Ask any Malaysian what they deem is the nation’s signature dish and the answer will undeniably be nasi lemak. In its most basic form, nasi lemak is made up of fragrant coconut rice, enhanced by smoky, spicy sambal with onions and anchovies, with a side of peanuts and cucumbers. The true beauty of this dish is its ability to be delicious no matter what protein you choose to add to it — ayam goreng (fried chicken), rendang ayam (chicken rendang), sambal sotong (squid sambal), or ikan masak cili api (fish cooked in chili paste) — it’s still a variation of a dish all Malaysians know and love. But here are some creative ways nasi lemak has been incorporated into other dishes that you might just be curious enough to try.
In the wake of the mid-autumn festival, one unusual creation by caught our attention — the nasi lemak mooncake, by Casahana. It features a traditional lotus paste filling, with the added savoury notes of sambal and coconut milk, making for a much milder fusion version of this rice dish.
Born of ingenuity, the chefs at Ruyi & Lyn came up with bite-sized versions of the dish, a la gunkan sushi. Small parcels of coconut rice are wrapped in thin cucumber slices and topped with sambal and peanuts for an easy mouthful bursting with familiar flavours.
Local burger chain MyBurgerLab created the nasi lemak burger, capturing the attention of all millennial Malaysians. This version features a fried chicken patty doused in rendang sauce, with the added crunch of fried anchovies and a peanut butter sauce to emulate traditional flavours and promises to be as good as the real thing.
Cake and nasi lemak don’t usually go together but the mother-daughter duo at Tiana Kitchen makes it work, and to great success. Starting with a coconut rice base and topped with hard-boiled eggs and delicious sambal, this cake is held together by a cucumber belt, each slice becoming an individual serving of nasi lemak that’s sure to please fans of the dish.
Possibly the strangest creation inspired by our national dish, Caffe Diem presents the nasi lemak shake. A concoction of pure coconut milk enhanced by fragrant pandan syrup and topped off with crispy anchovies and peanuts for a savoury kick, it’s something that’s definitely worth a try.