This vegan Nasi Lemak Bungkus is the best and most authentic way to enjoy this Malaysian iconic dish. It will bring you down memory lane as soon as you unwrap the banana leaf pack.
“Nasi lemak bungkus, satu, kak” is what I say when ordering this dish for breakfast. It means one pack of nasi lemak, sis.
Nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf is the classic way to enjoy this tasty meal or sometimes known as nasi lemak bungkus (packed). It consists of a side of fried peanuts, cucumber, egg, and sambal. It cost RM0.50 a pack when I was in elementary school. Now, it’s about RM2 ($0.50).
What is Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak translates to rice fat (from coconut milk). It’s considered Malaysia’s national dish and you haven’t visited Malaysia without trying a version of nasi lemak. Check out CNN’s Top 40 Malaysian food.
This dish is popular and can be found everywhere from the morning markets, food stalls, streetfood to hotels.
There are 2 main components in Nasi lemak: coconut rice and sambal (cooked chile paste). With this two combo and some other sides, you’ll be transported to Malaysia without an air ticket.
It’s a great idea to make a large batch of sambal as that takes up most of the cooking time. This recipe made me appreciate how convenient it is to get a pack of this tasty dish in Malaysia. The amount of time and work that goes into making this meal is truly a labor of love.
My Sambal Key Ingredients
1. Dried and fresh chile – a combination of both chiles is the best to create a multi-dimensional spicy heat. Dried chile will have darker sambal and usually spicier. So, I love to remove the seeds before turning them into a paste. The amount of chile used determines the sambal volume. So, if you want to make a biggger batch, you’ll use more chiles.
2. Kelp or kombu – One of the traditional ingredients for sambal is belacan which is a fermented shrimp paste. To create flavorful sambal, I softened a few pieces of kombu in water. Then, add this mixture to the blender along with the above chiles.
3. Tomato – This is another ingredient that my mom uses to create umami savoriness. Tomato is also a great use to tame down the spicy heat.
4. Tamarind juice adds an amazing tang to the sambal and make it more appetizing.
How to make vegan Nasi Lemak bungkus
Part 1: Cook the coconut rice
To make more flavorful rice, I always add pandan leaves and a stalk or two of bruised lemongrass. The rice to water is 1:1 and rice to coconut milk is 1:05. So, adjust accordingly depending on the rice texture you like.
First, wash and rinse the rice until the water turns clear, about 2-3 rinses. Then drain out the water.
Combine rice, shallot slices, knotted pandan leaves, bruised lemongrass, ginger, water, coconut milk, and salt in the inner rice cooker pot.
Shake the pot a little so the rice settles and place it into the rice cooker. Cook the rice using the ‘white rice’ setting. It should take about 30-40minutes.
Part 2: Make the sambal
Step 1: Cook the dried chile. Using a scissor, remove the dried chile’s seeds and place them in a pot with water. Bring it to boil and simmer the chile for about 5-8 minutes until soft. Then, drain out the water.
Prepare the tamarind juice. Combine a ping pong ball size wet tamarind and water in a bowl. Using your fingers, squeeze and mash the tamarind until it dissolves. You’ll get a dark brown liquid.
Step 2: Next, combine dried chile, red jalapeño, shallots, tomato, kelp and the water, and tamarind juice in a high-speed blender.
Kelp and its liquid Tamarind Juice
Blend until smooth. My recipe yields about 3-4 cups of chile mixture.
Step 3: Heat a large wok with 1 1/2 cups of oil. Once the oil is heated through, fry the peanuts for 1-2 minutes. Using a sieve, dish out the peanuts to paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Next, using the same oil, sauté onion slices until fragrant.
Then, slowly add in the blended chile paste. Stir frequently and cook until the chile paste turns darker or when oil starts to separate from the chile. Be patient, this is the most important step to create the beautiful red sambal.
Tip: To avoid the chile from splashing, I covered my wok with a lid. Then, stir occasionally to prevent the chile from burning. Burnt chile will taste bitter, you definitely don’t want that!
