Easy Nasi Lemak Overseas - Malaysia’s great favourite

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Nasi lemak

Nasi lemak

Nasi Lemak (pronounced as ‘naah see ler mark’) is one of the top most popular hawker food that is widely sold in morning markets, night markets, eating shops, hotel restaurants, Malay or Indian restaurants and even served on Malaysian or Singapore airlines. This is every Malaysian’s favourite. If you like spicy, exotic food, this one is for you.

Nasi lemak can be simple or elaborate. The simplest is usually made up of coconut rice, sambal, peanuts, cucumber and boiled eggs. For a more elaborate one, fried chicken, curried chicken, fried anchovies or salted fish is also added.

In Malaysia, most people will just eat out or buy home to eat. However, this may not be that easy when you stay overseas like me and my family and other Malaysian friends. Here in Aberdeen, Scotland, there isn’t any Malaysian restaurant where you can go and enjoy a plate of nasi lemak, not that I know of. For a whole family to go out and enjoy this will be costly, too, if there is any, like in other cities in UK. Worse, you may be paying for what is not authentic. So, the best is to cook it at home.

I have made it the simplest that I can think of where everyone can cook at home if you are staying overseas or has little cooking utensils. It may not be as authentic as back home but it’s still very delicious, quick to cook and the house doesn’t smell that bad. I could cook the real authentic one outside when it’s summer but I’m not too sure if my neighbours will be happy because of the strong smell of the sambal.

Lingham chilli sauce

Lingham chilli sauce

I found that the Lingham ginger garlic chilli sauce is very convenient here, not only for its nice red colour but also for it’s spiciness and mild sweetness. It’s very convenient to use if you want to make marinades, a dip, or in this case sambal, if you like something hotter than the Thai sweet chilli sauce. You can buy this from Costco which comes in a twin pack. It’s a lot cheaper than shops outside.

Here is my Easy Nasi Lemak recipe. It should be enough for 4 people. This really depends on how much each person eats.

Ingredients A (coconut rice)
2 & 1/2C rice (washed and drain)
1/2t salt
6T coconut powder
3/4t turmeric powder (Optional)

Cooking turmeric coconut rice

Cooking turmeric coconut rice

Put all of Ingredients A into a pot. You can cook your rice a rice cooker but you have to be careful to take care of it as it because the cooking button to trip very quickly to ‘keep warm’ mode. If I ever cook in a rice cooker (very seldom), I have to stand and watch with the cover open until it boils. Give a good stir and let it boil until the water is almost dry. Then cover. If you see steam coming through the steam outlet, then you are fine. Otherwise, just press the cook button again. You must see steam coming through the outlet. Then you can leave it to cook further. Otherwise you will end up with uncooked rice.

You can also steam the rice if you like but I find that too troublesome. I always cook it in a pot over the fire. To learn how to cook it that way, click How To Cook Rice In A Pot. I find this easy and convenient. I can cook other dishes while cooking rice, and when timed properly, everything will be cooked at the same time.

Usually we have plain white coconut rice. But I like something more colourful so I added some turmeric powder to the rice while cooking. You can omit it.

You can use the canned coconut milk if you like. I usually use the canned ones. But if you are cooking a little rice, then using this coconut powder is more convenient. You don’t have to worry about what to do with the rest of the coconut milk.

Ingredients B (chicken)
700g diced chicken
2T curry paste
1t turmeric powder
2T Lingham chili sauce
1T light soya sauce
1T corn flour

Marinated chicken

Marinated chicken

Mix all of Ingredients B together. Let it rest for about 30 minutes.

Fried chicken

Fried chicken

Heat up some oil in a frying pan and pan fry the chicken. The chicken pieces were of different sizes and I didn’t use a non-stick pan for frying. Hence you see the rough look which I like because it looks more like country cooking. I used chicken thigh meat here because I like the tenderness and juiciness of the meat. My children like this chicken dish very much. They were eating away while I was cooking!

This chicken is really delicious to go with the coconut rice. However, if you like curry, you can use either my Fast And Easy Malaysian Chicken Curry or Baked Chicken Curry. They are both my favourite and easy to cook.

