Monday, 30 July 2018

Nasi Ulam (Aromatic Rice Salad)


This rice salad is something that I wanted to make for a very, very long time. I never got round to it because as with nonya dishes, there is always a long tedious process with the assembling of many components.

It's not just a matter of adding aromatic herbs to the rice because that by itself would not make this salad outstanding at all.


Let me share with you the secret weapon to a good nasi ulam. It's none other than....wait for it........salted fish! An ingredient that my mum bans from her kitchen because it is reputed to be carcinogenic. Taken too often in the long run can cause cancer. I reckon if we take it once in a while, it should not be an issue.



Like it or not, salted fish fried until very crispy and then finely chopped gives the kapow! to nasi ulam.


The other supporting ingredients equally crucial to an awesome nasi ulam are kerisik (toasted grated coconut), toasted belacan (shrimp paste) and dried prawns  (hae bee). 

The kerisik and belacan are pounded together while the dried prawns are soaked to soften, pounded and dry fried. All these are mixed with the rice and finely shredded herbs.


You don't need any salt or dressing as the salted fish and belacan are adequate to flavor the rice. As for the herbs, you can use as many varieties or as little as you like. For this nasi ulam, I used daun selasih (basil), kesum (laksa leaves), bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), mint, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and thinly sliced shallots.


Make extra kerisik because more toasted coconut never hurts and it adds loads of aroma and flavor. To make kerisik, refer to my old post here and stop at the part where you get the toasty brown crispy coconut.


As some of you may guess, yes, for the rice I used a mix of rice and grated cauliflower. That way, I feel less guilt for indulging in a big bowl of nasi ulam

If you get yourself organized, making this rice salad may not be so tedious. You could make some of the components earlier in the day. Kerisik and the dry fried pounded dried prawns can be made in advance and kept in an air tight container.

Toss the rice and all the ingredients just before serving. You can't do it too far in advance because the kerisik will soften and become fibrous. Besides, some of the herbs may discolor.


I'm really glad that I finally made nasi ulam and it proved to be a very satisfying meal. The mingling of toasted coconut, salted fish, dried prawns and aromatic herbs made for a mind blowing experience. Wow. You have got to try this.

Nasi Ulam (Aromatic Rice Salad)
Recipe source : Adapted from Nonya Flavors

Note : The amounts are agak-agak (estimates, so use your own judgement)

Ingredients :
- 3 cups cooked rice*
- 1 piece salted fish
- 4 heaped tbsp dried prawns, soaked to soften
- 6 heaped tbsp kerisik
- 1 heaped tsp toasted belacan
- shredded fresh herbs - daun selasih, kesum, mint, kaffir lime leaves, bunga kantan, lemongrass and thinly sliced shallot

Method :
1. Fry the salted fish until very crispy and chop finely.
2. Pound 2 tbsp kerisik with belacan to form a paste.
3. Pound the dried prawns until fine and dry fry until browned.
4. To assemble, in a mixing bowl add rice, chopped crispy salted fish, kerisik and belacan paste, dried prawns, remaining kerisik and shredded herbs and toss to mix everything together. Serve.

*I used 1 cup brown rice and 2 cups grated cauliflower. I microwaved the grated cauliflower for 1 minute at 30 second intervals.

Note : It's a good idea to make extra kerisik to garnish the nasi ulam.

18 comments:

  1. Never tasted such rice before. Reminded me of nasi kerabu, with the herbs and ingredients.

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  2. Thanks for sharing the secrets to Nasi Ulam! If I ever need to explain it to someone, I’ll point them to this page! :D extra kerisik for me too - I’m not usually a fan of salted fish, but it’s intriguing how it’s indispensible for this recipe :)

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    1. You are most welcome! Without salted fish, this nasi ulam would be missing that special something.

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  3. Omg, I'd love to EAT this nasi ulam....not MAKE it! ^o^ I actually don't mind going through a tedious process to get something so tasty. I can do all the steps except the herbs since I don't have a garden to pick them from and would have to buy a sizeable quantity of each to make this (after that I don't know what to do with the extra herbs). By the way, what type of salted fish did you use to get them all so nice and crispy. The ones I know are the ones they use in claypot chicken rice (mui heong is super expensive these days) and those salted fish you can flake but can't get them crispy like that.

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    Replies
    1. I have updated my post to show you the salted fish. It's very flat and thin, so it can easily crisp up.

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    2. Aiyo *shy shy*, thanks for updating the post just for me. Oh, these ones...I've seen it sometimes at Malay mixed rice stalls fried till crispy (and I've seen some people take it with some kind of fresh ulam leaves and have it with their rice). These ones are definitely not expensive like mui heong! ^_~

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    3. No worries. That's the best way to show you hee..hee... Yes, these are cheap. Something like RM2 something a packet.

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  4. I love to eat this too. I was confused a while with your photo as I thought Nasi Ulam looked a bit different. Your nasi ulam is very common in Thailand which they call it "Khao Yam" and they would put black saltish sauce gravy. I could imagine your mum's secret salt fish that could enhance the taste!
    Now I am drooling and thinking hard where to find the nearest Malay stall that could be selling exactly like yours.

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    Replies
    1. I would love to try the Thai version if I can find it here.

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  5. That looks so good, bet it is heaps nicer than my failed attempt to come out with the dish on my own. So disappointing. Sobsssss!!!!

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    Replies
    1. You try making again and make sure you add the salted fish that you always mention. It will be a success!

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  6. I know your nasi ulam is to die for after reading what you put into it and it is something all the money in the world cannot buy because you are not selling it. :(

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    Replies
    1. Ah! It's a lot of work so I would forgo the opportunity to sell it hah...hah...

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  7. I love nasi ulam. Used to enjoy nasi ulam very often when I was still working. Can't find nice nasi ulam now. Your nasi ulam has so many nice ingredients. Yummy!

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  8. I am a rice person and I like salted fish too, so I am sure I will love this nasi ulam of yours which looks so appetizing

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