How to Make Deliciously Fragrant Nasi Lemak in your Rice Cooker

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#CookingUpIslandBliss: Making Nasi Lemak in your Rice Cooker

As relaxing Sundays go on this tropical island where I live, preparing nasi lemak in your trusty rice cooker has to be one of the simplest ways to start off the week with style. The fragrant aroma of pandan-scented rice, tantalizing chili paste, and freshly cooked anchovies (dilis) or fried tawilis will have you humming in no time!

As a mom who juggles a busy blog with homeschooling and work-from-home gigs, I’m all about quick and easy dishes that don’t skimp on flavor. The one-pot wonder that is nasi lemak is right up my alley; let me show you how I whip up this Malaysian staple in 30 minutes using just my trusty Sharp rice cooker.

What is Nasi Lemak?

Nasi lemak, the classic coconut rice dish of Malaysia is synonymous with comfort and satisfaction. It’s something like our local suman cooked in coconut milk except it uses regular Asian rice. Here on the island, you know I’m always craving satisfying, comfort food that is not typically available in the restaurants so I’m forced to cook it myself. Using ingredients from our backyard farm like fresh coconut milk and our very own pandan for that secret ingredient, not to mention the use of crispy anchovies or dilis as we call it here, it’s almost a local cuisine only never quite prepared this way.

Traditional Cooking vs the Rice Cooker

Traditionally, the Malaysian way requires the steaming of the rice. But making nasi lemak can be a long and tiring procedure with all the steaming of the rice and frying of ingredients.

So here’s a simple method using your trusty rice cooker. Yes Uncle Roger, we have one! As you can see, most modern Asian households have a rice cooker by default.

The first step is prepping the rice. You can use Jasmine or Dinorado rice for this recipe. Wash 2 cups of long-grain rice until the water runs clear, then drain well. If you’re Asian, then you know the drill, but if you’re like my kids who hardly venture into the kitchen this is a good reference. (I occasionally send my son the links of my recipes here so he knows where to ask in case he’s away or I’m not around). Transfer the washed rice to the rice cooker pot.

Add coconut milk, salt and enough water just to cover the rice (around 1 1/2 cups). Use the right ratio of coconut milk to water – around 1 part coconut milk to 2 parts water works well. 

Here is the approximate ratio of coconut milk to rice that I would recommend:

For 1 cup of uncooked rice:

• 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup coconut milk
• 1 1/4 cups – 1 1/2 cups water

This ratio will give you nicely flavored coconut rice that is not too oily or soggy. The key is to use more water than coconut milk so the rice absorbs the coconut flavor without becoming too rich.

Tip, use freshly grated coconut milk- if possible the fresher the better! Get the Kakang Gata (the first squeeze) because that is creamier. This will give the rice a richer coconut aroma and flavor. If not available, I use Coco Mama Coconut Milk.

Tie up the pandan leaves into a knot and place it on the pot, close the lid, and turn the rice cooker on. You can skip the pandan leaves if you don’t have them, or perhaps put in a few drops of McCormick pandan flavoring if you have this available. It’s really not required but the smell of pandan leaves does give off that legit nasi lemak vibe.

Nasi Lemak Side and Toppings

While the rice cooks, prepare the toppings. Fry the onions in hot oil until lightly browned then drain on paper towels. Next, cook the Dilis I sourced from my favorite seaside vendor this morning. Toss 1/2 cup of the Dilis in 1 teaspoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, cooking and stirring until browned and crispy. (You may add a tsp of sugar if you want them on the sweet side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Fry up your chicken and boil your eggs which will go with the nasi lemak rice. Cucumbers also pair up nicely as a cooling and refreshing side to go opposite the hot sambal. Peanuts are a classic side to nasi lemak so make sure to buy some fried peanuts so you don’t have to fry them yourself.

Nasi Lemak Dippings

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also make the sambal. It’s really easy, no need to to stress because of the Malaysian-sounding and exotic name. Add 5-8 dried chili, 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste (alamang), 1 thumb of ginger, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 roughly chopped onion, salt and 1-2 tablespoon of sugar to a blender and process until a coarse paste forms. Scoop into a small bowl and cook down in 3 tablespoons of oil. Set aside. See? Sambal is easy.

By now your rice should be done! Fluff with a fork, this helps separate the grains and removes excess moisture trapped between them.  Remove the pandan leaves. Transfer to a serving plate and arrange with the egg slices, fried onions, dilis, cucumber slices, and sambal chili sauce. Don’t forget the peanuts!

What to serve with Nasi Lemak?

My friend, if you want to up the protein in your nasi lemak, Malaysians often opt for their poached chicken. In Singapore, they serve it with fried chicken that is topped with a mind-numbing chili sauce. Poach or pan-fry some chicken thigh fillets and toss them in the same sambal chili paste we made earlier. The blend of sweet chicken and sweet-spicy sambal is dreamy, let me tell you.

I’m partial to dark meat since it stays succulent and juicy even after cooking. Just poach the chicken thighs in water or coconut milk until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove and shred into bite sized pieces. Toss in the sambal paste to coat and serve atop your fragrant rice.

The flavor pairing of chicken and coconut milk based nasi lemak is perfection to me – the protein and richness balances the sides and accompaniments beautifully. My father loves picking at the juicy chicken bits whenever I make this dish.

So there you have it, my suggestion for upgrading your nasi lemak meal with some chicken. Let me know if you try the chicken addition – I’d love to hear how it turns out!

For those who are not so much into heat, you can use my Max Fried Chicken recipe.  It’s also a good pair as that is what I serve to the kids.

Other Notes:

As it happens, I actually began making this dish when my sisters gifted me with a stack of Mccormick Flavor Mixes. Among them was a Nasi Lemak Mccormick Rice Cooker Mix. It’s also a great alternative if you’re not as confident with making your own dish yet or if you’re hurrying.  Feel free to use that, no judgment here at Relaxlangmom!

Hope this helps and happy cooking, moms. Remember to savor the simple joys along the way.

#islandliving #simplejoys #thericecookercure

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