, combine all the marinade ingredients for the fried chicken in a large bowl. Mix the chicken around until well coated in the batter. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and set aside to marinade for 1 hour.
  2. Coconut Rice: Just like making steamed rice, rinse your rice and drain. Add the coconut milk, a pinch of salt, and water. Add the pandan leaves into the rice and cook your rice. Once done, transfer to a serving dish lined with a banana leaf together with the other condiments.
  3. Fried Chicken: Preheat oven to 180C. Heat up oil in a large frying pan an working in batches, shallow dry the chicken until skin is crispy and golden (about 4-5 minutes per side). Remove from the heat and place on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil. Place the wings in the oven for a further 8-10 minutes to finish off in the oven.
  4. Sambal Kangkung: Heat oil in a medium frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic and 1 of the sliced bird’s eye chilli and sauté until golden brown. Add in the onions and sauté until soft. Bring the heat down to low and then add in the sambal belacan, cooking the belacan over high heat will cause it to spit all over the stovetop and we don’t want to have a messy cooking area. Cover if needed. Sauté the belacan until fragrant.
  5. Add the the kangkung leaves, stems and a little bit of water to dilute the belacan you think can’t handle the heat. Cover until the leaves start to wilt. Toss around the belacan to coat the leaves and stems evenly (kangkung literally takes only a minute to cook). Serve together with your coconut rice and fried chicken, and top with fresh red chillies.

Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)


– Ally xx


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