Nasi Lemak Recipe

The national dish of Malaysia, made at home.
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Servings: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes


for the ikan bilis sambal (anchovy chili paste):
2 ounces|60 grams dried chilies
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
8 ounces|250 grams peeled shallots
2 ounces|50 grams peeled garlic
2 ounces|50 grams dried anchovies
6 long Holland chilies
5 Thai chilies
1 ½ cups|375 ml canola oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup|50 grams toasted belachan

for the anchovies and peanuts:
¼ cup|60 ml canola oil
1 cup dried anchovies
¼ cup dried peanuts


for the coconut rice:
1 ¾ cups|360 grams white jasmine rice
1 whole Pandan leaf, tied in a knot
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup|200 ml light coconut milk

to serve:
4 large eggs
1 English cucumber, sliced ¼-inch thick on an angle


  1. Make the anchovy-garlic paste: Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add the dried chilis and remove from the heat. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a blender with the Holland and Thai chilis and purée until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, dissolve the tamarind paste in ½ cup|120 ml hot water. Strain, discarding the seeds. Set aside.
  3. Place the shallots and garlic in a food processor and purée until smooth, then add the anchovies and blend to a paste. Set the paste aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the anchovy paste and cook for 5 minutes, then turn down to medium-low. Add the blended chilis and cook, stirring, for another 10 minutes. Add the reserved tamarind and the sugar. Cook, stirring, over medium-low, until thick, about 10 minutes. You may add some more oil and sugar if it’s too dry or not sweet enough.
  5. Prepare the anchovies and peanuts: In a small skillet, heat half of the canola oil. Add the anchovies and cook until toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and wipe the skillet clean. Add the remaining ¼ cup|60 ml oil and the peanuts to the skillet and cook until toasted, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool slightly, then transfer to a large bowl with the anchovies and toss to combine.
  6. Stir 5 tablespoons of the ikan bilis sambal with the anchovies and peanuts.
  7. Make the coconut rice: Wash the rice 2 to 3 times, or until the water runs clear. Tie the pandan leaves in a knot and add it to the rice along with salt and 1 ¾ cups|414 ml water. Cook in a rice cooker, then remove the pandan leaf and stir in the coconut milk, fluffing the rice. Keep warm.
  8. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Gently add the eggs and cook for 6 ½ minutes. Drain and transfer to an ice bath until cool enough to handle, then peel.
  9. To serve, divide the anchovy-peanut mixture among 4 small bowls. Divide the rice and pack it on top. Invert into a larger bowl so that the anchovy-peanut mixture is on top. Top each with 8 slices of cucumber and 1 egg, halved. Serve with sambal.

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