Monday, September 13, 2010

NASI LEMAK ... Binalot by way of Singapore

I try to keep from eating too much rice but when traveling to Singapore, it's practically impossible.
All the yummy food involves rice ... hainanese chicken RICE, claypot RICE, NASI (indonesian for RICE) goreng and my personal rice meal favorite ... NASI LEMAK. Binalot ala Singapore!
Nasi lemak is rice that's been soaked in coconut cream before it's cooked. To add to the aroma, pandan is oftentimes used.
A scoop of this very flavorful rice is then put in the middle of a section of banana leaf -- it's topped with a sprinkling of dried ikan bilis or dilis along with some roasted peanuts. A small fried fish looking suspiciously like sapsap is also sometimes included.
A dollop of sambal sauce smeared on the banana leaf completes the equation. Everything is then wrapped up in a neat triangle, ready to be sold and eaten.
You'll find nasi lemak on most food kiosk counters in the morning, in coffee / kopi shops, in small eateries where busy Singaporeans drop before heading to the office.
Breakfast counters typically offer the banana leaf wrapped nasi lemak, trays of fried noodles (think pancit bihon), fried hotdogs or vienna sausage, fried eggs, luncheon meat and sometimes, crispy chicken wings.
For nasi lemak, my go-to side dish is otah, a brown paste made of fish meat, coconut milk and other spices. Otah is also wrapped in a thin sliver of banana leaf before it is roasted.
Otah is savory and the soft paste is a good counterpoint to the crunch of the peanuts and the ikan bilis. The sambal sauce is thoughtfully smeared on a small portion of the banana leaf so you can mix as much or as little of it with the rice, controlling the heat and spiciness of each mouthful.
Nasi lemak is a yummy and filling meal -- one that is perfect to eat while relaxing with a hot cup of kopi C and the day's edition of the Strait Times. I make sure I have my nasi lemak on the last day of a business trip so that its memory is something that I can take home.

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