My husband had to go to the Malaysian Embassy last week. When he came home, he brought back a treat that really excites me: nasi lemak! Yes, that excites me.
Nasi lemak (meaning rich and creamy rice) is both a Malaysian delicacy and a staple fare. It is peddled in the streets wrapped in banana leaves. It is usually had for breakfast but of course can be eaten at any time of day. I haven't had a real Malaysian nasi lemak in years. The one my husband bought was the basic one: coconut rice, sambal (spicy sauce), egg and crispy anchovies (ikan bilis). It did not fail my longing for it but it was just too spicy for my untrained palate.
I made my own much milder version for lunch today, although I know the really spicy one would be preferred. I served fried fish instead of the anchovies. My husband didn't speak to me throughout lunch. He was too busy eating.
Ingredients for the coconut rice:
2 c. uncooked rice
coconut milk (I used coconut powder made up with water)
2 screwpine (pandan leaves)
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
4 big slices of ginger
1 small piece of cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 tsp. salt
Wash the rice. Use the same amount of coconut milk as the water you normally use for your rice.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook in a rice cooker. Stir halfway through the cooking time so the rice does not catch at the bottom of the pot.
Ingredients for the sambal:
5 big garlic cloves
2"x2" piece of ginger
2 medium onions
1 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tbsps. paprika
1/4 c. dried prawns, soaked and pounded
1 tbsp. tomato puree (tomato paste)
2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup of cooking oil
3/4 cup of water
Grind the ginger, garlic, onions, dried prawns, paprika, coriander and tomato puree in a food processor until it forms a paste.
Heat up the oil in a pan. Put the paste in and stir fry on medium heat until the paste changes color and oil starts to exude from it (about 15 minutes). Add the fish sauce, brown sugar and water. Simmer for another 3 minutes.
Ingredients for the tamarind fish:
2 small whole mackerels (or 1 large), cut into steaks
2 tbsps. tamarind juice or 1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsps. light soy sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. turmeric powder
cornflour for dredging
cooking oil for frying
Season the fish steaks with the tamarind juice (or lemon juice), soy sauce, salt and turmeric powder. Dredge in cornflour. Shake off excess. Fry until golden brown.
Serve the fish with the sambal, coconut rice and a fried egg per person. Garnish with cucumber slices and peanuts.
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