I live in the birthplace of one fantastic dish, and it's one that many have not heard of. Yes, a good old plate of Nasi Lemak.
Where am I from? Malaysia. A country that's filled with different walks of Asians "“ Indians, Chinese, Punjabis, Malays and a whole number of other races. What makes the country unique is the fact that all come together as one in festivities, cultural celebrations and yes, food.
Our national dish has got to be the Nasi Lemak. How could a meal possibly represent an entire country? Well, for one, Malaysians love to eat around the clock almost. It's pretty much child's play to find the population at mamak stalls (these are 24-hour restaurants) having a Nasi Lemak and a glass of hot ginger tea at 11 in the night.
The dish brings families together during weekends for lunch too. Cousins, parents and grandparents mingle at home ala a weekend cookout, just with oodles of sambal and chicken rendang instead of BBQ wings. Football crazed fans fight it out during Premier League matches while they cheer on Zlatan, Kun Aguero and Giroud over dinner. TV dinners are officially in a new light thanks to us!
What makes Nasi Lemack?
The rice of the meal is cooked with ginger, bruised lemongrass and coconut milk. Pandan leaves are thrown into the rice pot simply because it imparts a unique aroma. The same note can't be hit with curry leaves or kaffir lime leaves.
Then comes the spicy side which is the sambal. Most sambals are made with chili paste, some belacan (fermented prawn paste) and dried anchovies. The trick lies in finding the perfect balance "“ It's all about getting it just right at its tipping point.
Sliced cucumbers also make up part of this combo. I reach out for a slice of chilled goodness when I need to cool my tongue down from the sambal. Roasted peanuts and fried anchovies are a godsend as it's vital in getting that perfect crunch in every mouthful. And as a true local, I will not have my meal without a fried egg. The egg yolk has got to be runny, so it's pretty much a sunny-side up, just with crispy, golden edges.
Visit Malaysia – Try Nasi Lemak
So yes, Nasi Lemak is more than just a simple dish that's adored by Malaysians. It's not just a plate of rice and some condiments. In fact, I'd say that it comes with love, merriment and smiles. Just like the rest of the people of the country. Drop by Malaysia and have a bite, and you'll find that just like the dish, everything else is pretty much perfect.
Written by: Annette Rowena
Annette loves taking things slow and exploring each place like a carefully wrapped gift. Each country has something new to offer and learn from. She travels with two kids, but nothing’s going to dampen her wanderlust.
Photo Credits: Annette Rowena, Wikimedia Commons