Ingredients C (sambal)
1 big red onion (peeled and finely chopped)
1/2 whole garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
4T Lingham chili sauce
2t tamarind puree
3T water
1t salt

Sambal ingredients

Sambal ingredients

The important ingredient in making this sambal is the ‘belacan’, also spelt as ‘belachan’. It is made from tiny shrimps, salted, dried in the sun and pounded until it becomes a paste. It isn’t nice to smell but gives the sambal a unique, lovely flavour and taste. I prefer the wet sambal which gives a much better flavour. This powder type is very easy to use but not as fragrant. So, choose one that you like.

If you use the wet belacan which usually comes in a block or a tube, fry it together with the onions and garlic until it is very fragrant. That’s when your whole house smells, but nice smell. Here I used the powder type where I just add in later together with the other ingredients.

Fry garlic and onions

Fry garlic and onions

Heat up some oil in a frying pan or small pot and fry the chopped onions and garlic until fragrant. In Malaysia, we used the small purple shallots which are more delicious for sambal. On top of that, we grind or pound the garlic, shallots and dried chillies together before frying. That gives a stronger and tastier sambal. But here, if you don’t have a grinder or pounder, just chop it up finely like me. You have less washing to do.

Cooking the sambal

Cooking the sambal

Add the rest of the other ingredients in Ingredients C. Stir until well combined. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Add chilli powder if you want it more spicy.



Dish up and set aside.See the beautiful colour of the sambal. I don’t like to blend the ingredients because I like the onion bits in it to give it some bite.

To serve, scoop some coconut rice into a small bowl and overturn it onto a plate as in the top picture above. Scoop some sambal on top or at the side. Then spoon some roasted peanuts and fried anchovies (ikan bilis) on to the side, too. I didn’t use them because I ran out of these 2 items in my house. Cut up a hard boiled egg and to it. You can use a fried egg, sunny side up, if you prefer. Add a few pieces of the fried chicken and enjoy a very delicious, exotic meal on a plate.

You can get the dried anchovies (ikan bilis) from Asian market. They are very delicious in a lot of other dishes. I liked them in Okra (Lady’s Fingers) And Anchovies Stir Fry and Malaysian Country Fried Rice. You can try that, too.

Coconut rice with spring chicken

Coconut rice with spring chicken

I had some left over coconut rice which I steamed up again the next day for dinner. I baked a ready marinated spring chicken to go with it and some raw spinach at the side. It was a very delicious meal, too. You can get this ready marinated spring chicken from Sainsbury at 2 for £6. My family likes this spring chicken very much. It’s very easy to cook it…just bake at 200 degrees Celsius for about 25 minutes. I bought once from Waitrose. It was marinated with different seasonings. My children didn’t like it as much.

You can be creative with this dish. Have fun cooking and don’t miss out this special dish.

Other exotic Malaysian dish that you may be interested in:
Malaysian Prawn Soup Noodles

Quote of the day…….

“Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.”

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Keep Learning Keep Smiling

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anncoo  on January 30th, 2011

I love nasi lemak and used to have this for breakfast. Your nasi lemak makes me salivating…keep some for me please :))

j3ss kitch3n  on January 30th, 2011

Aww its not even lunch yet over at my side Mary! but you are making me drool with your nasi lemak!

santosh  on January 30th, 2011


Pepy @Indonesia Eats  on January 30th, 2011

When I read the nasi lemak recipe, it’s very close to nasi kuning. I wonder how Lingham’s chili sauce taste and should look for that. I’m getting hungry, Mary!

suituapui  on January 30th, 2011

Over there, no choice…have to cook your own. Here, I’ll just stop by my favourite stall in the kampong - RM1.50 (How many p is that?) only. Yum! Yum! LOL!!!

penny aka jeroxie  on January 30th, 2011

I miss nasi lemak as well but it is easier for me to get one here. But still I prefer the ones I get back home!

Ginny Hartzler  on January 30th, 2011

The cucumber, egg, and coconut combination sounds so good, something I’ve never seen before. But I have never heard of coconut powder, would it be in the spice section?

Belinda @zomppa  on January 31st, 2011

Oh, oh, oh!! This is absolutely one of my favorite dishes in the world and I have some anchovies…so I’m going to so follow this.

