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Nasi Lemak, here served with fish cake, ikan bilis, egg, and buah keluak chicken.
Nasi lemak is a dish that is commonly sold in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Southern Thailand. In fact, it has been called the national dish of Malaysia (though such claim is unheard of outside of Kuala Lumpur). In the East Coast of Malaysia, Terengganu and Kelantan, their version is called Nasi Dagang although this claim is never acknowledged by anyone as both dishes can usually be found sold side by side for breakfast. There is a similar dish in Indonesia called nasi uduk.
With roots in Malay culture, its name is a Malay word that literally means 'rice in cream'. The name is derived from the cooking process whereby rice is soaked in rich coconut cream and then the mixture steamed. Sometimes knotted screwpine (pandan) leaves are thrown into the rice while steaming to give it more fragrance. Spices such as ginger (common in Malay cuisine) and occasionally herbs like lemon grass may be added for additional fragrance.
Traditionally, this comes as a platter with cucumber slices, small dried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, stir fried water convolvulus (kangkong), hard boiled egg, pickled vegetables (achar) and hot spicy sauce (sambal). Nasi lemak can also come with any other accompaniments such as chicken, cuttlefish, cockle, beef curry (beef stewed in coconut milk and spices) or paru (beeflungs). Traditionally most of these accompaniments are spicy in nature.
Nasi Lemak can be found widely in Malaysia. Even the primary food that is sold to students at Malaysian Schools are also Nasi Lemak. Nasi lemak is traditionally a breakfast dish, and it is sold early in the morning at roadside stalls in Malaysia, where it is often sold packed in newspaper, brown paper or banana leaf. However, there are restaurants which serve it on a plate as noon or evening meals, making it possible for the dish to be treated as a delicacy. Nasi lemak panas which means hot nasi lemak is another name given to nasi lemak served with hot cooked rice.
 Different versions
Due to its fame and widespread availability, Nasi Lemak comes in different versions if prepared by different chefs. Hotels have nasi lemak on their menu with elaborate dishes, such as beef rendangs and the addition of other seafood, while humble roadside stalls also sell them ready packed, known as "Nasi Lemak Bungkus" which literally means "Wrapped Nasi Lemak" which contain minimal additions that costs between Ringgit Malaysia 1 to 7 per pack. Due to Malaysia and Singapore being multi-racial, both the Malaysian/Singaporean Chinese and Malaysian/Singaporean Indians have come up with their own versions.
 Malaysian Indian version
The Malaysian Indian version is very similar to the original version but as Hindus cannot consume beef, it is omitted. Even Malaysian Indian-Muslim restaurants, or more known as mamaks, refuse to serve beef in their premises, citing Hindu customers, to solve this problem usually people will replace beef meal with dishes made from fish, beef curry would then be replaced with fish curry.
 Malaysian Chinese version
Although it is not common to see Malaysian Chinese stalls/restaurants selling nasi lemak, in towns and cities such as Malacca and certain parts of Kuala Lumpur, there are Malaysian Chinese versions of Nasi Lemak which is non-halal as the Malaysian Chinese version normally contains pork in place of beef and/or other meat, with the chilli more spicy. Some Malaysian Chinese hawkers are known to make minced-pork sambal.
 Vegetarian version
In certain parts of Kuala Lumpur some Malaysian Chinese and Malay hawkers have started nasi lemak stalls that offer vegetarian nasi lemak, with the sambal prepared totally without meat.