Nasi Lemak For The Soul

Hope you guys are having a blessed Eid Al-Adha and a great start to the Fall season!

My mother sent me a text last night: So, what’s on the menu for Eid Al-Adha?

My response was: I don’t know, french fries???

My mother: Have I not taught you anything? Don’t make me start, young lady.

First off, I am in the Northern part of the Midwest in the States. You cannot expect me to find lemang, rendang, or pulut kuning here, but it really got me thinking. What reminds me of home? What brings me back to public holidays and weekend mornings where my father would leave the house early and come home half an hour later with plastic bags filled with some type of Malaysian delicacy? Also, what is the one thing that I can cook with ingredients that are pretty easy to get ahold of?

Nasi lemak. Hearty, comforting and rich with coconutty goodness.

Now, I have never made nasi lemak. I never thought I could because people usually use pandan leaves. Where would I find that here?

My mother: I told you so. You should have brought along ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and kacang (fried peanuts) — (continues motherly nagging for the next ten minutes).

Okay, so I will admit that I am probably the only Malaysian student who brought ZERO Malaysian packaged foods over here. I thought I didn’t need them until the time came when I actually DO need them. Darn it, my mother was right. Somehow, against all odds, I made it. Holy crap is it easy to make.

(Keep in mind that this is my first EVER attempt. If you’re a nasi lemak maker extraordinaire and you’re clicking your tongue at every step of the way, I really am sorry but hey, it turned out pretty alright!)

You’ll need the ingredients below for your nasi lemak:

IMG_1588 (2)

This is meant for one person (I eat a lot, sorry), but it’s enough for two as well.


  1. I used a 1:1 ratio of rice to coconut milk, so 1 cup of jasmine rice to 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk. If you only have coconut cream, you can just water it down a teeny bit.
  2. A pinch of salt or, however much you prefer.
  3. Ginger as a replacement for pandan leaves! It will smell just as amazing. I only had the paste, but a 2 cm cube of ginger would be just as fine.
  4. Mix all of the ingredients together and cook in a rice cooker.

Once that is done, you can pair it with the classic sambalI was feeling shrimp, but I only had chicken in my freezer and did not want to run out in the rain for seafood! We all have to make do with what we have.

So here it goes:

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Ingredients (Sambal)

  • A teaspoon of shrimp paste
  • Ground cumin (I basically battered these with a dough roller but honestly, powder would be better.)
  • Half a tablespoon of chili paste (It all depends on your personal preference. My spicy tolerance is basically 2.5/10.)
  • 4 chopped shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Vegetable oil (enough to cover your shallots)
  • 4 tablespoons of sambal oelek
  • Salt for taste
  • Chicken breasts (which I fried halfway through and seasoned with turmeric powder + pinch of salt + pinch of sugar)

IMG_1617 (1)

Depending on how spicy you would like it to be, it will be more of a deeper red if it is. Essentially, it will look something like this.


Add a few slices of cucumber and two halves of a boiled egg.


Bam, you’re back in Malaysia. Well, until the last grain of rice at least. Good luck!


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