Jeannie  on January 31st, 2011

Wow your nasi lemak is yellow in colour, something different from the ones we have here…reminds of nasi pulut kunyit:D I like the sambal and the chicken in the last photo, half chicken all by yourself….so envious of you lol!

claire  on January 31st, 2011

Mary, your nasi lemak is out of the world.. at least put some malaysians like me to shame.. hahaha… i dont really know how to cook nasi lemak, all i do is to fry some ikan bilis, peanuts and some chilli paste.. lol..

lequan  on January 31st, 2011

my gosh Mary, this does look wonderfully spicy and delicious. i love that you didn’t use a non stick pan to give the chicken some extra texture. i’m a huge fan of coconut rice. what a great idea to use tumeric to give the rice a beautiful colour. i must say, i’m amazed your family only eats 2 1/2 cups of rice. when i cook, i make 4 cups of rice for hubby and i and our little ones. now you know why i had to double your miso salmon recipe….teehee. thank you for sharing another fantastic recipe with us.

Shirley  on January 31st, 2011

I’ve heard of Sambal from many friends would love to try it out. Well presented.

Mary  on January 31st, 2011

@anncoo - Anytime, come! We can have fun eating and chatting :D

@j3ss kitch3n - I think its like heaven at your side….just run to nearby store and you have nasi lemak! How jealous! :D

@santosh - Thanks very much, Santosh! :D

@Pepy @Indonesia Eats - Lingham chilli sauce is very delicious. My family likes it. It’s a very old brand. My mom used to buy it. It’s sold in many supermarkets. Hope you can find it and like it :D

@suituapui - Arthur, you really know how to make me jealous! Just wait till I go back for holidays, I will do the same…haha :D I know, it’s so cheap….about 30p!

@penny aka jeroxie - You are sure luckier than me! Agree with you, the ones back home are just best :D

@Ginny Hartzler - You should be able to find coconut powder or coconut cream in Asian sections or Asian shops. Hope you can find it :D

@Belinda @zomppa - Have fun cooking and eating! :D

@Jeannie - Ya, just like something different. It’s actually the first time that I had yellow rice for my nasi lemak. Yes, half chicken but its spring chicken…very small. It’s possible to eat one even :D

@claire - Never mind, Claire, you have all the excuse. You are busy working and also it’s so easily available there. I think I won’t cook, too, if I were like you. But at least you know how to mix up your sambal. I like that but I can’t get chili paste here or maybe I have not searched hard enough. Should go out for more shopping :D

@lequan - Do we sound like small eaters? My youngest daughter was not in so there were only 3 of us. Piling the food onto a plate makes it look a lot so my hubby was cheated and was rather happy with the plate..LOL. Trying to slim him down a little. I hope he doesn’t see this…haha :D

@Shirley - Yes, sambal is very good with rice. We can just eat that with rice and nothing else. Give a try. Hope you like it :D

somewhere in singapore  on January 31st, 2011

I just bought back a packet of Nasi Lemak to eat last sat…hehe…

Christine@Christine's Recipes  on January 31st, 2011

It’s my most favourite dish I order at Malaysian restaurants. Now, I know the easy way to cook it at home myself. Woohooo, thanks, Mary!

Priya  on January 31st, 2011

Thats a droolworhty dish, makes me hungry..

noobcook  on January 31st, 2011

your nasi lemak looks great and it’s making me crave for supper now. It looks very complete with the sambal and fried chicken :D

Sushma Mallya  on January 31st, 2011

i have never tasted this but am sure it tastes yummy…

Janis  on January 31st, 2011

Yummm! I am now officially in love with Malaysian food.

Katerina  on January 31st, 2011

I have never tried Malaysian food, but this one looks mouthwatering. I am bookmarking this to try it.

Erica  on January 31st, 2011

Interesting! A delicious looking dish!

makcikmanggis  on January 31st, 2011

hai my dear mary:)anda sungguh kreatif .Masak nasi lemak kuning.Makcikmanggis sangat suka nasi lemak.Jika suka warna hijau bolehlah masukkan perahan air daun pandan:)..nasi lemak hijau.

Ivy  on January 31st, 2011

This is new to me but I always love to learn about new dishes.

