Malaysia’s iconic dish, Nasi Lemak is my quintessential breakfast growing up. This recipe is super tasty and brought back some great memories from Malaysia. The only time-consuming ingredient is the sambal paste so I suggest that you make a big batch ahead of time using this Easy Vegan Sambal recipe.
What is Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak is a Malay word and is one of the first few words that my kids learned to say. It literally translates to ‘rice’ and ‘fat – normally from the coconut milk’. The basic Nasi Lemak ingredients often include creamy and fragrant coconut milk rice, slices of cucumber, roasted peanuts, and sambal.
It is a popular breakfast item though it’s quite common to serve for lunch or dinner these days. They are normally wrapped with banana leaves in a cone-like shape package and is considered as an inexpensive breakfast item. So, they are perfect for a quick meal on-the-go to start your day.
Common Nasi Lemak ingredients
- Rice – I used Jasmine rice and added coconut milk, pandan leaves, and galangal, or a knob of smashed ginger to give the rice an aromatic flavor.
- Coconut milk – Freshly squeeze coconut milk from mature coconut flesh is the best choice. Since I can’t get the fresh ones, I used canned coconut milk instead. The one I used has more than 70% coconut extract which has a stronger coconut taste that I love.
- Sambal – is probably my favorite part of eating Nasi Lemak. I made mine using the Easy Vegan Sambal and added tomatoes and onion to add more umami and bring down the spicy level of the chilies.
- Peanuts – Normally, fried peanuts (with skin) are used for Nasi Lemak. However, I roasted mine on a dry pan, then tossed with a drizzle of oil in the end and seasoned with a pinch of salt. TIP: Spanish peanut with skin is the best choice for this dish.
- Cucumber slices are often added for the crunch and also to ‘cool’ off the spicy sambal. A quick tip: If you order Nasi Lemak to-go in Malaysia and don’t plan to consume it right away, it’s always a great idea to pack the cucumber separately. The warm weather in Malaysia can sometimes cause the cucumber to turn sour quickly especially when wrapped with warm rice and sambal.
Nasi Lemak variations
Nasi Lemak can be as basic as I mentioned above or it can be fully loaded with other ‘sides’ such as sauteed vegetables, a protein of choice, different types of curries, or rendang. In this recipe, I added crispy lemongrass tempeh and a side of simple potato curry made with the Easy Vegan Sambal and coconut milk. So, check out the recipe below on how to make these additional sides for Nasi Lemak.
How to plan ahead for Nasi Lemak
- Sambal – this can be prepped a few days or weeks ahead especially when you make a big batch of it. You can try my Easy Vegan Sambal recipe and check out the storage tips.
- Crispy Lemongrass Tempeh – pan-fry tempeh a day before and reheat in a toaster oven before cooking it with lemongrass.
- Peanuts – make a big batch and save it in a cleaned jar for future use. Refrigerate for longer shelf-life.
This Vegan Nasi Lemak recipe is
- Easy and Delicious
- Spicy with a touch of sweetness
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!
Vegan Nasi Lemak
- 2 cups [290g] Jasmine rice
- 1¾ cups [410g] water
- ½ cup [125g] coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- slices of galangal or a knob of ginger (smashed)
- knotted pandan leaves optional
- 1½ cups [300g] tomatoes blended
- 1 medium-sized onion sliced thinly
- ½ cup [125g] sambal adjust to taste
- 2½ cups [300g] potato cubed
- 2 tablespoons sambal adjust to taste
- 2 cups [500g] water
- ¼ [62g] coconut milk
- 8 oz [227g] tempeh sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass white part only
- 2 tablespoons vegan 'fish' sauce (nước mắm chay)
- roasted peanuts
- cucumber slices
- oil for cooking
- salt to taste
Coconut rice – rice cooker method
- To prepare the coconut rice, rinse Jasmine rice with tap water a few times, then drain.
- Place rice in the inner pot of the rice cooker along with knotted pandan leaves (if using), water, ginger, and a pinch of salt.
- Turn on the rice cooker. Add in coconut milk (do not stir) during the last few minutes of cooking. Fluff rice with a fork once it's cooled.
- Heat a non-stick pan with 3 teaspoons of oil, then sauté onion until translucent.
- Add the blended tomatoes, sambal and continue to cook for about 5 mins over medium heat by stirring continuously until it turns into a thick paste. Turn off the heat.
- To make the curry potatoes, place cubed potatoes and sambal in a pot.
- Add enough water to cover the potatoes, place a lid over and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
- Turn the heat low medium and cook the potatoes are fork-tender.
- Season with salt and add in coconut milk, then stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
- In a heated pan with 3 teaspoons of oil, pan-fry sliced tempeh until golden brown on both sides over low-medium heat.
- Push tempeh to the side of the pan, add in chopped lemongrass and sauté for 1-2 minutes. (add more oil if neded)
- Season tempeh with salt and vegan 'fish' sauce. Remove from heat.
How to Serve
- Place cooked rice on a serving plate. Serve rice with tomato sambal, curry potatoes, pan-fried tempeh along with crushed peanuts and cucumber slices.
- Rinse Jasmine rice with tap water a few times, then drain.
- Place rice in a saucepan along with knotted pandan leaves (if using), 1 and 3/4 cups water, and a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid.
- Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Then, turn heat to low and cook mixture for about 25-30 minutes or until most water has been absorbed.
- Add in coconut milk during the last few minutes of cooking.
- Fluff rice with a fork once it’s cooled.