Nasi lemak: What is the Malaysian dish and why is it being celebrated?

From Clémence Michallon, published at Thu Jan 31 2019

Nasi lemak, a celebrated national dish in Malaysia, has been paid the tribute of a Google Doodle.

Traditionally eaten for breakfast, it consists primarily of rice cooked in coconut milk (santan) and infused with pandan leaves.

Toppings such as fried fish, anchovies, sliced cucumber, a hard-boiled egg, water spinach and crispy peanuts are then added.

A key ingredient is sambal (hot sauce), "the soul of the dish" that "brings together all the various toppings", according to the Rasa Malaysia food blog.

Sambal is considered as essential to the making of nasi lemak as coconut milk and pandan leaves, without which "a nasi lemak will not be authentic", the blog notes.

Nasi lemak is typically served in a banana leaf in which the rice and all accompaniments can be encased and kept warm.

The dish remains one the cheapest offerings in street markets and food courts, according to the National Library Board of Singapore, and it is considered Malaysia's national meal.

The rice going into nasi lemak is usually steamed rather than heated directly, in order to keep the coconut milk from burning.

Some aficionados employ a rice cooker, swapping the water for milk.

Other tactics include cooking the rice at night, then adding pandan leaves and coconut milk the following morning.

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Cooks have been tweaking the original recipe with renewed creativity since the 1980s, experimenting with more condiments beyond the traditional combination of anchovies, cucumber, and hot sauce.