December 17, 2006 4:42am CST
Nasi lemak is a dish that is commonly sold in Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore. In fact, it has been called the unofficial national dish of Malaysia. With roots in Malay culture, its name is a Malay word that literally means 'rice in fat'. The name is derived from the cooking process whereby rice is soaked in rich coconut cream and then the mixture steamed. Sometimes knotted screwpine (pandan) leaves are thrown into the rice while steaming to give it more fragrance. Occasionally, other herbs such as ginger and lemon grass may also be added for additional fragrance. Traditionally, this comes as a platter with cucumber slices, small dried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, stir fried water convolvulus (kangkong), hard boiled egg, pickled vegetables (achar) and hot spicy sauce (sambal). Nasi lemak can also come with any other accompaniments such as chicken, cuttlefish, cockle, beef curry (beef stewed in coconut milk and spices) or paru (beef lungs). Traditionally most of these accompaniments are spicy in nature. Nasi lemak is traditionally a breakfast dish, and it is sold early in the morning at roadside stalls in Malaysia, where it is often sold packed in newspaper, brown paper or banana leaf. However, there are restaurants which serve it on a plate as noon or evening meals, making it possible for the dish to be treated as a delicacy.