Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nasi Lemak

Packing for several months travel, is like studying for exams. I find a multitude of ways to put it off. I did my best housecleaning just before exams, anything to delay the inevitable. These days I am tidying and filing things I forgot to do or misplaced after I returned from Sarawalk. If I don’t deal with them now, they will surely be lost. So it is that I find some Malaysian recipes I need to file and am flung full force into culinary nostalgia.

Time is running out so shortcuts are needed. Maybe I can do without these specific recipes. I have a couple of Malaysian cookbooks. Nasi Lemak, or Coconut Rice, is one of the commonest of dishes, surely I already have this recipe? One of my books, a truly Malaysian cookbook, has no index, so I am unable to determine quickly if it has this version. Another is the Australian Women’s Weekly version. Australians do a wonderful job in all their South East Asian cookbooks, beautiful pictures, authentic dishes and easy recipes, but when I check out their Nasi Lemak recipe, it really misses the boat as far as I am concerned.

Nasi Lemak started out as Malay cuisine but has been adopted and adapted by all the races of Malaysia. It now passes as the unofficial national dish of Malaysia. The Australian Women’s Weekly version is plain and simple coconut rice, as you would find it steamed in a hollow bamboo tube. So I really do need to file and save this version.

Nasi Lemak

Cook one cup of rice in 2 cups of coconut milk with 3 screwpine leaves. Add sliced shallots and ginger. Serve with sliced hard-boiled eggs, chopped cucumber, fried ground nuts, anchovies on the side. Top with Sambal Ikan Bilis recipe follows.

Fry ½ cup of dried ikan bilis (anchovies) in 2 Tbsp of oil until fragrant.
Grind dollop of prawn paste, 1 garlic clove and 4 chopped shallots Add one Bombay onion sliced in rings, 2 Tbsp of tamarind paste, 8 dried chillies with seeds removed and salt and sugar to taste. Cook, stiring occasionally until the gravy thickens. Now add in the fried anchovies and mix well.

You have to admit the Bombay onion is a nice touch. I am not sure what a Bombay onion is but it sure sounds authentic. And what about screwpine leaves? In Malaysia, people often have several different names for herbs and trees, so someone showed me what they looked like, but am I going to find any over here? Nasi Lamak can be wrapped in banana leaves and taken on picnic.

You can order Nasi Lemak almost anywhere in Kuching including my favourite stall, Gerai No. 9 which is located in the center of town near one of the larger mosques. This collection of stalls makes a wonderful visit on a Friday evening. Men dressed in longyis and prayer caps are coming and going to mosque. The call from the muezzin cuts through the bussle of traffic and shopping. An evening coolness has set in. But if you get there, it would not be wise to order Nasi Lemak. The first clue would be that it isn't on the menu. They would, of course, make it for you, if you asked.

But at Gerai No.9 you really should take note of their number one offering, Nasi Kerabu, or Rice Mixture. You see, the owners of this food stall are from Kelantan state in the north of Malaysia. Nasi Kerabu is also made everywhere in Malaysia but the very best Nasi Kerabu comes from Kelantan and the best Kelantanese Nasi Kerabu outside of Kelantan is found at Gerai No.9. It includes chopped greens, hard boiled eggs, meat, fish, sambal, ground nuts, onions and….. Now, I should be able to provide their special recipe for you. I have it somewhere but I really must go and pack now.

Photo and recipe: Imagine, Getting There, Malaysian Airways magazine



Blogger Yves said...

I love nasi lemak, thanks for the reminder. I had a lot of connections with Sabah, north of Sarawak. I'll be checking your blog for more nostalgia!

5:04 AM  
Anonymous Ruth said...

Whenever I travel, I get excited about trying local cuisines. I am always disappointed with my efforts to recreate dishes I have enjoyed, perhaps because the ingredients aren't just right, or perhaps because the atmosphere cannot be brought home as well.

6:40 PM  
Blogger team BSG said...

check out some good sites 4 nasi lemak in Kl ! enjoy

1:24 AM  

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