"Gourmandism is an act of judgement, by which we prefer things which have a pleasant taste to those which lack this quality." – Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Home-cooked Nasi Ulam

Mum rarely makes this and it has been more than 5 years since we last had this. It is tedious as there are many different spices to prepare. But it’s definitely worth the effort as it tastes superb!!

Nasi Ulam is a traditional mildly spiced rice salad, popularly enjoyed amongst Penang nyonyas and babas. It is prepared with a combination of cooked rice, fried salted fish, fried fish, dried shrimps (or fried fresh prawns), pepper, roasted grated coconut and local herbal leaves. Usually served cold together with other traditional dishes such as pickles, curries, sambal belacan, etc.

It’s quite troublesome to gather and chop up so many herbs but the dish is so absolutely fragrant and delicious, served with sambal belacan that it’s worth the effort.

Recipe (serves 4)

2 cups (280 g rice, washed and drained)
2 1/4 cups (450 ml) water
1 chicken stock cube

3 tablespoons dried shrimps, soaked, fried and finely pounded
1/2 cup finely pounded roasted, grated coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
salt to taste
20 g salted fish meat (“ikan kurau”), soaked to reduce saltiness and drained
300 g batang fish (deep fried and flake)
200 g small prawns (fried)
oil for shallow frying

3 stalks lemon grass, thinly sliced
2 bulbs ginger flowers, finely shredded
8 ” limau purut” leaves (kaffir lime leaves) finely shredded
1 ” daun kunyit” (turmeric leaves) finely shredded
2 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves 2 tablespoon finely shredded daun kesum (polygon um leaves)


1) In an electric rice cooker, place ingredients A and blend well.
2) Cook covered until rice is done. Uncovered and fluff rice, cool.
3) Meanwhile, heat oil and fry salted fish until crisp and lightly brown. Drain and pound until fine. Fry the fish, flake. And then fry the prawns.
4) In bowl, combine salted fish, ingredients B, C and rice. Toss and mix well all ingredients.
5) Serve immediately, if desired as an accompaniment to chicken curry.

Making the Sambal Belacan

30 g shrimp paste (belacan)
8 red chillies
1/2 teaspoon salt


1) Grill shrimp paste until aromatic and dry.
2) Blend the red chillies, shrimp paste and salt together until quite smooth.
3) Use as required in the recipe.
4) If serving the above sambal as a condiment, add in 1-2 tablespoon of freshly squeezed small limes juice.


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