Malaysian Nasi Lemak Recipe| How To Make Vegetarian Nasi Lemak

I am here today to share with you how to make vegetarian Nasi Lemak, an utterly delicious Malaysian dish.

I love Asian food. Period. I absolutely adore the way simple, regular ingredients find their way into dishes from Asian countries like, say, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore. I’m in awe of the riot of flavours most Pan-Asian dishes prove to be. While I make Thai food quite often at home, I tried my hands at Malaysian cuisine for the first-ever time, recently, making the famed Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak is believed to have originated in Malaysia, though one will also come across versions of the dish in neighbouring Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. It is, in fact, considered to be the national dish of Malaysia. For the uninitiated, Nasi Lemak refers to rice cooked with coconut milk or cream, with pandan leaves and lemongrass added in for fragrance. In Malay, ‘Nasi Lemak‘ actually translates to ‘creamy rice’, which is served with a spicy, tangy and slightly sweet sauce, called sambal. Chopped carrots and cucumber, fried fish, eggs, pan-fried tofu and/or peanuts are some of the things that accompany Nasi Lemak, which is typically served in a banana leaf. What I present to you today is a vegetarian version of the Malaysian Nasi Lemak recipe.

I have sampled Nasi Lemak at a few Pan-Asian restaurants in Bangalore and loved it. When I saw this vegetarian Malaysian Nasi Lemak recipe on Poonam’s blog, I jumped at the chance to make it at home. Poonam has got an authentic recipe, which she learnt from a Malay friend of hers – how lovely is that?!

I prepared the dish for dinner recently, with only a few minor variations to the original recipe. The result was brilliant – the Nasi Lemak turned out finger-lickingly delish and went on to be a huge hit at the family dining table. It’s not at all tough to make this flavour bomb of a thing, too!

This is an entirely plant-based, vegan dish, when you aren’t using cottage cheese (paneer) or fried eggs as accompaniments. It is completely gluten-free as well.

Here’s how to make vegetarian Nasi Lemak.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

For the rice:

  1. 1 cup jasmine rice
  2. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  3. 1-1/2 cups water
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 2-3 strands of lemongrass
  6. 2 pandan (screwpine) leaves or 1/2 teaspoon pandan essence
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger

For the sambal:

  1. 10 dry red chillies
  2. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  3. 2-3 strands of lemongrass
  4. 1 medium-sized onion
  5. 5-6 shallots or small onions
  6. 2 tablespoons oil
  7. A small piece of tamarind
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  10. Water, as needed

For the accompaniments:

  1. 2 small English cucumbers
  2. 2 small carrots
  3. 4 tablespoons peanuts
  4. 1/2 tablespoon oil

Method:

We will first prepare the ingredients for the sambal.

  1. Soak the dried red chillies in water for at least 15-20 minutes.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and the shallots. Chop them up roughly. Keep ready.
  3. Chop the onion finely. Keep ready.
  4. Chop the lemongrass strands for the sambal, roughly. Keep ready.
  5. Soak the tamarind in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Next, we will prepare the rice for the Nasi Lemak.

  1. Wash the jasmine rice a couple of times under running water, draining out the water each time. Transfer the drained rice to a wide vessel.
  2. Add in the thick coconut milk, water and salt to taste.
  3. Knot the pandan leaves (if using) and the lemongrass strands to form a ball, and add it to the vessel. If using pandan essence, add it to the vessel.
  4. Peel the ginger, and chop it roughly. Add it to the vessel too.
  5. Mix all the ingredients in the vessel gently, and place it in a pressure cooker.
  6. Cook for 4 whistles on high flame or till the rice is well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

Now, we will get the sambal ready.

