Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Nasi Lemak Story

Recently, Time Magazine named Nasi Lemak, Malaysia's most popular dish as one of the 10 healthy international breakfasts. (My work website also did a list inspired by this list, btw) I don't know what makes this breakfast appealing and healthy. One, can you imagine eating spicy sauce in the morning? Two, isn't rice cooked in coconut milk kind of icky to think about? Also, how is something literally translated to 'fatty rice' be healthy?

Typical Nasi Lemak with coconut rice, sambal, anchovies, egg, peanuts and some veggies. (from
Living in Malaysia for almost 3 1/2 years, it's impossible to ignore Nasi Lemak. It's the country's national food. They eat it not just in the morning; Malaysians eat it anytime of the day - breakfast, lunch, possibly even dinner. One plate can go low as RM1 (P10-11) - so cheap. It comes in different varieties, but staple ingredients are rice cooked in coconut milk, some anchovy, sambal (chili sauce), and peanuts. It's usually wrapped in banana leaf and sold everywhere in Malaysia. Luckily, I was able to stay away from this food. I could not even bring myself to like it - I can't think why people love it sooo much.

But this morning, while I was at my boyfriend's house in Johor Bahru, I had no choice but to eat Nasi Lemak. Side story, his family has made me eat all sorts of foods I can't imagine I will eat. Curry? Yes. Yam with deer meat? Yes. Chicken Biryani with super spicy curry? Yes (although not everything). Any food with curry? YES. Can't imagine, seroiously - and I am proud of myself  because I overcame my pickiness and actually loved them. (Thanks, Guys!!!)

Back to the story, on the table were bungkus of Nasi Lemak. Oh damn.

bungkus means pack (from Getty Images)

As I sat there thinking 'How can I get away from this situation?' I asked my boyfriend if he can share it with me. Lol. He said, no. I was so hungry, but I have no choice but to get one and eat my own Nasi Lemak. So I stood up, took spoon and fork, and prayed internally that I won't die of the spiciness.

And you know what: It was actually good. The Nasi Lemak I had was everything I imagined Nasi Lemak would be... NOT.

The rice had a hint of coconut taste - it's not overpowering and the texture is not wet. Cooked to perfection. The sambal sauce was sweet and spicy - but I didn't put everything because I was still apprehensive. The anchovy, oh boy, I loved this before I even came to Malaysia, together with the egg, were good additions to the sauce because the saltiness tamed the sweet/spicy combination. Plus, the peanut is something really unexpected. If you spoon all of them and eat altogether, the weird, but tasty taste is like what they say - 'an explosion in the mouth.'

The food that I have tried so many times to avoid has become one of my favourite discoveries this year. Moral of the story, don't judge a food until you haven't eaten it. Ok, maybe I still will - but I will try my best to be more open about different cuisines and don't be afraid to 'tickle' my tastebuds a bit.

Verdict: I wouldn't mind eating Nasi Lemak again. Oh, next time with fried chicken, maybe.

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