FUN FACTS ABOUT NASI LEMAK
- The origins of Nasi Lemak can be traced back to 1909, when it was first mentioned in a book titled “The Circumstances of Malay Life”, written by Sir Richard Olof Winstedt. It is recognised as Malay dish and was popularised as a breakfast food. In the olden days, Nasi Lemak was paired with fried fish, kangkung and stir-fried sambal, while the rice would be cooked over an open fire and closely monitored to prevent the milk from overheating. Nowadays, the making of Nasi Lemak is less tedious as rice cookers have made its creation much easier, while it is generally paired with anchovies or anchovies-infused sambal variations.
Nasi lemak literally means” fatty/oily rice”. The “lemak” in this creamy dish refers to coconut milk, which is high in saturated fats. The name of this dish comes from the process where the rice is soaked and then steamed in coconut milk with other spices and herbs like butterfly pea flowers, infusing the rice with a balanced blend of flavours.
Nasi lemak used to be a favourite of farmers. In the past, villagers would commonly eat nasi lemak as their morning meal before heading out to the fields. This dish is perfectly balanced, giving them all the nutrients they need (not to mention a tasty start) to power through a long day of work thanks to the combination of the carbohydrates and calories from the coconut steamed rice, along with the proteins from the ikan bilis and oils and antioxidants from the chilli.
There is Folklore Behind the Rice
It was said that Nasi Lemak was born began in a small village at the home of a widow, Mak Kuntum and her daughter, Seri. Mak Kuntum worked as a masseur to provide for the family and her daughter would be left alone at home to attend to chores. From here, there are two variations to the story of how Nasi Lemak became about – one was that Seri accidentally spilled coconut milk in a boiling pot of rice, while the other was that she had mixed in pandan leaves and coconut milk out of boredom. The story continues with Mak Kuntum coming home from work and upon smelling the fragrant rice, she asked her daughter what it was, to which Seri replied “Nasi le, mak!” (rice, mother!), and that was how it got its name – Nasi Lemak. Of course, there is little concrete evidence to this story but nevertheless, it’s a fun story to tell.