  1. Drain out the water from the soaked dry red chillies. Add them to a mixer jar.
  2. Add the chopped garlic cloves and shallots to the mixer jar.
  3. Add the chopped lemongrass strands to the mixer jar.
  4. Grind the soaked dried red chillies, garlic, shallots and lemongrass together to a paste, using a little water. Keep aside.
  5. 5. When the tamarind is done soaking, extract a thick juice out of it. Keep aside.
  6. Heat the oil in a pan, and add in the ground paste to it. Cook on medium flame for a minute.
  7. Now, add the tamarind paste to the pan, and a little more water to get the consistency you desire.
  8. Also add salt to taste and jaggery powder, along with the chopped onions. Mix well.
  9. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the onions and tamarind goes away. Switch off gas. The sambal is ready to be used.

We will now get the accompaniments ready.

  1. Heat the 1/2 tablespoon oil in a pan, and add in the peanuts. Fry them on medium flame till they are crisp, ensuring that they do not burn. Keep aside.
  2. Peel the carrots and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Keep aside.
  3. Similarly, peel the cucumbers and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Keep aside.

The Nasi Lemak is now ready to be served.

  1. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, remove the rice from it. Fluff up the rice gently. Pick out the lemongrass and pandan leaves (if using), and the ginger.
  2. Use a small cup to shape the rice and invert it on a large serving plate or banana leaf.
  3. Place some of the sambal on the rice.
  4. Arrange the chopped carrots and cucumber and the fried peanuts around the rice.
  5. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Nasi Lemak isn’t the same without the fragrance of pandan aka screwpine. Since I couldn’t find fresh pandan leaves anywhere here in Bangalore, I used some of the pandan essence I picked up on our holiday in Thailand. You can use either of the two ingredients, depending upon what you can get your hands on.

2. You can use coconut cream to cook the rice, instead of coconut milk. I have used undiluted store-bought coconut milk from Dabur Home-Made.

3. I picked up the jasmine rice on our holiday in Thailand too. It is critical to use jasmine rice in this recipe, but in a pinch you can use basmati rice instead too.

4. I have cooked the rice in a pressure cooker instead of using a pan, as is traditionally done.

5. Adjust the quantity of coconut cream/milk and water, depending upon the texture of rice that you require. Allow the pressure cooker to whistle accordingly too.

6. Adjust the quantity of dried red chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the sambal to be. I used 5 spicy Salem Gundu red chillies and 5 of the less spicy Bydagi red chillies to make the sambal.

7. I served the Nasi Lemak with only chopped cucumber and carrots as well as fried peanuts. In hindsight, I think pan-fried tofu or paneer would have been a beautiful addition.

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This post is for the Recipe Swap Challenge Facebook group that I am part of. Every alternate month, the food bloggers who are members of this group pair up, and the pairs then go on to cook from each other’s blogs.

This month, I was paired with the very talented Poonam, who blogs at Annapurna. Poonam’s blog is a treasure trove of recipes, Indian and international. I chose this Malaysian Nasi Lemak recipe owing to my love for Asian food.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #279. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Niramish Aloor Dum|Bengali Dum Aloo Recipe

Aloor Dum is perhaps one of the best-known foods from the Bengali cuisine, apart from the gorgeous sweets of course. The special way the Bengalis have of cooking potatoes – spicy, with a sweetish tinge to them – has bowled over many, including me.

I tried Bengali Dum Aloo for the first ever time at a Durga Pujo pandal in Bangalore, and loved it to bits. Sadly, I never really got around to learning how to make it. While my understanding of Bengali cuisine now definitely extends beyond the Aloor Dum, my repertoire of Bengali food remained restricted to Bhoger Khichuri and Bhapa Doi. This changed when I came across this Bengali Dum Aloo recipe at Batter Up With Sujata last week. I decided it was high time I made the sabzi I had loved so vehemently. So, make it I did, and it turned out to be glorious – the beautiful medley of flavours I still remember from all those years ago.

I made the sabzi in a pressure cooker, as opposed to the pan-cooking that the original Bengali Dum Aloo recipe advocates. I also made a few little variations to the recipe, to make it healthier. Please don’t baulk at me for that, you guys – I can assure you that the little changes I made did not affect the wonderful taste of the Aloor Dum in any way! 🙂

This is Niramish Aloor Dum (literally ‘no-meat dum aloo‘ in Bengali), in other words an entirely vegetarian sabzi. Since this dish is typically prepared for Pujo and other religious occasions, it is made vegetarian, without the use of even onion or garlic. That makes this an entirely plant-based recipe, which can be made vegan if you do not use the asafoetida. It is gluten-free as well.

