Nasi Ulam is my contribution to IMBB, Fouth Edition.
Nasi Ulam is the Malay name for Herbed Rice. It is a rice dish that contrasts the freshness of herbs with the pungency and strong flavours of ingredients like belacan (dried fermented shrimp paste), dried salted fish and dried shrimps. It goes well with kerabus (salads) and simply cooked seafood. It is also lighter than most other more well known Malay dishes such as nasi lemak, rendang or satay. As for its true origins, I've always thought Nasi Ulam is a Malay dish but like many dishes in South East Asia, other cultures also have their versions, especially the Peranakans. In fact, the recipe I used came from a Peranakan source, the "Nonya Flavours A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine", though in the usual fashion, I've tweaked it a little by adjusting the quantities of ingredients and adding some toasted almonds for a nutty bite.
This is an easy dish to assemble, but the ingredient list is rather long, which would explain why this dish is hardly seen in restaurants or hawker centres. I had to go to the Tekka Centre Wet Market to shop for most of the ingredients, especially the herbs. Another source may be the wet market in Geylang Serai, but most of the herbs would not be easily available in Singapore. I had to give up on finding one of the ingredients (daun cekur) as there wasn't any to be bought in the market. Shopping for the ingredients was a real education for me, it was really the first time I learn about kerisiks, for example. Kerisik is what Wati identified as the residue that is left after coconut has its oil extracted, this residue is then toasted and used as a condiment.
Ingredients (some quantities are vague, because it can be guess-timated according to personal taste):
4 cups of rice, cooked
Salted fish, about 10 g, fried, then cooled and shredded finely
Dried shrimps, about 1 big handful, fried and cooled
1 tbsp belacan, toasted
2 tbsp kerisik (toasted grated coconut), dry-toasted in a wok- this step is optional
Herbs ( Finely sliced)
1 serai (lemongrass), only the tender inner parts of the white end
1 bunga kantan (ginger flower)
3 stalks daun kesom (laksa leaves)
3 stalks basil leaves
3 stalks mint leaves
3-4 cekur leaves
6 kaduk leaves
1 turmeric leaf
1 kaffir lime leaf
1 cm fresh turmeric, finely chopped
pepper to taste
toasted almonds for garnish
In bowls, from top: Toasted almonds, fried dried shrimps, dried fish, kerisik.
In Metal dish: Herbs like turmeric leaf (long leaf lining one edge) and other ingredients like shallots, ginger flower, turmeric, lemongrass. Belacan in little dish. More herb detail in picture below.
Clockwise from top right hand corner: Daun Kaduk, Daun Kesom, mint, basil, Kaffir Lime leaves
1. Cook the rice first. Let it cool
2. Prepare the dry ingredients like dried prawns, belacan, kerisik and dried fish.
3. Slice the herbs finely and toss with the dry ingredients. Season with some pepper and if necessary, some salt and sugar. Sprinkle some toasted almonds on top.
I served it to my family with some tamarind prawns and icy cold tairu lassi, but it is delicious eaten as it is.