Aipi  on January 31st, 2011

I got to learn something new today..thanks for sharing Mary!

US Masala

Cooking Gallery  on January 31st, 2011

Mary, this dish looks beautiful! A very mouthwatering traditional dish!

Ananda Rajashekar  on January 31st, 2011

This is just super new for me but looks just superb, turmeric and coconut rice how earthy it would have been :)

mycookinghut  on January 31st, 2011

Nasi lemak is always my favourite… I love the luxury version where you have lots of ingredients and I also love those that are sold at Malay stalls in Malaysia, where it’s individually wrap with banana leaf in a shape of Pyramid… :)

Mary  on January 31st, 2011

@somewhere in singapore - How lucky you are, Sharon! I wish I can do that, too :D

@Christine@Christine’s Recipes - It’s wonderful that you have a Malaysian restaurant there. I wish there’s a Malaysian restaurant here in Aberdeen. While waiting I have to cook myself :D

@Priya - Thanks very much, Priya! :D

@noobcook - Thanks very much! It was a lovely dinner :D Made me miss home.

@Sushma Mallya - Thanks very much, Sushma! Yes, it’s very delicious. Maybe you can give it a try. Have fun cooking! :D

@Janis - That’s great news! This one is a very popular one. Hope you try soon. Have fun cooking Malaysian! :D

@Katerina - Thanks very much, Katerina! Hope you like it. have fun cooking :D

@Erica - Thanks very much, Erica! :D

@makcikmanggis - Whah…..nasi lemak hijau!!! Makcik lagi kreatif! Saya mesti cuba itu…pandan nasi lemak :D Mestilah bau bagus and warna cantik.

@Ivy - Give this a try. It’s a very delicious dish…..easy to prepare :D

@Aipi - Wonderful to know you have given yourself goals to achieve. Would love to hear more. have fun cooking! :D

@Cooking Gallery - Thanks very much! :D

@Ananda Rajashekar - Thanks very much, Ananda! If you like spicy and coconut, you will like this. Give a try. Hope you like it :D

@mycookinghut - I used to buy the more plain ones, the ones like what you described…..wrapped in banana leaves in the shape of a pyramid. I know some sellers added spicy cuttlefish or prawns, too. I think I need to be more adventurous to add more side dishes :D

Swathi  on January 31st, 2011

This platter is awesome. love that turmeric coconut rice.

Drick  on January 31st, 2011

and you say Mexican cooking involves a lot of steps and ingredients - HA - it is only as simple as what you are use to (or learn to get use to)… this dish sounds really good with everything going on, like the flavors it seems to have

Blackswan  on January 31st, 2011

I love Nasi Lemak. This looks different from the usual that I eat. Mine comes with white coconut rice. My hubby will definitely like the yellow curry rice :)

Patty  on January 31st, 2011

This dish looks absolutely amazing! I love coconut rice and this delicious chicken supplement looks out of this world. Thank you!

love2cook  on January 31st, 2011

Truly a Malaysian dish!!! Yummy Nasi Lemak…

U made it look so irresistible! :D

msihua  on February 1st, 2011

That looks soooo delicious… Mamak satu Nasi Lemak!
And true, every Msian household I know has a bottle of Lingham’s somewhere!!!

Mary  on February 1st, 2011

@Swathi - Thanks very much Swathi! :D

@Drick - Yes, practice makes perfect! :D But this is real short cut. Would have been more time-consuming.

@Patty - Thanks very much, Patty! :D

@love2cook - Thanks very much! :D

@msihua - Haha…come. You can have more than ’satu’ :D

YIn  on February 1st, 2011

Great, just thinking to make nasi lemak for our coming Chinese New year gathering this weekend.
Will take note on your advice on the rice cooker tips. I’m going to use rice cooker for the rice.

Larry  on February 1st, 2011

your nasi lemak is so much more better than the ones in those coffee shops in Miri, aunty Mary! haha.. delicious! :P

Dongxing  on February 1st, 2011

Mary, I just cooked Assam Prawns for lunch yesterday for 2 friends, and they enjoyed it. When I was eating the dish, I was thinking how much better the prawns would go with coconut rice. I love your take with the turmeric coconut rice, will definitely try this version the next time I cook Nasi Lemak. I light up tons of candles and sandalwood incense joss sticks around the house to get rid of the belacan smells when I have to cook sambal during the winter months. Come summer, I cook the belacan out in the garden with the lovely smells wafting across our neighbourhood, hee hee hee…..Wicked!

