For those of you who had traveled 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 the 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.
Harvested from a type of seed of the grass species, nasi is one of the main carbohydrate sources 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 Biryani, Nasi Minyak, Nasi Tomato, Nasi Ayam, Nasi Campur, Nasi Kandar, and Nasi Ambeng.
Every Malaysian’s favorite nasi choice and probably the best nasi among them is none other than the famous Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s national dish. It can easily be found just anywhere when you visit Malaysia, from the stalls by the roadside 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 is 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 is 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 is used as the base plate for Nasi Lemak, as the fragrant from the leaf gives the Nasi Lemak extra aromatic flavor, packed with a punch!
Nasi Dagang & Nasi Kerabu
These two rice dishes are widely popular on the east coast of East Peninsular Malaysia as they were originated from the state of Kelantan and Terengganu. It is the local’s top pick during their local festive season.
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.
Meanwhile, Nasi Kerabu is another type of unique rice dish where the rice is 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 occasions and ceremonies, these three are all-time local’s favorite.
Nasi Biryani, also known as Biryani, biryani, or biriani. Using basmati rice cooked with a mixture of spices, served with yogurt, meats, and vegetables.
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)
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).
If you are not a fan of spicy, this nasi will definitely be your choice! The rice is 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.
An everyday go-er for the locals, Nasi Campur, literally translated as mixed rice. One portion of white rice with a variety of side dish options 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.
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 dishes. The side dish is 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!
A traditional Javanese dish, influenced by a neighboring country, another popular rice dish that is usually served during the 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 is the Malaysian main staple for generations. With a 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 amazed by the Malaysian culture!