Healthy Nasi Lemak @ Home

Healthy nasi lemak... is it a dream? Can it be possible? Never has there been such excitement over a meal. We tried out some ideas. So is it guilt-free? Almost. But does it take care of your NL cravings? Read on...

by Alexa P. Photography FriedChillies Fri, November 20, 2009
Health, Diet & Family

Ok let's face the facts, as wonderfully delicious as nasi lemak is, it's terribly unhealthy. This is mostly due to the rice that is cooked with santan and the ikan bilis that is fried. So this got us thinking, if we could eliminate the unhealthy elements could we create something that tastes just as good?

The verdict? Our healthy version of nasi lemak totally kicked ass and checked on all the crucial points! Is it truly healthy? Does it taste like regular nasi lemak? Would we pay to eat this? Check, check, and check! This worked out incredibly well and those who are laying off nasi lemak for health reasons will be able to eat it regularly without a worry.

For starters, we decided to cook with basmati rice as it has a lower glycemic index and is less starchy than regular white rice and therefore healthier. It’s cooked with a bit of milk for creaminess (you can even omit this or use low fat for less calories), water and ginger for a beautiful aroma. To get that lovely coconutty fragrance we tossed the cooked rice with a little bit of virgin coconut oil. This oil has many health benefits such as stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, and increased immunity due to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties. It is a healthy fat that contributes to a well-rounded diet rather than taking away from it… a tablespoon of this a day keeps the doctor away! Add it to your rice and take comfort in the fact that it’s doing your body some good. What a change from the usual santan rice huh?

Instead of frying our ikan bilis we dry cooked it in the microwave.

We like the slightly larger ikan bilis for the sambal.

Just zap it for 4mins on a paper towel on a dish and you’ll have perfectly crisp ikan bilis without the oil. You can also choose to lay it out on some foil and bake it in the oven. We used the oven method for the ikan bilis that was going in the sambal. Both were good.

As for the sambal, while making this we worked with this general rule…less is more. There was less oil in the frying process and less sugar. We also chose to go with raw organic brown sugar but gula Melaka would work just as well.

For our chicken we thought a 'healthier' version of chicken curry might be fun. So we marinated chicken with yogurt, curry powder and a bunch of spices and then baked in the oven for 40mins (about 180 celcius oven). The vibrant spices gave the chicken a whole lot of taste without packing on the calories. I guess the only thing is that there's no gravy. You can also just marinade it with yogurt, salt and turmeric for a more fried chicken flavour.

Everyone thought this was fried chicken, if you marinate it overnight, the chicken will be juicy inside and crispier outside

All in all this healthy nasi lemak was a success and we urge you to try it at home.

"Our healthy version of NL totally kicked ass!"

Nasi lemak

We cooked our rice in the microwave as we’ve found it comes out perfectly but you can do this in your rice cooker or on the stovetop
2 cups of rice (Although we used basmati you can opt to use brown rice)
1/4 cup of milk
3- 3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 inch ginger, sliced
Pinch of salt
2-3 Tbs virgin coconut oil (cold pressed is healthiest)

Wash rice and add other ingredients in a microwaveable container with a lid.
Microwave on high for 15-20 minutes, stopping every five minutes to stir the rice.
Once cooked, stir in the coconut oil according to your taste.

Sambal Ikan Bilis

10 shallots
15 dried chillies (use more if you like it super spicy)
5 garlic cloves
1 inch of tamarind (assam jawa) with 1 cup of hot water
4-5 tsp raw organic brown sugar
2 Tbs olive oil
Cooked ikan bilis

Bake chillies in oven until fragrant for 5mins at 180C. In a blender, blend chillies with shallots and garlic.
Fry mixture in a wok with oil until the oil separates or the chilli mixture gets a little crispy. Add in sugar.
Add in about 1 cup water and let simmer. Keep adding water until you get the right spiciness. After 30-45 minutes add tamarind water. Cook until the sambal turns a slightly darker red. Add in the cooked ikan bilis.

We couldn't stop eating this nasi lemak and felt incredibly satisfied.

Try this:
Instead of sambal ikan bilis, you can also make a prawn or squid sambal using the same recipe. Just remember to add the seafood in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Vegetarian option: slice potatoes into slivers and bake them in the oven. Add this to the sambal at the end in place of ikan bilis. For a fishy saltiness also add in strips of seaweed to the sambal.

Looks amazing. i'm going to try it!- howabout cooking the rice in Anlene completely? and make the milk really thick to imitate santan?

by archninja June 24, 2010 6:33PM

Lyminn - Baking it just makes it more fragrant. As for the chicken we just bought the curry powder mix that has other spices like cumin and coriander in it.

by Chefspiration December 05, 2009 12:26AM

May I ask why the dried chillies need to be baked in the oven prior to grounding? Also, what are the spices used to marinade the chicken?

by lyminn November 25, 2009 3:59PM

Asian-Malaysian: We managed to find it in the organic section of Cold Storage at RM18 for one of the smaller bottles and it should last you since you only use a few spoonfuls smile good luck!

by Chefspiration November 24, 2009 9:52PM

Chefspiration: I understand from the following website that there are two methods to extract virgin coconut oil, one of which uses santan:

I always thought that the fat content was the main objection of santan. Still, I can see that it would be easier to control the amount of fat by measuring out tablespoons of EVC instead of using santan. Will look out for the stuff when I hit the supermarket (although I recall seeing it once and thinking it rather pricey). smile

by asian-malaysian November 24, 2009 2:41PM

Asian-Malaysian: I believe it has something to do with the cold pressing and extracting process. You can look up the benefits of virgin coconut oil on google...there's a wealth of info smile

Rezza: I suppose it could taste the same...although the milk doesn't do much to the taste just to give the rice a bit of this step could be omitted altogether...

by Chefspiration November 23, 2009 6:31PM

Chefspiration: What makes virgin coconut oil healthier than santan? Wouldn't santan contain virgin coconut oil?

by asian-malaysian November 21, 2009 4:06PM

Asian-Malaysian: Virgin coconut oil is actually healthy for you and so you'd be adding something nutritionally beneficial to your can choose to omit the milk all together or use low fat/skim milk as well. These are options to make it even healthier smile

by Chefspiration November 20, 2009 11:38PM

Fantastic idea (although Im not so convinced of the health benefits of substituting coconut milk with cows milk and coconut oil beyond the fact that its probably easier to use less coconut oil.).Have to try the micorwave ikan bilis. Even the egg looks well cooked. Yum!

by asian-malaysian November 20, 2009 8:06PM

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