Nasi Lemak – Creamy Rice, Heaven in Your Mouth

By Mark Wiens 38 Comments
Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak

While there are many foods that have power to arouse happiness, Malaysian nasi lemak takes satisfaction to the next level.

For local Malaysians that leave their home country, nasi lemak is THE MEAL they crave, the comfort food they long for most.

And once you’ve had it, it’s entirely understandable.

Antarabangsa Nasi Lemak
Antarabangsa Nasi Lemak

In Kuala Lumpur, one of my main objectives was to explore nasi lemak – to dig in a little deeper and get a flavor for one of Malaysia’s most beloved foods.

What is Nasi Lemak?

Nasi lemak literally translates to “fatty rice.

The rice is initially soaked in coconut milk and pandan leaves before being steamed to give each grain a fragrant light coconut creaminess.

Nasi lemak is traditionally served in small cone shaped banana leaf packages filled with rice and a variety of spicy toppings, but you can also find nasi lemak set up similar to a nasi campur style feast.

Malaysian nasi lemak
Each bite is a celebration!

Antarabangsa Nasi Lemak

While exploring Kampung Baru, a local Malay area of Kuala Lumpur located near the center of town, I stumbled into Antarabangsa Nasi Lemak.

At the time, I didn’t know it was so famous, but the tables were full, and as I ate there was a continual stream of takeaway customers.

By the time I arrived, at about 11 am or so, there was evidence that a few of the dishes had already run out.

All was good though, they still had my favorite nasi lemak supplement, sambal sotong, squid cooked in chili sauce.

A fried egg, a few spoons of crunchy ikan bilis (fried anchovies), a scoop of chili sauce and a few slices of cucumber to garnish and I was ready to dine.

Crispy anchovies mingled with rice and chili sauce
Crispy anchovies mingled with rice and chili sauce

Just like loco moco, the sloppier and saucier things get with nasi lemak, the better!

The squid was a little sweet, reminded me of Korean nakji bokkeum, and had amazing flavor. But the real hit was the simple fried egg smothered in sambal chili sauce with the coconut fragrant rice.

Price: 6 MYR ($1.96)
Open: Many say 6 pm – 5 am daily… but I went at 11 am and it was open.. so not entirely sure?
Address: 7C Jalan Raja Muda Musa, Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur

RA Nasi Lemak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
RA Nasi Lemak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

RA Nasi Lemak

The next day I wanted more nasi lemak.

After digging through a number of Kuala Lumpur food blogs, I decided to try a famous stall near Dang Wangi LRT station known as RA Nasi Lemak.

Yet again served from a home and shaded by pop-up umbrellas, RA Nasi Lemak seemed to attract a diverse demographic of hungry locals – businessmen, construction workers, BMW drivers, bicycle riders, hair salon stylists, and a random foreigner (myself) pursuing nasi lemak.

The legendary wooden barrel of fragrant nasi lemak rice
The legendary wooden barrel of fragrant nasi lemak rice

As soon as I got in line, the lady opened the wooden barrel of rice which unleashed a puff of steam that literally made me drool.

Though busy, the homely restaurant had a comforting motherly atmosphere to it, kind of like the local Zanzibari mix restaurant in Dar Es Salaam.

Attractive nasi lemak self service buffet
Attractive nasi lemak self service buffet

Unlike Antarabangsa Nasi Lemak where you point to the topping and they serve you, to my delight RA Nasi Lemak was self service.

Ready to dig in!
Ready to dig in!

Yet another challenging Malaysian food choice… but a great challenge. I was hoping to see some stink beans in the mix, but they weren’t available.

I can state with 100% certainty that nothing served at RA will be even close to a bad choice.

Can you really beat a plate of nasi lemak?
Is there anything better than a plate of nasi lemak?

A pile of steamed coconut infused rice, more sambal sotong (squid in chili sauce), stir fried morning glory, ikan bilis, cucumbers, and a generous anointing of chili sauce was the outcome.

For the main course I chose a succulent piece of chicken rendang (chicken stewed in coconut cream and spices).

RA Nasi Lemak
Sensational chili sambal sauce

The nasi lemak was honestly unbelievable.

Each spoonful was among the most precious bites I’ve ever chewed in my life.

Price: 7 MYR ($2.30)
Open: 6:30 am – 10 pm daily
Address: 15 Jalan Raja Abdullah 50300 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Nasi Lemak
Your plate will be empty before you know it

If I had to choose one nasi lemak restaurant over the other I’d probably go with RA Nasi Lemak due to the self service and the amazing sambal chili sauce. But both restaurants were stunning.