Once the chile is fully cooked through, season with sugar, salt, and a touch of mushroom seasoning. Taste test – the taste should be spicy, a tad sweet, and packed with umami savoriness (from the kelp and tomatoes).
You can store the sambal in a jar then refrigerate or freeze for longer shelf life. I normally make a big batch because of the amount of time needed to cook it.
Part 3: Assemble the nasi lemak bungkus
Before going to the next step, you should have cucumber slices, plant-egg, peanuts ready.
You can always serve your rice on a plate. But, I highly recommend that you give it a banana leaf a try. Not only is this the best way to serve this fragrant rice, but it also adds a touch of tropical feeling when enjoying this meal.
Clean a banana leaf thoroughly with water, then wipe it dry with a paper towel. Cut it into 8″x8″ size and lay it on top of a sheet of newspaper. Place warm rice in the middle, then add a small scoop of peanuts, few slices of cucumber, and plant-egg on the side.
Please check the video on how to wrap it into a package. Enjoy!
Check out my other Malaysian recipes:
This Vegan Nasi Lemak Bungkus is
- Easily customizable
- Perfect for meal-prep
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Authentic Vegan Nasi Lemak Bungkus
- 5 red jalapeños
- 1½ cup dried chiles seeds removed
- 2 tomatoes wedged
- 4-5 large shallots
- 1 piece [4"X5"]kombu soaked in ¾ cup of water
- ½ cup tamarind juice from wet tamarind used a ping pong ball-sized tamarind
- 1 medium-sized onion sliced
- 2 palm sugar round or sugar plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon mushrooms powder
- a few pandan leaves tie into knot
- oil for cooking
Coconut Rice (Nasi)
- 4 cups Jasmine rice rinsed thoroughly
- 4-5 cups of water
- 1 can [400ml) coconut milk
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- 1 lemongrass stalk white part – bruised
- 2 slices of ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- a few pandan leaves tie into knot
- 1 cup raw peanuts used red skin peanuts
- cucumber slices
- pan-fried plant-based egg cut into slices
- banana leaves cleaned and wiped dry with paper towel
Prepare the rice
- Combine washed rice, shallots, lemongrass, pandan leaves, ginger, salt, water, and coconut milk in the rice cooker.
- Cook the rice using 'white rice' settings. The rice should be ready in 35-40 minutes.
Prepare the peanuts and sambal
- Meanwhile, combine dried chile and 1 ½ cups of water in a pot and boil the chile for 5-8 minutes until soft. Drain out the water and set it aside.
- To make the tamarind juice, combine a ping pong ball size wet tamarind and water in a bowl. Using your fingers, squeeze and mash the tamarind until it dissolves. You’ll get a dark brown liquid.
- Place jalapeño, softened dried chile, shallots, tamarind juice, kombu, and its liquid in a high-speed blender. Blend the chile into a fine paste. This yields about 3-4 cups of mixture.
- Heat a large wok or non-stick skillet, then add 1 ½ cups of oil.
- Fry the peanuts for 1-2 minutes or until the skin turn slightly darker. Remove and transfer to a paper towel to absorb excess oil. The peanut will continue to cook and turn crispy once cooled.
- Using the same wok, sauté onion until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Then, slowly add the chile paste along with a knotted pandan leaves.
- Cook for about 40-45 minutes, stirring frequently over medium heat. The sambal is ready when the chile turns darker red or oil starts to separate from the chile. It's best to cover the wok with a lid to prevent splatter and stir to avoid burning the chile.
- Once the chile is ready, season with sugar, salt, and mushrooms seasoning. Turn off the heat and store it in a jar once cooled.
How to serve
- Once the rice is ready, remove pandan leaves, ginger, and lemongrass. Then fluff the rice before serving.
- To assemble the rice, place a bowl of rice on a cleaned banana leaf. Add the peanuts, cucumber slices, and plant-based egg. Serve warm.