Nasi lemak is a dish that is commonly sold in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Southern Thailand. In fact, it has been called the unofficial national dish of Malaysia. In the east coast Terengganu and Kelantan, their version is called Nasi Dagang. There is a similar dish in Indonesia called nasi uduk.
With roots in Malay culture, its name is a Malay word that literally means ‘rice in cream’. The name is derived from the cooking process whereby rice is soaked in rich coconut cream and then the mixture steamed. Sometimes knotted screwpine (pandan) leaves are thrown into the rice while steaming to give it more fragrance. Spices such as ginger (common in Malay cuisine) and occasionally herbs like lemon grass may be added for additional fragrance.
Traditionally, this comes as a platter with cucumber slices, small dried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, stir fried water convolvulus (kangkong), hard boiled egg, pickled vegetables (achar) and hot spicy sauce (sambal). Nasi lemak can also come with any other accompaniments such as chicken, cuttlefish, cockle, beef curry (beef stewed in coconut milk and spices) or paru (beeflungs). Traditionally most of these accompaniments are spicy in nature.
Nasi lemak is traditionally a breakfast dish, and it is sold early in the morning at roadside stalls in Malaysia, where it is often sold packed in newspaper, brown paper or banana leaf. However, there are restaurants which serve it on a plate as noon or evening meals, making it possible for the dish to be treated as a delicacy. ‘Nasi lemak panas’ meaning hot nasi lemak is another name given to nasi lemak served with hot cooked rice.
In Penang, there are many nasi lemak stalls. One of the best Malay style nasi lemak stalls in George Town is located in front of the Standard Chartered building in Beach Street. However these stall opens in the morning only. Others place worth going are the mamak stall in front of the RTM building, Jalan Burmah near Midlands One-Stop Centre. Penang road opposite Oriental hotel, Penang Street opposite Ganesh Printers and at a coffee shop opposite Plus Zone in Pulau Tikus.