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What is Nasi Lemak?

nasi lemak
Nasi lemak is Malaysia's national dish

Nasi Lemak is a famous Malaysian dish that translates to creamy rice, although the word “lemak” means fat or oily.

Ask any working man or woman in Malaysia what their favorite Malaysian food is and you’ll hear back some version of: “Nasi Lemak, though it makes me fat.” And then the person will rub their belly. 

Try it it with any cab driver in Kuala Lumpur and 8 out of 10 will give you a similar answer. Unlike the ride share drivers of Grab, the old school taxi drivers are middle aged Malaysian men. They are the working class of Kuala Lumpur and they are predictable and lovely as heck.

And indeed nasi lemak is certainly fattening if you eat too much of it. 

Its name comes from the coconut infused rice that is the primary base of the dish. And while nasi lemak is known as Malaysia’s most famous breakfast dish, it is eaten any time of the day in country.

Nasi Lemak consists of steamed coconut rice topped with sambal, a savory, spicy red sauce. It is garnished with cut cucumbers, dried anchovies, peanuts, and a boiled egg. And, is typically served with some sort of protein. Usually that is fried chicken, squid, or shrimp, and sometimes beef.

You’ll find nasi lemak served in most Malaysian restaurants, typically at a cost of 5 ringgit (RM), which is approximately US$1.25. The upsell to an additional protein might drive the price up to a cost of 7 to 10 RM.