We were definitely feeling homesick this January, when we decided on a whim, if I might add, to host a Nasi Lemak Dinner Party at our place for some friends. For those of you who aren’t aware of this, nasi lemak is a quintessential dish in Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine. Essentially, it is coconut milk (lemak) rice (nasi) that’s eaten with a variety of condiments such as ikan bilis (dried anchovies), sambal (a type of chilli sauce), hard-boiled egg and roasted peanuts. More modern and gluttony takes have us adding tonnes of goodies such as fried chicken wings, fried fish, sunny-side-ups, to the meal. Nothing pleases me more than a sumptuous plate of nasi lemak, with angiograms in food guises, stacked on top.
We did this for our own consumption about 2 years ago and we pledged not to repeat the feat in a while, even though everything was fabulous and authentic as it could be in our kitchen. Doesn’t make sense? Not really, because nasi lemak takes a hell lot of work. To assemble that deceptively simple plate of nasi, a factory-esque production line is needed. Someone needs to fry up the sambal. Someone needs to fry up the wings. Someone needs to cook the rice. You get the gist. All this cooking has to be timed properly, because you want to serve a hot plate of calorific goodness to people, and man, it was hard to do this during winter.
The amount of work that goes into making ONE plate of nasi lemak is enough to put us off, however delicious it may be. So that’s why I said that we must have been terribly homesick and infinitely kind to want to serve up 6 heaving plates of nasi lemak to our equally homesick friends. I started frying up the sambal chilli, and that took me an hour. All that work for one small pot of spicy goodness. A portion of this chilli went into frying the ikan bilis, leaving too little left for the meal itself. M spent ages marinating the chicken wings, and frying them up to perfection. He fried them again to make them exceptionally crispy, so go figure on the time he took. I made pork satay from scratch, and again, that took me a long time. By the time we got to dinner, we were both exhausted, greasy and looking very unglamourous.
But all was worth it when our friends took a bite and declared our nasi lemak a success. I was thrilled when friends said the sambal chilli was the best ever, because I have been working on the recipe a couple of times over the years in London. M, ever the handsome chicken connoisseur, was equally stoked when the chicken wings literally flew off the serving plate. We felt so much better by the end of the meal, catching up with friends and talking about food over food (by the way, that’s very Singaporean…), knowing that we had served up something good to our friends. We went to bed belly happy that night.
Now now…let’s plan the next nasi lemak party. Who wants to help us with the chicken wings this time round? You get paid in nasi!
P/S: The pictures are a tad pixelated, my bad for not being able to take photos properly in dim light!