One thing is certain – at either Nasi Lemak restaurant, the dish washer will love you because you’re going to lick your plate completely clean.

Do you love Nasi Lemak?

Here’s a map so you can find both of the restaurants.


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38 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Meow

    3 years ago

    Nasi lemak antarabangsa is nowhere near as good as it used to be,in fact many other places in kl tastes much nicer and cheaper than that.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing Meow. What other places would you recommend for great nasi lemak in KL?

  • Avinash

    3 years ago

    Mark,

    Is Nasi Lemak more vegetarian (lacto-ovo) friendly compared to Nasi Campur? Or the other way around? Does it vary by stall too? Any insight is appreciated. I want to make sure we try out to best vegetarian Nasi Lemak and Nasi Campur stalls in KUL.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Avinash, hmm, I’m not so sure about the vegetarian nasi lemak and nasi kandar. Though at nasi kandar you normally have more choices so can get vegetarian options. Enjoy!

  • ciki

    4 years ago

    I DO love nasi lemak yes. I do.. I do.. ! haha

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      It’s easily one of the best foods in the entire world!

  • Bama

    4 years ago

    Aha! Nasi Lemak is very similar with what we have in Indonesia, called Nasi Uduk. If I really want to taste a dish that reminds me of home, I guess Nasi Lemak will do. 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Ah, cool, thanks Bama! I’ll have to try some Nasi Uduk in Indonesia when I’m there next time!

  • sully86

    4 years ago

    mark: the thought of those plates of nasi lemak getting into my mouth. The delicate sweetness saltiness of the sambal gravy playing in my mouth like little kids do. The aroma of friend chicken and eggs that cause chaos and confusing to my other senses. Especially to the eyes….its just to much….

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Haha, thanks for sharing your take on nasi lemak Sully, and nicely described. It’s such a good dish, it’s nearly impossible to fully put it into words!

  • Noel

    4 years ago

    Yes, you are right. Being away from Malaysia for an extended period of time, one of the food that I missed the most was Nasi Lemak. I used to be a regular at Antarabangsa when I lived in KL, but now my favourite is actually in Sarawak. If you make it here, I’ll bring you there.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Awesome, thank you so much Noel! I would love to try the nasi lemak in Sarawak, and that’s a place I’d really love to visit as well!

  • Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    4 years ago

    Ahhh, I miss the crispy, salty, teeny tiny fried fishies!

  • Ada | Adaphobic Travels

    4 years ago

    Nasi Lemak at some part of SG is damn expensive, or maybe I didn’t search for a cheaper place but the taste was worth it but still expensive hehe. Will definitely try Nasi Lemak when I go to Malaysia!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Ada, too bad it’s so expensive in Singapore, you’ll have to eat lots of it when you go to Malaysia!

  • sheon

    4 years ago

    “LEMAK” in malay has several meanings, one of it is “creamy” or “rich”. I think to put it as Creamy Rice would make more sense 🙂

    • sheon

      4 years ago

      and i love to have a serving of sunny side up egg along with my nasi lemak, the taste and texture of the runny egg yolk in every mouthful of nasi and sambal is just sinfully amazing!

      • Mark Wiens

        4 years ago

        I fully agree Sheon. I had an egg the first time and then the second place must have been all out of eggs. But it sure is amazing with a runny egg!

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Cool, thank you for sharing Sheon!

  • nicola

    4 years ago

    Looks too good!

  • fairuz

    4 years ago

    Im from malaysia and why not try nasi kerabu or nasi dagang in Kelantan? Guess i already fall in love with your blog, sooo mmaannyy delicious-mouth watering foods~!! 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Thank you Fairuz! I know, I want to travel more and more in Malaysia, there’s so much food to discover. I hope to visit Kelantan one day! Is that where you’re from?

      • fairuz

        4 years ago

        Yup, and kelantan also have other delicacies such as akok, jala mas & bunga tanjung (made of duck’s egg) and so much more~! keep on travelling and eating Mark~! 🙂

  • Dean

    4 years ago

    You’ve convinced me Mark. Nasi lemak looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Will most likely be in Malaysia next year so I will definitely dig in! 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Great Dean! Definitely get some Nasi Lemak when you’re there!

  • paul | walkflypinoy

    4 years ago

    that second plate looks absolutely fantastic. i would have cleaned the plate off in 5 minutes! with my tongue, too! haha. you seriously made me want to head back to KL the soonest I can.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hahaha, you and me both! I nearly had a second plate right in a row, but then decided to eat more at a different place… it’s just so good!