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Healthier Nasi Lemak

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

Nasi Lemak is an iconic dish throughout Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. There are literally thousands upon thousands of variations, from Nyonya Peranakan to Johor style to Singapore style to Medan style of Nasi Lemak. All have their own uniqueness. But today, I am making my grandma's recipe with a twist.

A twist that is inspired by Chef Saúl Schwarz. When I saw his video popped up on my feed, I knew that I have to give his idea a try. Check out his Instagram and Tiktok, give him a follow while you are at it.

My grandma's recipe is her usage of carbonated water and fresh coconut milk. She explained that carbonated water actually makes the rice lighter and fluffier. I know I couldn't get any fresh coconut in this modern age, so, if you have access, please use fresh coconut milk.

So, what makes this a healthier version of Nasi Lemak? We all know that most of the ingredients are mostly deep fried, from the sambal ikan bilis to the chicken and fish. But in this recipe, the chicken is actually boiled with the marinade.

I added some tips along the way in the directions down below. The tips are to prevent a disastrous mess in the kitchen. Be sure to read and understand before proceeding.



(Serve 4)

  • Marinade:

  • Banana Leaves, 1 Large + More For Plating

  • Dried Shrimps, 1 TBSP

  • Dried Scallops, 1 TBSP

  • Dried Anchovies, 1 TBSP

  • Shallots Coarsely Chopped, 4

  • Red Onion Coarsely Chopped, 1

  • Garlic Coarsely Chopped, 3 Cloves

  • Ginger Coarsely Chopped, 1"

  • Sambal, 2 Heaped TBSP Adjust To Preference

  • Pandan Leaves Tied Into Knot, 4

  • Lemongrass White Part Only Crushed, 1

  • Kecap Manis, 1 TBSP

  • Tamarind Juice, 1 TBSP

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • Gula Melaka, Pinch

  • Chicken:

  • Chicken Breasts Skinless Boneless, 2 Large

  • Baking Soda, 1 TSP

  • Nasi Lemak:

  • Star Anise, 1

  • Cloves, 3

  • Hexa Food's Cinnamon Stick, 1

  • High Quality Olive Oil, 1 TBSP + 1 TBSP

  • Yellow Onion Finely Minced, 1

  • Sea Salt, Pinch

  • Gula Melaka, Pinch

  • Garlic Finely Minced, 3 Cloves

  • Ginger Finely Minced, 1/2"

  • Pandan Leaves Tied Into Knot, 3

  • Lemongrass White Part Only Crushed, 1

  • Rice Preferably Basmati or Jasmine, 220g

  • Carbonated Water, 200g

  • Coconut Milk, 125g

  • Garnishes:

  • Pickled Cucumbers, Onions & Chilies, A Couple Each



  • Cast Iron Skillet

  • Large Pot

  • Blender

  • 2 Large Mason Jars

  • Rice Cooker

  • Spice Grinder



  1. Please visit my "How To Make Sambal" page for the recipe.

  2. Please visit my "How To Pickle Almost Anything" page for the recipe.

  3. Prepare the marinade.

  4. Wash banana leaves thoroughly and pad them dry with a kitchen towel.

  5. Lightly toast the leaves over an open fire.

  6. Cut the leaves into strips, just wide enuff to slide into the 4 sides of the jars.

  7. Slide the leaves into the jars, covering 4 sides. Set aside.

  8. Add shrimps, scallops and anchovies into a bowl.

  9. Add just enuff water to submerge and steam on medium for 10 mins.

  10. While steaming, add shallots, onion, garlic and ginger into a blender.

  11. Add just enuff water to get the blender blitzing.

  12. Blitz until smooth.

  13. After 10 mins, drain and discard the liquid. Add the dried seafood into the blender.

  14. Blitz until well combined and smooth.

  15. Transfer this mixture into a skillet. Turn the heat up to medium.

  16. Add in sambal and stir to combine well.

  17. Add in pandan leaves, lemongrass, kecap manis and tamarind.

  18. Mix until well combined.

  19. Season with salt and gula melaka.

  20. Give it a final stir, remove from heat and set aside to cool down completely.

  21. Prepare the chicken.

  22. Dice the chicken breasts into 1" cubes and transfer them into a large bowl.

  23. Add in baking soda, massage, coating the chicken well.

  24. Set aside for 15 mins.

  25. After 15 mins, wash the chicken thoroughly under running water.

  26. Transfer into a large bowl.

  27. Add in the sambal marinade and massage onto the chicken, coating well.

  28. Transfer the chicken into the prepared mason jars, including any leftover marinade.

  29. Marinate chilled in the fridge overnight.

  30. The next day, prepare the rice.

  31. Toast star anise, cloves and Hexa Food's cinnamon in a skillet until aromatic.

  32. Transfer into a spice grinder and blitz until powder forms. Set aside.

  33. In the same skillet over medium heat, add 1 TBSP of olive oil.

  34. Once the oil is heated up, add in the onion.

  35. Season with salt and gula melaka.

  36. Saute until lightly caramelized.

  37. Add in garlic, ginger, pandan leaves and lemongrass.

  38. Saute until aromatic.

  39. Deglaze with 1 TBSP of olive oil.

  40. Remove from heat and set aside.

  41. Wash rice under running water and drain.

  42. Repeat the washing process about 5 times or until the water is clear.

  43. Drain and add in all the onion mixture, including the pandan leaves and lemongrass.

  44. Add in the carbonated water and coconut milk.

  45. Season with salt and give it a stir to combine well.

  46. Cook in a rice cooker as per the manufacturer's instructions.

  47. While the rice is cooking, cook the marinated chicken.

  48. Lay kitchen towel in a large pot.

  49. *Make sure the towel sits inside the pot and not overhanging as it may catch fire during the cooking process.*

  50. Add in the jars of marinated chicken.

  51. Fill the pot with water, leaving the jars about 1" above water.

  52. *This will allow enuff air to circulate within the jars and prevent the jars from exploding.*

  53. Bring the water up to a rolling boil.

  54. Boil for 15 to 20 mins. Start the timer only when the water is boiling.

  55. *Use a large enuff pot to accommodate the water and jars, or the water will overflow and cause a huge mess.*

  56. Remove the jars from heat and carefully unlid.

  57. Transfer into a large bowl.

  58. The rice would've been cooked too. Fluff the rice.

  59. Lay some banana leaves onto serving plates.

  60. Spoon the rice onto the leaves.

  61. Add the chicken and some of the sauce over the rice.

  62. Garnish with some pickling veg and chilies.

  63. Serve immediately.


Recipe Video:

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Guru s
Oct 17, 2022

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