Nasi lemak is often called the national dish of Malaysia. The ubiquitous banana leaf-wrapped packets of coconut rice topped with fiery sambal, fried peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies and cucumbers have been a breakfast staple throughout the country for aeons.
But over the years, innovation and an increasing appetite for unusual fare has resulted in various new iterations of nasi lemak – McDonald’s Singapore’s recent introduction of the nasi lemak burger, for instance.
Interestingly, McDonald’s isn’t alone in its endeavour to turn this traditional breakfast meal into something completely different. Here are five of the most inventive nasi lemak concoctions in Malaysia and one in Singapore.
Nasi Lemak Ice-Cream
Two years ago, cafe Cielo Dolci introduced its seasonal nasi lemak gelato, which made waves and earned both fans and detractors. The ice-cream is made with a base of coconut ice-cream interspersed with rice, anchovies and chilli flakes and reputedly tastes exactly like nasi lemak. Then early this year, graphic design graduate Melissa Tan came up with her own nasi lemak ice-cream. The ice-cream immediately became viral because well, it looks exactly like the real thing. Although the ice-cream doesn’t have rice in it (thank God for small mercies!) it does have peanuts, anchovies, sambal, quail eggs and cucumber sprinkled atop the ice-cream base (which is made from lemongrass and coconut), marketed under the Skream Soft Serve brand and sold in a café in Alor Setar.
Nasi Lemak Sandwich
When Fest first launched in Jaya One in 2016, all people could talk about was the eatery’s quirky nasi lemak sandwich. The sandwich does away with rice in favour of two planks of homemade sourdough bread, filled with ingredients like chicken, toasted coconut, cucumber, homemade sambal and egg strips. In this interpretation, you’ll find a filling, satisfying meal that nails all the flavours of the classic nasi lemak, except that it’s within the confines of a sandwich.
Nasi Lemak Cake
First there was the now defunct Lepaq-Lepaq’s strange-sounding nasi lemak cheesecake and then sometime this year, Malaysians were introduced to a full-blown nasi lemak cake. Concocted by home cook Jennifer Yap and her mother Tatiana of Tiana Kitchen, the cake is made using a nasi lemak coconut rice base, which is then topped with hard-boiled eggs, sambal and other ingredients like peanuts. You can even get the pimped up version of the cake, which includes prawn petai and squid petai! Essentially, it’s like eating nasi lemak, except that you can cut it up into cake-like slices. This one really does take the cake!
KitKat Nasi Lemak
At the KitKat Chocolatory in Mid Valley Megamall, you can find all sorts of unusual KitKat flavours, including the decidedly weird-sounding KitKat Nasi Lemak! Designed to evoke the flavours of this savoury dish in a sweeter package, the KitKat encompasses a white chocolate wafer dusted with peanuts, toasted coconut and – get this – chilli flakes. The end product bears very little resemblance to an actual nasi lemak, and tastes like a sweet, tropical dessert, but you’ve got to love the effort that went into this.
Nasi Lemak Sushi
Probably the most plausible rendition of nasi lemak, this miniature beauty from high-brow restaurant Ruyi & Lyn is essentially a mound of sushi rice wrapped with a thin slice of cucumber and topped with all the usual suspects – peanuts, anchovies and sambal. It looks arty and actually sort of makes total sense, especially if you’re craving nasi lemak without its attendant calories!
ALSO READ: Get the Star2.com recipe for Nasi Lemak Onigirazu
Nasi Lemak Cocktail
It may be a product masterminded across the border, but don’t let that deter you from quenching your thirst for nasi lemak (never thought you’d live to see the day that made it into a sentence, did you?). Concocted by Tess Bar & Kitchen in Singapore, the Seah Street Power Nasi Lemak cocktail uses barley to replace the coconut rice. This is then supplemented by pandan syrup and coconut essence with fresh lemon and gin rounding out this alcoholic beverage. An added twist is the sambal smeared around the edge of the glass. Although the drink wasn’t designed to taste exactly like nasi lemak (now that would be just plain weird), it does have traces of the flavours of the dish.