Nasi lemak is a simple dish consisting of fragrant rice cooked with coconut milk (known as santan) and sometimes pandan leaf, served with a side of deep fried anchovies, ground nuts, an egg, cucumber slices, and sambal chili—a sweet spicy gravy. The national dish of Malaysia, it is usually sold by the Malay community in triangular packets of banana leaf or wax paper (termed bungkus). Here, we pick the best places in Kuala Lumpur (KL) to sample the dish.
This particular venue is a little far from Kuala Lumpa’s centre, located in Damansara Utama, but the trip to go and try out their fried chicken, alongside their signature nasi lemak, is well rewarding. Run by a Chinese-Muslim family, as well as nasi lemak—their main attraction—this establishment has pride in serving other sought-after South East Asian dishes, making choices plentiful and the patron feeling well satisfied.
A hidden gem in the middle of Kuala Lumpur’s city centre and a truly traditional Malay-operated business, this little store has held its own since the 1940s for its humble authenticity. Finding it is an adventure in its own right, as it is located behind KL’s Butterfly and Bird Parks. Servings may be on the small side, but its exotic side dishes will be sure to introduce authentic Malay flavors.
Proving Malaysia to be a multicultural melting pot, this non-halal version of the predominantly Malay-Muslim dish has its own interesting take. Served up in Chinese mixed-rice style, patrons queue up to this portable hawker stall for a taste of good-old nasi lemak with pork rib curry on the side. Also be sure to try the owner’s fruit juice, which he has been selling long before he ventured into the nasi lemak business.
A little more modern, this kopitiam coffee-shop style restaurant is found in Petaling Street, where the artsy hubs are located. Standing out as a Malaysian hipster-style cafe, this place takes nasi lemak from its street roots and serves it up with a more urban twist. Nasi lemak ayam berempah, (nasi lemak with spicy chicken) is among many of the South East Asian delicacies served in this shop.