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The Nasi Lemak Experience

If you’re a foreigner who has never been to Malaysia and you’re planning a trip here and wondering what is a classic Malaysian cuisine you should try, here’s one. Nasi Lemak. Let me take some time to explain what the Nasi Lemak is, ok? ‘Nasi’ means rice. ‘Lemak’ means fats. In essence, Nasi Lemak is a kind of rice that will make you fat! Ha ha ha ha! While the Nasi Lemak is named in one of the most unattractive and unappetizing way possible, it’s absolutely delicious. If you’re here in Malaysia for a bit and want to try something that you can’t go wrong with, go for Nasi Lemak….it’s a classic. The reason why Nasi Lemak is called precisely that is that the rice is fragrantly cooked with pandan leaves and the curry (yes, it can get bloody spicy) is cooked in POTS and POTS of coconut milk.

Fattening? Yeah….a little. But it’s worth the extra inches on the butt.

For some reason, Malaysians like to eat Nasi Lemak a lot especially for breakfast. You can get Nasi Lemak, the small ones packed tight inside some leaves and brown paper on the roadside on the way to work or something. They even sell Nasi Lemak in 7-11 these days, you know. All the convenience stores also carry them for office workers who are in a hurry. Don’t expect a lot from the roadside Nasi Lemaks because inside, you’ll find a spoonful of rice with some fried anchovies, some nuts and sambal (yummy, fragrant and sweet chili paste).

While Nasi Lemak is part of the Malaysian staple diet, there’s a lot the people selling it can do to improve their service. One morning, I was done fetching my two kids to school wee hours in the morning. On the way back, there are two stalls selling Nasi Lemak side by side. I approached the two stalls of nasi lemak sellers and picked the one nearer to me because….she was nearer to me. The Nasi Lemak was selling for RM1 per packet – I didn’t have any smaller notes with me so I handed the woman RM10 for change. The makcik (old woman) looked at me like I just handed her someone’s toe! “Takdak kecik ka, cik? Ini besar lah!” (Don’t have smaller change? This is too big a denomination). Look, if I had it, I would’ve handed it to you, bitch. Don’t want my business, is it?

The traffic was piling up behind me.

I answered her with wide eyes (and my eyes are big, ok?) “Tak mau ah? Bagi balik” (Don’t want? Give me back my money), I nodded towards her competitor sitting next stall and squinted at my RM1 in her hands. She grumbled a bit here and there and I can feel the drivers behind me were itching to blare their horns already. She finally fished out RM9 from her waist-bag and sheepishly handed me back my change without my Nasi Lemak. I did a palms-up, clucking her tongue she grabbed one, plonked it into a plastic bag and threw it into the passenger seat.

I wonder how these people act when there’s a foreigner buying from them. Surely a lot different, right?

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