Reply To: Street food culture: Malaysia Edition

  • Rory Lo

    August 13, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    For me, my favourite street food culture is Nasi lemak tepi jalan (which basically mean by the roadside) . Nasi Lemak is a dish popular in Malaysia. “Nasi” means rice while “lemak” means fat or greasy in Malay. It consists of rice which is cooked with coconut milk, dried anchovies and curry meatballs. It is served on the side of crispy roast peanuts, hard-boiled eggs and starchy vegetables such as pumpkin or taro root. Sometimes the curried meatballs are replaced with grilled chicken or fish. The dish is found everywhere in Malaysia. However, most of the nasi lemak found in Malaysia is heavily influenced by Indian spices.

    The dish originated in Malaysia, where it is generally available for breakfast or supper. It is also popular in Indonesia and Singapore (where it is called nasi lemak). It can also be found in Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam by different names. It is also found available in restaurants or stalls and food stalls in Indonesia and other countries in the region. In Indonesia, nasi lemak is often fried and served with sambal (chilli sauce).

    Originally, a wide variety of spices were used to cook the rice: including curry powder, turmeric powder, coriander seed powder and lemongrass. However, today throughout Malaysia and Singapore this combination of spices still remains the most popular way of making nasi lemak. The dish can be accompanied by other dishes or food such as vegetables, anchovies and chicken.

    Indian Muslims were known to have brought this style of rice into Malaysia from India. But in Malaysia it is said that Malaccan Muslims like Syed Mashor Jasin popularized this rice all around Malaysia as well as other parts of South-East Asia. This rice is also popular among Malay Islander Muslims of Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and Indonesia.

    If you are in Malaysia and looking for the truly authentic taste of nasi lemak, head to a local food court or by the roadside stalls. You will find stalls selling freshly made nasi lemak dishes with coconut milk that are not overly spiced. Pure, unprocessed and authentic nasi lemak is only found at a few nasi lemak stall vendors.

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