Fragrant Coconut Rice, Beef Curry, Shrimp Sambal and Crispy Anchovies

Nasi Lemak


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    4 to 6

    full meal portions (with sub-recipes listed below)

Appears in

Southeast Asian Flavors: Adventures in Cooking the Foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia & Singapore

Southeast Asian Flavors

By Robert Danhi

Published 2008

  • About

“Nasi” is the Malay word for cooked rice and “lemak” indicates that coconut milk is used in the dish. “Nasi lemak” is actually a grouping of dishes on a single plate, with the coconut rice at the center. Each vendor has the opportunity to showcase some of her best dishes here. Most versions contain coconut rice, fried anchovies, boiled egg, cucumbers, and at least one curry. Some cooks will serve as little as three side dishes with the rice, yet others believe in variety. Sometimes over twelve side dishes are available. Sometimes the Malaysian cook will add a knotted leaf of the fragrant Pandanus plant. The technique of letting the rice rest after rinsing softens the grains and will ensure that the rice cooks evenly.


  • ½ cup Dried salted anchovies (Ikan Billis)
  • ¼ cup Vegetable oil
  • 4 to 6 Banana leaf pieces, cut into decorative shapes (optional)
  • 1 recipe Coconut rice (nasi lemak)
  • 1 recipe Stir-fried Water Spinach
  • 1 recipe Beef Rendang
  • 1 recipe Shrimp Sambal
  • 3 lg. Eggs, hard-boiled, cut into ¼’s
  • 1 small Cucumbers, preferably Kirby, sliced on angle into ovals, about ¼ inch (0.6 cm.) thick
  • ½ cup Peanuts, roasted in dry pan or deep fried peanuts



  1. Fry the Fish: If still attached, pull of heads and remove innards, split in halves lengthwise, rinse fish in a mesh strainer or colander under cool running water for 5 seconds. Heat vegetable oil in wok over medium heat, add anchovies and cook stirring constantly until fish turn golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

To Assemble

  1. Line individual plates or platters with banana leaf.
  2. Place ½-1-cup scoop of rice in center of leaf. Surround rice with portions of water spinach, beef rendang, shrimp sambal, egg, cucumbers, fried fish and peanuts.