Friday, December 04, 2009

vegetarian nasi lemak

The Significant Eater was late home tonight. I dished up his dinner and slipped into the next room to finish this post. As I type I can hear him groaning. I think it’s the nasi lemak because it’s a pleasant, joyful kind of noise.

Months ago I was groaning myself over the simplicity of this Malaysian national dish. While the rice and vegetable sides are usually accompanied by meat (usually a fiery beef rendang or a chicken curry) I’ve eaten some vegetarian versions that make an equally fine and groan-worthy meal.

While I’ve endeavoured to keep this vegetarian the one hiccough is the shrimp paste in the sambal. Though I’ve read about “vegetarian belacan” I’ve yet to find it. Vegans and vegetarians feel free to improvise but for those who can eat seafood, belacan gives it that illusive umami depth of flavour that makes me swoon at the smell. (Adding that to my list of tofu and durian loving and I have to accept I’m some kind of freak when it comes to food).

While this really is a simple yet stunning dish, it is a bit fiddley preparing all the parts. I’ve had a couple of goes at creating it now and found it’s most enjoyable to prepare in a leisurely manner – roasting the peanuts, boiling the eggs and making the sambal all ahead of time. Once all the grinding, roasting, boiling and chopping is done it’s just a matter of moulding the rice by patting it into a small bowl, upturning it prettily upon the plate and assembling all the vegetarian a compliments.

Almost vegetarian nasi lemak

Coconut rice (I do a light version using 1 part rice, 1 pt water, 1 pt coconut milk cooked by the absorption method)
OR brown rice (if you want a more wholesome meal)

Tempeh, thinly sliced
kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
Roasted peanuts
Eggs, boiled and halved
Sambal (see below)
Kangkung, cut into 3” lengths and boiled for 2 minutes (green beans are a nice substitute if you can’t get it)
Peanuts, roasted and lightly salted
Cucumber, sliced

Tomato sambal
serves 3, double if you need more
(I know it’s my Balinese recipe but it works really well)

1 tsp shrimp paste
2 large red chilies (more if you like it spicy)
3 tomatoes,
1 medium red onion (or 2-3 shallots, or half a brown onion if need be)
3 cloves of garlic
A small handful of nuts (I tend to use cashews)
A tsp or 2 of palm sugar
Sea salt, to taste

Coconut oil (any mild vegetable oil will do)

Prepare the shrimp paste in the usual way. I wrap it in a double layer of aluminum foil and dry roast in a hot fry pan for a few minutes.

Throw all the sambal ingredients (except the oil) in a food processor and blitz.

Heat a fry pan or wok; add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Fry the sambal over a medium to high heat for about 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is reduced by nearly half.

Reserve 1/2 – 2/3 of the sambal and put aside, to use as a side dish when assembling the meal. Toss the boiled, drained kangkung in the remaining sambal and cook for a further minute or two.

Fry thin slices of tempeh in vegetable oil until crisp. While still on the heat add 2-4 teaspoons of kecap manis and toss through the tempeh until lightly covered. It’s sticky; so don’t bother draining it on kitchen paper.

Now assemble your meal – a nice mound of rice surrounded by boiled egg halves, tempeh, roasted peanuts, kangkung tossed in sambal, cucumber and a nice big dollop of extra sambal on the side.

I can’t promise this is an authentic dish but I can assure you it tastes so good, it’s addictive.

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Blogger Chai said...

Is that what you made in the pic? IMPRESSIVE. Very professional.

I cant think of any place in Melb where you can get nice Malaysian.
Most of them are passable, but somehow lacks something, which I cant put my finger on.
Maybe authenticity.

8:46 am  
Blogger Vee said...

I love tofu AND durian AND belacan! That sambal looks pretty good, I haven't found an authentic recipe yet and I'm Malaysian, so I might give this one a go!

9:16 am  
Blogger GS said...

Chai the pic and the slightly messy plating was all my own work. Thanks for your praise :) Carnivorous friends had nasi lemak at Norsia the other week, not sure how it rated.

Vee - glad you like the look of the (Balinese) sambal, I love it (and I'm not alone in my weird food pleasures :).

If either of you find good fish/vego Malaysian in Melbourne please, please let me know!

2:28 pm  
Blogger narelle said...

this was so so good. fiddly, yes, but absolutely worth it.

9:40 pm  
Blogger GS said...

Narelle glad you thought it was worth it. Some meals are worth a fiddle :)

9:11 am  

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