Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Steamed Rice with Fresh Herbs (Nasi Ulam)

Nasi Ulam which is a mixture of boiled/steamed rice and greens consisting vegetables, herbaceous plants, wild plants, shoots, leaves and stems (aka Kampung salad) is a signature dish of the Peranakans (also known as Baba-Nyonya) and the Malays. Some say Nasi Ulam is the Queen of all rice because of the nutritional value it carries and is almost fat free. Other than the rice which is boiled or steamed, everything else is raw in this dish. It is an inexpensive local dish and if you are adventurous, you might just find some of the herbs in thick shrubs around your neighbourhood.

I got most of my supply from a local sundry store and some from my own backyard. These herbs are very hardy and can be grown easily. If you don't harvest them often, they might encroach into your other plants or vegetables patch and slowly kill more fragile plants like mint and BokChoy 

Whenever I say a dish is simple, it usually implies that it is simple in obtaining the ingredients and preparation but I had a tough time deciding for Nasi Ulam. In essence this dish truly is a simple dish because it does not require any cooking but the amount of time taken in preparing the herbs was a tad too much for a lazy cook like me.

All herbs needed thorough washing, picking leaves from its stem, removing seeds (chili & lime) and chopped fine. If you try to quicken the process by using a food processor, you will not like the end result because these herbs will turn mushy or limp. So get you chopping board and chop, chop, chop away.

I even tried storing some chopped herbs in my fridge but after a day or two, they were limp and wet, making them undesirable to be eaten raw.  

Names in Malay language but worry not, there is a translation in the recipe below

Nasi Ulam after being mixed with freshly cooked white rice

The Recipe:
2-3 Limau Kasturi (Kalamansi)
Pudina (mint)
Daun Limau Purut (kafir lime leaves)
French beans
Red onions/shallots
Cili Padi (chili rice)
Kunyit (turmeric)
Daun Kesum (laksa leaf)
Serai (lemongrass stalk)
Bunga Kantan (ginger flower)
Raja Ulam (there isn't a proper translation for this leaf, sorry)

If you noticed, there isn't a proper measurement for the herbs in the recipe. That's because the amount of herbs required, depends on how much green you want in your rice. In general, most vegetables are between half cup to a cup. Yet, there is no specific metrics system to follow here. I just eye balled the amount of greens I wanted in this dish.

You start with steaming/boiling rice as per usual and chop all ingredients. Once rice has cooked, scoop out about a cup and a cup and half into a large bowl and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Then add all chopped herbs into the bowl and combine it well. Serve it with some fried fish or crackers. It is so good that you can eat it on its own, like a rice salad.

Hope you will enjoy making this as much as I did despite all the chopping. Oh yes! before I forget to mention, dealing with turmeric will turn your hands, chopping board, knife and even your clothes if you get them stained, to a bright yellow that will not wash off easily. So practise care when dealing with it.

If you liked what you saw but dislike rice for some health reasons, then you should try swapping the rice with garbanzo beans. Taste almost the same but double the benefits.

For more recipes head over to my Recipes Page
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  1. This looks and sounds so delicious! I also love garbanzo beans so looking forward to the next recipe! :-)

    1. Thank you! I just posted my recipe for garbanzo beans. Hope you will like that too ;)

  2. what do you do with the limau kasturi?