Nasi Ulam – a Nyonya Herb Rice packed with fish flakes, kerisik, and aromatic herbs. Delicious eaten on its own or with other main and side dishes.
Nasi Ulam (Nyonya Herb Rice) is probably one of the strongest evidence of Malay influence on Peranakan (Straits Chinese) food. The use of raw herbs mixed into rice is unknown in the original Hokkien cuisine from which many Baba Nyonyas derive from. It has more in common with the Malay Nasi Kerabu (Kelantan Herb Rice) which the early Chinese settlers along the Northern Malay Peninsula may have come into contact with.
Unlike other kinds of flavored rice, Nasi Ulam is not so much eaten with curries that will overwhelm its herbal flavor. It is better suited for drier dishes like fried fish or chicken together with a healthy dose of Sambal Belacan. The spicy element can also be cut chili peppers thrown into the mix.
Herbs for Nasi Ulam (Nyonya Herb Rice)
No two Nasi Ulam are the same. Probably only three ingredients are constant – the rice, Kerisik (Fried Coconut Paste), and shallots. Commonly used protein include fish, salted fish, and dried shrimps. As for the herbs, depending on availability, the following may be used.
Daun kaduk (wild betel/pepper leaves)
Daun kunyit (turmeric leaves)
Daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves)
Daun kesum (polygonum/ Vietnamese mint)
Bunga kantan (torch ginger)
Kerisik (Fried Coconut Paste)
This Nasi Ulam recipe calls for ½ cup (50g) grated coconut to be made into Kerisik. Please refer to my detailed video tutorial here for instructions –> Kerisik (Fried Coconut Paste).
Tools Used in Making This Nasi Ulam (Nyonya Herb Rice)
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Shun Classic 5-inch Hollow Edge Nakiri Knife
Aroma Simply Stainless 3-Cup(Uncooked) 6-Cup (Cooked) Rice Cooker
Aroma Housewares RS-03 6-Cup Simply Stainless Steamer
Mountain Woods 3 Piece Acacia Wood Calabash Bowl and Premium Utensils Set
- 2 rice cooker cups long grain rice (1½ cups/300g)
- ½ cup grated coconut (50g)
- 4 oz snapper fillet (113g)
- ¾ tsp ground pepper (divided)
- 1½ tsp salt (divided)
- 5 shallots (thinly sliced)
- 1 lemongrass (white part only), thinly sliced
- 5 turmeric leaves (thinly sliced)
- 5 kaffir lime leaves (thinly sliced)
- 1 cup daun kesum / polygonum / Vietnamese mint, thinly sliced (10g)
- 1 cup mint leaves (thinly sliced) (10g)
- ¾ tsp sugar
- Wash and drain rice 3 to 4 times in rice cooker pot. Add 2 cups (480ml) water or until the 2 cup mark. Wipe the exterior of the pot dry and place in the rice cooker. Press the cook button.
- Prepare kerisik (fried coconut paste). Please refer to this tutorial for full instructions.
- Pan fry fish in a non-stick pan with ¼ teaspoon ground pepper and ½ teaspoon salt until it flakes, about 10 minutes. Break up the fish with your spatula.
- Transfer cooked rice to a big bowl. Add fish flakes, kerisik, shallots, lemongrass, turmeric leaves, kaffir lime leaves, daun kesum, mint leaves, ground pepper, salt, and sugar. Stir to get everything well mixed.
- Serve warm with main and side dishes.
Listed below are a few dishes that would go well with Nasi Ulam.