Check out my step by step video on YouTube here!
Nasi Ulam is said to be originally from North Malaysia, particularly the state of Kelantan. It’s a dish of cool herbed rice or rice salad, traditionally eaten with more raw vegetables, a side of fried chicken and sambal belacan (local shrimp paste chilli sauce). Of course like many well loved recipes, this has travelled and changed slightly and it is now commonly found all over Malaysia as well as in Southern Thailand & Indonesia. And of course, it has also been claimed by the Nyonya community as their own!
I was recently informed that the original dish used about 100 wild herbs or so, resulting in a plate of virtual green. Of course, these days, getting 100 fresh herbs is no easy feat. I make a quick and easy version with whatever I can get pretty often and have long wanted to post about it, so here we go.
As mentioned, there are many versions of nasi ulam, more often than not, the rice used is just plain, cooked white rice, with nothing added. On a couple of trips I made up north (Malaysia), I had the pleasure of eating nasi ulam that had been made with nasi lemak (coconut rice) which I thought was amazing. That’s how I like to make mine but with a lighter hand on the coconut milk.
Now to keep the herbs fresh, you need to have the rice pretty cool, at room temperature, otherwise the herbs will wilt. Having said that, if like my husband, you can’t abide cool savoury food, warm it up at the last minute before mixing the herbs in.
Quite frequently, a little bit of fried salted fish (ikan masin) is also added to the mix. I do without this as my husband & kids aren’t keen. Here in the UK, a small piece of unsoaked bacalao is a cheaper option than trying to find a salted Asian fish.
A note on the herbs: get what you can, but try and get as many tropical ones as possible and keep a balance. You don’t want too much of one, especially if it’s a strong herb like rosemary. Then again, turn it into a “Western” herbed rice salad – why not?
Ingredients for Nasi Ulam (serves 4)
100ml coconut milk
half tsp salt
4 pandan leaves or lime leaves
2 tbsp kerisik
2 tbsp crispy fried shallots
half tsp freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lime
1tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 lemongrass stalk, lower half
half – one green chilli
1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes – optional
1″galangal – optional
1 handful fresh coriander
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 sprigs Vietnamese coriander (daun kesum)
2 sprigs Thai basil
2 sprigs Holy basil
4 basil leaves
1 medium sized turmeric leaf (daun kunyit)
1 ginger leaf
1 torch ginger bud (bunga kantan)
1 galangal leaf and/or flower
1 lesser galangal leaf (daun cekur)
1 sprig fresh curry leaves (daun curry)
wild betel nut leaves (daun kaduk)
1 handful chives
1 sprig mint leaves (daun pudina)
1 small sprig rosemary
2 sprigs parsley, flat or curled
1. Cook the rice in the usual way with the 100ml coconut milk, the pandan leaves, half a teaspoon of salt and 350ml water.
2. Fluff it up and leave to cool on a large plate/platter.
The Ground Ingredients
1. Grind to a fine paste.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the paste for about 5 minutes.
3. Set aside to cool completely.
1. Chop/Slice everything finely.
2. Rolling the smaller leaves in the big ones will make the job easier.
Now, mix everything together, check seasoning, add some salt if needed and serve as described above or with any of the following: