Many people associate the nasi lemak with being ‘Malaysia, truly Asia‘.
Four things you should know about nasi lemak:
- A staple daytime diet for most Malaysians.
- Best eaten when it is freshly cooked and prepared.
- Usually consumed for breakfast in the morning.
- Literally means fat rice when directly translated from Malay to English.
Many people also associate it with ruining your cholesterol and making you fat because of its high calorie count. One serving contains 644 calories, which is equivalent to three (3) bowls of plain white rice (if you added a piece of fried chicken, you’re just asking for it). So it goes without question when health-conscious folk frown upon a portion of it. Just the thought of the total calorie count is enough to send alarm signals to your heart.
Yet, TIME magazine has recently listed it as one of the ten (10) healthiest international breakfasts!
But what is it about the nasi lemak that makes it so tempting and sinful? It smells so fragrant when you walk past a stall selling it. Its delectable flavour tantalises your tastebuds the moment it touches your tongue.
Depending on where you satisfy your craving for it, some stalls have it pre-packed and wrapped in banana leaf, while some restaurants serve it on a plate. Foreign tourists coming to Malaysia have often been advised and recommended to have at least one serving of nasi lemak before they return to their homeland. No matter where you go within Peninsular Malaysia, you will be able to find it in the menu. It can be at a food stall along the roadside, or a restaurant in a neighbourhood, or even the ones in hotels!
There are various types of nasi lemak though, and each type serves the dish in many different ways.
It is a very simple dish with an equally simple recipe. All one has to do is to cook the rice with coconut milk and serve with slices of cucumber, roasted peanuts or groundnuts, dried anchovies, a hard boiled egg, and topped with a dollop of sweet and spicy sambal (a thick and spicy paste made from a mixture of variety of chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegars) on the side. Other ingredients that can be added on are dried venison, beef, chicken or seafood.
Traditional nasi lemak is normally wrapped in banana leaf which many roadside stalls still have them pre-packed and ready to go. However, these days, for convenience sake, some places have taken to storing it in plastic boxes or Tupperware containers which can be microwaved before eating.
Nasi lemak can also be cooked and prepared Chinese style, where other ingredients can be added into the mix; such as fried chicken, chicken sausages, fish cakes, and vegetables cooked with curry or canned meat.
Sometimes, customers can even have the option of creating their own nasi lemak concoction by choosing whatever ingredients that are available at the stalls, such as grilled fish, grilled beans, curry and seafood.
I’m still not sure how TIME magazine reached their conclusion of it being a healthy meal but I suppose it is because of the ingredients that go with it? How a 644-calorie meal (boxed in red) can be considered healthy is beyond me.
But they did have a point to go with their statement:
Yes, there is a bit more fat than what is good for you (although you can eat less rice to reduce the fat intake), but it is balanced with lots of manganese, protein, and carbs. The chili in the sambal also boosts metabolism (depending which nutritionist you talk to).
So, are you going to have your dose of nasi lemak today?