Food & Drinks, Life

Nasi lemak: a dish that brings everyone together

Finally a dish that everyone from different backgrounds can enjoy together.

The aroma of coconut and pandan leaf lingered in the air as the waiter served the dish before me. The fragrance of the rice hit my nose, stimulating the feeling of bliss in me as I stared at the food in front of me.

Nasi lemak. At last, I found it in the heart of London.

The flavor was authentic. The taste was no different than the one back home. But there was something missing. The familiar, homey feeling was not there. I looked around the restaurant and noticed that the décor exhibited the influence of Malaysia. But, even though the environment was similar to that of my home, this dish had still awakened a homesickness in me. Slowly, my mind drifted far away to my motherland, the roots and origin of this dish…

Where I live, it is called a dish of unity. It is everyone’s favorite, reigning supremely over all other rice dishes. It is a combination of many elements that represent the culture of Malaysia – spicy Malay sambal as the star of the dish next to the rice served on a banana leaf (the way Indians traditionally serve their food) and the additional fish cakes and vegetable side dishes (as the Chinese prefer it).

Where I live, it is called a dish of unity. Click To Tweet

I fell in love with nasi lemak when I was seven right when I had just started elementary school. Nasi lemak was everywhere, I never had to search for it whenever I had cravings for its sambal. Every morning, I would tell my father, who drove me to school every day, to stop by the roadside food stall near my school to buy it for breakfast. It became my favorite in no time.

My routine did not change much once I started my high school years. My friends and I usually had breakfast every day at the café just right next to our school. I still remember, how I loved the spicy sambal and complained whenever it did not feel hot enough on my taste buds. My Chinese friends enjoyed having it with their fish cakes and my Indian friends even added papadom chips as their side dishes. But the memories were not just about us. It was about the feeling, the vibe of breakfast every morning. I realized how true it was when people said it united us.

I could see people all around from different ethnicities sitting at the same tables while enjoying their nasi lemak. Just like my friends, they were having their nasi lemak with side dishes of their preferences. The atmosphere was overwhelming, with their loud laughter and chatters echoing in the restaurant.

Nasi lemak is a dish that everyone from different backgrounds can enjoy together. Click To Tweet

Nasi lemak is a dish that everyone from different backgrounds can enjoy together.

There is no better way of starting the day than having nasi lemak. Nothing can beat the aroma of pandan leaf and coconut cream infused in rice in the morning. Having it served on the breakfast tables awaken and energize us for the day. Not only is it a total representation of our cultures, but it is a perfect dish with a lot of flavors and different textures. There is soft, fluffy rice matched with crispy and crunchy fried fish and anchovies, served with sliced cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, and roasted peanuts.

The star of the dish is, of course, the sambal. It is a balance of sweet, salty, tangy and spicy. Of all elements in nasi lemak, sambal is one element that can make or break the dish.

... sambal was one element that could make or break the dish. Click To Tweet

Nasi lemak is a heavy, big portion dish but it is always worth it. It will always be everyone’s comfort, hearty food. It used to be a breakfast, but for me, every hour is nasi lemak o’clock.

Perhaps, that was one thing missing while having my traditional food in London. Although the people around me were from many different cultures and backgrounds, it lacked the atmosphere I was used to.

I can’t wait to go back home. Once my vacation over, nasi lemak will be the first thing I look for when I get there.