Saturday, September 07, 2013

#Eatsomethingnice 8 - Nasi Lemak

Proudly a part of #Saysomethingnice

Image by Veronica Ng

The first written mention of Nasi Lemak in Malaysia was in 1909 in Sir Richard Olof Winstedt’s book "The Circumstances of Malay Life" in which he attempted to describe the process of steaming the rice. (source: Wikipedia)

Nasi lemak is without a doubt the de facto national dish of Malaysia as it transcends the often-tenuous ethnic boundaries in this multi-racial country. True blue Malaysians all love their nasi lemak.

Nasi lemak at its most basic is a humble coconut milk infused light, fluffy rice dish with crunchy, fried anchovies, slices of cool cucumber, a handful of roasted peanuts, a half-boiled egg and a generous serving of hot, spicy sambal.

It is a Malaysian staple versatile enough to appeal to all appetites regardless of the time of the day, and goes great with other curried and fried dishes. The rice is normally cooked with a combination of coconut milk and knotted pandan (screwpine) leaves. These days, many have found that adding shavings of ginger and lemon grass helps improve the flavour and fragrance of the rice further, giving it a more aromatic feel.

Back in the good old days, this dish was a familiar breakfast fixture, but its increasing popularity has made it a versatile meal, enjoyed around the clock. It is traditionally served wrapped pyramid shaped in a piece of banana leaf that imparts an aromatic fragrance to the rice.

Like most Malaysian cuisine, this dish too has been tweaked to suit the myriad of cultures present in this country as well as the varying preferences of the people who enjoy it. As a result of this, the original sambal can now be substituted by other spicy gravies.

As a more substantial meal, nasi lemak can also come with a variety of accompaniments such as ayam goreng, sambal sotong, sambal kerang (cockles), stir fried kangkong (water convolvulus),  acar (pickled vegetables), chicken or beef rendang or paru (beef lung), and the hard-boiled egg can be a fried egg option too.

A simple nasi lemak bungkus (packet) sold at a roadside stall or coffee shop makes for a cheap and satisfying meal at around RM1.50 per packet. Additional servings of meat and vegetables can increase the price from RM4.50 – RM7 per pack but if you prefer to enjoy it in the comfort of a restaurant with air-conditioning then be prepared to spend an average of RM10 – RM15.

Nowadays franchise restaurants operating in shopping malls and affluent suburban areas offer their own family recipe nasi lemak at premium prices of RM20 and above. If you are dining at a 5 star hotel in KL and have a hankering for this dish, don’t blink when the waiter presents you a RM40++ bill.

If you think that sounds ridiculous wait till you see what homesick Malaysians living overseas have to pay for their fix of nasi lemak:

Vancouver, Canada $26           (RM45.20)
Sydney, Australia AU$ 14.80    (RM43.50)
London, UK £8.50                     (RM42.90)
Tokyo ¥ 1200                           (RM38.45)
Hong Kong HKD 88                   (RM35.06)
Beijing, China RMB 60              (RM30.25)
New York, USA $8.50                (RM26.30)

Now isn’t it comforting to think that we can still walk down a street and order a regular nasi lemak with the change in our pockets? Who said indulgences need to break the bank?

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