Angie's Recipes  on February 1st, 2011

Mary, this looks really good and more important is that it’s not difficult to gather all the ingredients for the recipe. I think my husband would love coconut rice.

Light Delight with TouTou  on February 1st, 2011

Is it the turmeric makes the rice yellow ? I love coconut rice ….we have a Malaysian restaurant here in Maryland, it is very popular ~ you should live here! hehe

pigpigscorner  on February 1st, 2011

Now I miss nasi lemak!

Juliana  on February 1st, 2011

Oh Mary, I never had nasi lemak and sure I feel that I am missing a nice dish…it sure sounds and looks very tasty…no wonder is so popular :-)

Anna Johnston  on February 1st, 2011

I haven’t had Nasi Lemak before, but this looks amazing, the ingredients would be such a fabulous array of flavours, I really look forward to making this. I haven’t had much experience cooking Malay foods, but I love it.

Lucy  on February 1st, 2011

Hi Mary, thanks so much for visiting my blog. Yours is amazing and I love this post. When we lived in London I really missed Malaysian food - now we are lucky enough to live in a city full of Malaysian restaurants (though some are better than others!). Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, Lucy

tigerfish  on February 1st, 2011

I love the use of turmeric coconut rice here :)

Betty @ scrambled hen fruit  on February 1st, 2011

I’ve never had this dish, but it sounds wonderful- so full of flavor!

tasteofbeirut  on February 2nd, 2011

what an interesting dish and now you have got me into making sambal! I will locate these ingredients and off I go!

Janice  on February 2nd, 2011

Oh Mary, you took me right back to 1983 when we visited Malaysia. Nasi Lemak, Nasi Goreng and Roti Telor all lovely street food as well as the satay charged by the stick!

Mary  on February 2nd, 2011

@YIn - That’s great! I remember I made nasi lemak for my Chinese New Year open house many years ago. And I served cold lime juice. All my guests were so thrilled. They ate so much…haha. Have fun cooking :D

@Larry - Oh wow…now I feel so flattered…haha. Come here to study and I will cook for you :D

@Dongxing - Oooh….I’m drooling at the mention of assam prawns. I need to cook that, too. Love your story about cooking belachan…haha. Yes, naughty :D

@Angie’s Recipes - Thanks very much, Angie! I hope your husband likes this :D

@Light Delight with TouTou - Yes, the turmeric powder gives the rice the yellow colour…beautiful, isn’t it? Yes, I think I should move there :D Otherwise I should start one here…hehe

@pigpigscorner - Time to cook! :D

@Juliana - Thanks very much, Juliana! Give a try. It’s very delicious :D

@Anna Johnston - Give a try, Anna. Hope you like it. Next time if you visit Malaysia, you can try the real nasi lemak there….the more elaborate one. :D

@Lucy - You are very lucky to live in a place where there are many Malaysian restaurants. Now I am so jealous…hmmm. I think I should move to somewhere where there are Malaysian restaurants :D

@tigerfish - Thanks very much! :D

@Betty @ scrambled hen fruit - Thanks very much, Betty! :D

@tasteofbeirut - Thanks very much, Joumana! Have fun cooking! Hope you like it :D

@Janice - Whah…you still remember the dishes so well. They are all my favourite. Yes, satays charged by the stick :D

Jill Colonna  on February 3rd, 2011

Your post has just taken me right back to the most memorable and romantic of our trips: Nasi Lemak was our first ever dish served on our honeymoon; in 1st class Malaysian Airlines. I’ll never forget getting that served with such class and surprise for breakfast! Thank you, Mary, for showing us how to try it at home. Could be more likely candidate for a Valentine dish in our household ;-)

Malaysian Hall Cafe | sharonmoh  on February 4th, 2011

[...] and sambal (a spicy sauce made with shrimp paste). My mom makes a delicious easy version of this: Easy Nasi Lemak. Nasi [...]

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