Nasi Lemak - Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice Recipe

Nasi Lemak – Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice Recipe

Nasi Lemak - Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice Recipe

Nasi Lemak is undoubtedly the national dish that represents Malaysia and most probably the most popular traditional dish in Malaysia, to locals and foreigners alike. It is one dish that binds everyone together, despite the wide diversity of cultures and cuisines in Malaysia.

Nasi lemak literally means ‘rice’ and ‘fat’. However, the ‘fat’ refers to the creaminess of the coconut milk which is used in cooking the rice. It is a very popular dish that is widely available at roadside stalls, markets, food courts in shopping malls and even in 5 stars hotels throughout Malaysia. It is highly popular in Singapore and Brunei too. Nasi lemak is also pre-packed and sold at ‘Mamak’ eateries too. The fragrance of this dish comes from the pandan leaves and the rice which is infused with coconut milk.

Nasi lemak – Malaysian coconut milk rice, served with sambal, fried crispy anchovies, toasted peanuts and cucumber. This is the best and most authentic nasi lemak recipe.

A truly remarkable Nasi Lemak (Coconut Milk Rice) is not to be taken lightly. It constitutes of good quality rice cooked in rich and creamy coconut milk with screw pine leaves infused during the cooking process. This is key to create the best flavours and texture in the nasi lemak rice. Hence, much effort is required to prepare this legendary dish.

Basic plate of nasi lemak

A basic plate of nasi lemak consists of coconut milk rice, ‘sambal’, fried anchovies, slices of cucumber and a slice of fried or hard boiled egg. Additionally, curry chicken, squids sambal, fried fish or chicken rendang may be added. The list could go on according to individual preferences. It is actually a wholesome meal by itself and often eaten throughout the day. Of course, do not forget the cup of teh tarik as it complements the dish fantastically.

How to prepare nasi lemak in advance

As simple as it may seem, the preparation can be quite tedious. Cooking the sambal one day before definitely shortens the cooking time. Besides that, anchovies and the peanuts may be fried in advanced too. Once they are cooled to room temperature, they can be stored in air tight containers for up to 3 days.

Nasi Lemak – Malaysian Coconut Milk Rice Recipe

Cuisine: Malaysian
Yields: 4 servings
Calories: 338 calories
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Keywords: rice, egg, chicken, fish


  • coconut milk steamed rice
  • 2 cups rice
  • 3 screwpine leaves, tie them into a knot as shown above
  • salt to taste
  • 1 can coconut milk (5.6 oz)
  • some water
  • 1 cup water (for tamarind juice)
  • tamarind pulp, size of a small ping pong ball (for tamarind juice)
  • 1/2 red onion (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 1 cup ikan bilis, dried anchovies (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 1 clove garlic (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 4 shallots (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 10 dried chillies (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 1 teaspoon belacan, prawn paste (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (for dried anchovies sambal)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, cut into half (for side dish)
  • 3 small fish, sardines or smelt fish (for side dish)
  • 1 small cucumber, cut into slices and then quartered (for garnish)

How to Cook

  1. Just like making steamed rice, rinse your rice and drain. Add the coconut milk, a pinch of salt, and some water. Add the pandan leaves into the rice and cook your rice.
  2. Rinse the dried anchovies and drain the water. Fry the anchovies until they turn light brown and put aside.
  3. Pound the prawn paste together with shallots, garlic, and deseeded dried chilies with a mortar and pestle. You can also grind them with a food processor. Slice the red onion into rings. Soak the tamarind pulp in water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind constantly to extract the flavor into the water. Drain the pulp and save the tamarind juice.
  4. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the spice paste until fragrant. Add in the onion rings. Add in the ikan bilis and stir well. Add tamarind juice, salt, and sugar. Simmer on low heat until the gravy thickens. Set aside.
  5. Clean the small fish, cut them into half and season with salt. Deep fry. Cut the cucumber into slices and then quartered into four small pieces. Dish up the steamed coconut milk rice and pour some sambal ikan bilis on top of the rice. Serve with fried fish, cucumber slices, and hard-boiled eggs.