Sunday, 1 December 2013

Nasi Ulam (Malaysian Herb Rice Salad)

In my recent supperclub with BackDoor Kitchen in the Italy vs Malaysia Battle, I thought I'd try my hand at making something ultra traditional from Malaysia. (A second post on my experience cooking with Rob, the brains behind BackDoor Kitchen will follow). Nasi Ulam, is not one dish you'd think you'd find yourself making as it roughly consists of more than 20 ingredients, finely chopping almost 3/4 of the ingredients and prepping a ton of it way before hand. As the picture can tell you, it does have a ton load of traditional Asian ingredients that either you as an Asian (in this case South East Asian) can figure out or when you're typically Malaysian.

I for one have never made it before so exploring this really made my day. The comments I got was most certainly encouraging and of course super fantastic spurring me to write this post so that you too can also make nasi ulam. Quoting Wen from Edible Experiences:

"If no one wants the leftovers, I'll tapau (doggy bag) it home"

So ingredients:

The rice:
3 cups thai fragrant or basmati rice
1 - 2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
4 to 5 screwpine leaves, tied into a knot
2 - 3 lemongrass, pounded
salt to taste
1 tsp turmeric powder (optional)

Everything else (finely sliced):

4 - 5 sprigs laksa leaves (vietnamese mint / daun kesum)
10 - 15 wild betel leaves (daun kaduk)
10 shallots
10 - 15 lemon basil leaves
1 - 2 torch ginger flower (bunga kantan)
30 mint leaves
1/2 cup pounded dried prawns
2 - 3 lemongrass 
3 heaping tbsp sambal belacan
1/2 cup pounded or minced salted fish
3 - 4 red chillies - finely diced
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup toasted desiccated coconut
5 long beans
2 medium sized limes
10 - 15 kaffir lime leaves
1 salted egg (optional)

  1. Firstly prepare the rice and cook it the night before for it to rest and dry over night.
  2. Simply add 1 1/2 cups coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups water to 3 cups thai fragrant rice. If you are using basmati rice, then 2 cups coconut milk and 2 cups water to 3 cups basmati rice.
  3. Add the screwpine leaves, pounded lemongrass and salt to the rice and cook over medium heat. If you are using a rice cooker, just flick the switch and don't worry about it. The turmeric powder is optional if you like your rice to have a yellow tinge.
  4. Next fry up the salted fish and let cool before mincing. Do the same with the dried prawns. This enhances the flavour to both ingredients.
  5. Toast 1/2 cup dessicated coconut til golden brown and leave it to cool.
  6. You can also make the sambal belacan the night before as the longer it sits, the better it tastes. The recipe is highlighted above.
  7. The next day, start to finely slice all the herbs. (do not do this the night before as the herbs will wilt in the fridge). If you cannot find the salted egg, it isn't a problem. Leave it out.
  8. Then combine everything in a bowl and toss as usual. Serve like a salad or as an accompaniment to a curry or dish with gravy.
This is one dish I'd definitely want to make again if not for its immense amount of preparations but also because the flavours and aromas that you get from the dish is simply heavenly.

Have fun making it!

Writing up my experience in the Italian-Malaysian mashup,
The Innovative Baker


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