So, here’s presenting to you my take on the Niramish Aloor Dum, a healthier version that gets cooked in a jiffy but tastes every bit as scrumptious as the traditional version.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 6 medium-sized potatoes
  2. 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. 2 green chillies
  5. 1 tablespoon mustard oil
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  9. 4-5 cardamom
  10. 4-5 cloves
  11. 2 small bay leaves
  12. Salt to taste
  13. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  14. Red chilli powder to taste
  15. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  16. 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
  17. 1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
  18. 3/4 cup water
  19. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Wash the potatoes thoroughly under running water, and remove any traces of mud on them. Cut the potatoes into quarters and place them in a wide vessel. Add in just enough water to cover the potatoes. Place the vessel in the pressure cooker, close and put the whistle on. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles or till the potatoes are cooked through. Let the pressure release naturally.
  2. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Grind the tomatoes and ginger to a puree, in a mixer. Keep aside.
  3. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.
  4. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, remove the cooked potatoes. Discard the water they were cooked in. Allow the potatoes to cool down fully and then peel them. Keep aside.
  5. In the same pressure cooker bottom (after discarding the water from it and drying it up completely), add in the mustard oil. When the oil heats up, add the cumin seeds, asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves. Saute for 2-3 seconds.
  6. Now, add the tomato-ginger puree to the pressure cooker. Saute for 2-3 minutes or till the raw smell of the tomatoes goes away completely.
  7. Add in salt and red chilli powder to taste, garam masala, turmeric powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.
  8. Add in the water. Mix well.
  9. Add in the cooked and peeled potatoes. Mix gently, ensuring that all the potato quarters are evenly coated with the gravy.
  10. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Cook for 2 whistles on high heat. Let the pressure release naturally. After the pressure has fully gone down, mix in the finely chopped coriander leaves.
  11. Serve the Niramish Aloor Dum hot or at room temperature, with pooris, luchis, rotis or parathas.

Notes:

  1. I used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make this Niramish Aloor Dum.
  2. Since I had only medium-sized potatoes, I quartered them to make this dish. If you have baby potatoes, you could use them instead too.
  3. If you don’t have mustard oil, you can use any regular oil instead. However, the typical Bengali Aloor Dum has to have that fragrance of mustard oil, without which it is incomplete.
  4. Traditionally, the Bengali Aloor Dum is cooked in a pan, using a lot of oil. I have used very limited oil here, considering I made it in a pressure cooker. You can use more oil if you prefer it that way.
  5. I have used garam masala by Ciba Taaza Spices, which comes without any preservatives or additives, to make this Aloor Dum. You can use home-made garam masala instead, too.
  6. Traditionally, potatoes are boiled, then fried in mustard oil and then cooked in the tomato-ginger gravy. I have not fried them, because I wanted to use limited oil. You may do so, if you wish.
  7. Adjust the number of green chillies and the quantity of red chilli powder you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.
  8. Sugar is typically used to make Bengali Aloor Dum, but I have used jaggery powder here instead.
  9. If you feel the Aloor Dum is a little watery after the pressure releases, you can simmer it for a couple of minutes.
  10. I have used country (Nati) tomatoes here. They are quite sour, as compared to the regular ‘farm’ tomatoes, and added a lovely tang to the dish.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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This post is for the Recipe Swap Challenge group that I am part of. Every alternate month, a group of us food bloggers get together, pair up, and cook from each other’s blogs based on a particular theme. This month, I have been paired with the very talented Sujata Roy, who writes at Batter Up With Sujata. ‘Regional Cuisine’ is the theme for the month, so I zeroed in on this Niramish Aloor Dum from among the several beautiful Bengali dishes on Sujata’s blog.

I’m also sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #270. The co-host this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.