I recently tried Nasi Lemak again at the World Street Food Festival at Southbank in London so thought it deserved a blog post of its own. Widely considered to be the national dish of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak is basically a platter of fresh, spicy and wholesome elements all in one dish.
With my Dad being from Malaysia - having moved over to Britain when he was 18 - every summer holiday I had with my family growing up was spent in his home town of Penang, tasting all the incredible and somewhat unusual delights from the hawker stands that seem to be on every street corner. For those who haven't been or ever tried the food, Malaysian cuisine is one of, if not, the best in the world (in fact it's a favourite of Jeremy's, SOW's head chef), combining several different styles of cooking - Indian, Chinese, Thai, etc. - truly reflecting the country's variety of cultures; Nasi Lemak is no exception.
While there are several different varieties of Nasi Lemak, the basic elements tend to be: coconut rice, ikan bilis (mini fried anchovies) and sambal (a sort of hot, spicy, chilli paste) topped with peanuts, cucumber and egg - one ingredient included in almost every Malaysian meal it seems. Nasi Lemak is often eaten for breakfast in Malaysia but is suitable at any time of day really - sold wrapped in banana leaves by the hawkers.
In fact, I remember the last time I visited Malaysia a few years ago, taking my girlfriend with me for the first time, as she dived in feet first and ordered it for breakfast on our first day. Though a bit dubious to start off with, she was quickly converted and ended up sweating curry by the end of the two-week holiday...so she says!
What's most impressive about this dish is that it requires little preparation and is really easy to make. While it can be served along side a variety of curries or spicy dishes, it is traditionally served with another Malaysian speciality, Beef Redang.
The particular meal I had at the food festival was accompanied by another one of my Malaysian favourites, Roti Canai, an oily flatbread with a tasty lentil dal to dip. Along with an ice-cold root beer, this is the ultimate Malaysian hawker meal.