Nasi — What is Nasi and Types of Nasi in Malaysia

by | Last updated May 2, 2020 | I Say

For those of you who had travelled to Southeast Asia, you most probably have noticed a certain type of staple food that Asians love to have in their meals. It’s rice, Yes, that’s right, rice for breakfast, rice for lunch and rice for dinner. Particularly in Malaysia, rice or Nasi as the Malaysian calls it. Generally, when someone in Malaysia mentioned having nasi, it literally means a rice dish, usually served as main dish along with a variety of other side dishes, Nasi is undeniably a must-try dish whenever you are in Malaysia. Read on to learn more about nasi in Malaysia.

rice seed nasi

Harvested from a type of seed of the grass species, nasi is one of the main carbohydrate source that can easily be found in Malaysia. While there are various types of rice dishes out there, here are some of the popular ones among locals – Nasi Lemak, Nasi Dagang, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Beriyani, Nasi Minyak, Nasi Tomato, Nasi Ayam, Nasi Campur, Nasi Kandar and Nasi Ambeng.


Nasi Lemak

nasi lemak

Source :

Every Malaysian’s favorite nasi choice and probably the best nasi among them is none other than the infamous Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s national dish. It can easily be found just anywhere when you visit Malaysia, from the stalls by the road side to any luxury hotel in Malaysia. The rice is steamed with coconut milk and a knot of pandan leaves (screwpine), giving it a rich coconut milk flavor. As the rice are being steamed by the roadside Nasi Lemak seller, the incredible scent will definitely catch your attention. The Nasi Lemak is served hot with spicy Sambal (chili paste), fried anchovies, roasted peanuts, hard-boiled egg and slices of fresh cucumber. The sambal are cooked for hours to aromatic, giving an intense complexity to your taste bud. To spice things up, don’t forget the side dishes; Chicken/Beef Rendang, Fried Chicken/Beef, cockles and lots more. Traditionally, banana leaf are used as the base plate for Nasi Lemak, as the fragrant from the leaf give the Nasi Lemak extra aromatic flavor, packed with punch!

Nasi Dagang & Nasi Kerabu

These two rice dishes is widely popular in the east coast of East Peninsular Malaysia as they were originated from the state of Kelantan and Terengganu. It is the locals top pick during their local festive season.

rice with cocounut milk

Nasi Dagang (Source :

Similar to the Nasi Lemak, Nasi Dagang’s rice is steamed with coconut milk, served with Gulai Ikan (fish curry) and other condiments such as hard-boiled eggs and pickled vegetables.

Blue colored rice

Nasi Kerabu (Source :

Meanwhile, Nasi Kerabu is another type of unique rice dish where the rice are blue in color. The blue color comes from the naturally extracted pigmentation of Butterfly-pea flower’s petals. It is a more authentic nasi and often paired with various mixture of Ulam (traditional local salad), crackers, pickles and other side dishes including grilled beef, fried chicken, hard-boiled salted egg and others.


Nasi Beriyani, Nasi Minyak & Nasi Tomato

Commonly served during special occasion and ceremony, these three are the all time local’s favorite.

Biryani briyani biriani

Nasi Beriyani (Source :

Nasi Beriyani, also known as Biryani, biriyani or biriani. Using basmati rice cooked with mixture of spices, served with yoghurt, meats and vegetables.

Nasi Minyak

Nasi Minyak (Source :

Nasi Minyak, minyak literally means oil, are buttery and packed with flavors, as the ghee and whole spices are used to cook the rice. It is usually paired with rendang (beef curry)

ayam masak merah

Nasi Tomato (Source :

Nasi Tomato, as the name implies, rice cooked with tomato sauce are often paired with Ayam Masak Merah literally translated as red cooked chicken, whereas the chicken red is spicy tomato sauce and side with Acar (pickled vegetables).

Nasi Ayam

chicken rice

Nasi Ayam (Source :

If you are not a fan of spicy, this nasi will definitely be your choice! The rice are cooked with chicken stock, chicken lard, a knot of pandan leaves and ginger, this is a dish that was originally brought here by the early Chinese immigrants from the Hainan province in China. Served with roasted or steamed chicken. Each spoonful of nasi with a piece of chicken topped with a dash of soy sauce delivers a satisfying complexity to your palate. Also goes well with their homemade chili paste or ginger paste.

Nasi Campur

mixed rice

Nasi Campur (Source :

An everyday go-er for the locals, Nasi Campur, literally translated as mixed rice. One portion of white rice with variety of side dish option available to your preferences. Nasi Campur is a much more economical rice dish. Prices of your Nasi Campur are greatly dependent on your selection of sides. From poultry, eggs, beef, fried squid to vegetables, the Nasi Campur is indeed a delightful experience.

Nasi Kandar

curry rice

Nasi Kandar (

Hail from Penang, the Nasi Kandar is very similar to Nasi Campur. What makes it different compared to Nasi Campur is the choices of side dish. The side dish are mostly curry based. Nasi Kandar has more popularity in the northern part of East Peninsular Malaysia. If you are a fan of spicy curry food, Nasi Kandar is to die for, packed with complexity from the curry’s herbs and spices, the Nasi Kandar will definitely satisfy your palate!

Nasi Ambeng

nasi ambeng

Nasi Ambeng (Source :

A traditional Javanese dish, influenced from a neighboring country, another popular rice dish that are usually served during ceremony. Nasi Ambeng consists of steamed white rice, one portion of chicken – curry or soy sauce based, fried coconut flesh, salted fish, vegetables and lots more. Favorite to the local Javanese-Malay communities, it is traditionally served with a huge plate for a group of people to indulge the nasi as they chin-wag their evening off.

nasi lemak

Source :

I’d Say…

Nasi is the Malaysian main staple for generations. With variety of nasi in Malaysia for their different events, ceremonies and festive seasons, instead of joining a common touristy tour, try a much more adventurous trip by making friends with the friendly local Malays. Experience yourself with their festive season and be amaze with the Malaysian culture!

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1 Comment

  1. รับดูแลเว็บไซต์

    Thank you for information.

I am

I am

Ethan Wong

Hey, thanks for dropping by.
I curate recipes at the weekend, otherwise, on the weekdays I spend time hunting for stuff at YS. Oh yeah, I spend my break time learning to code.
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