Nasi Ulam (Malay Fresh Herb Rice Salad)
Updated: Feb 11
Nasi Ulam is a delicious and healthy Malay dish made up of steamed rice, herbs, crunchy vegetables and salty aromatics. Herbs used are commonly found in traditional Malay and Indonesian cooking. Today, Nasi Ulam has been helmed a "Peranakan" dish however I'd argue that Peranakan dish does get it's original roots from Malay cuisine right? :)
In case you are still not convinced to try this dish - the traditional herbs used in this recipe has a whole bunch of health benefits, and nothing brings it out better than eating it raw. Think of Nasi Ulam as a "rice salad" - what's not to love?
Most of the herbs can be found in your local supermarket. And please don't stress if you don't have 100% of what's in this recipe. Get creative and add whatever you have at hand! Or if you are like me, invest in buying the plants for year-long access to these magical herbs! I have an excellent seller who supplies me with these herbs - reach out if you are keen for the contact (in Singapore).
Anyway, enjoy the slow and therapeutic process of chopping and stirring with this almost no-cook recipe!
Recipe feeds 4 persons. 40 minutes prep time, total "cook" time 50-55 minutes.
Aromatics - Set aside for frying/toasting
1/3 cup dried shrimp, soaked and pounded to fine powder
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup salted fish, finely chopped
6 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon belachan
Herbs & roots - Finely chop
6 betel leaves/ daun kadok
1/3 cup Thai basil
1/3 cup mint
1/3 cup Vietnamese mint/ daun kesom (used to make Assam Pedas)
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 bunch ulam raja leaves
1 stick lemongrass, white part only
1 cm knob of fresh turmeric
2 garlic cloves
1cm knob galangal
2 chili padi
1 cup long beans, chopped
Combine and mix
2-3 cups of day-old rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Black and white pepper
1. Prepare the salty aromatics.
Dried shrimp & belachan - Soak 1/3 cup dried shrimp in warm water and pound into a powder in a mortar and pestle. Add 1 teaspoon belachan and pound as well. Quickly dry fry on medium heat until flavours are released. Set aside for later.
Salted fish - Finely chop and dry fry on medium heat until flavours are released. Set aside for later.
2. Prepare the earthy ingredients.
Finely chop 1 stick lemongrass (white part only), 1cm knob of fresh turmeric, 2 garlic cloves, 1cm knob galangal & 2 chili padi. Set aside for later.
Finely chop 6 shallots and shallow fry with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once golden brown, remove from oil and set aside for later.
Dry fry 1/2 cup shredded coconut until golden brown. Set aside for later.
Finely chop 1 cup of long beans.
3. Prepare the fresh herbs.
Finely chop up your fresh herbs such as 6 betel leaves/ daun kadok, 1/3 cup Thai basil, 1/3 cup mint, 1/3 cup Vietnamese mint/ daun kesom (used to make Assam Pedas), 4 kaffir lime leaves, 1 bunch ulam raja leaves.
TIP: Place the largest leaf you have and gently layer on all other leaves into it. Roll it up tightly and chop finely. This method ensures a neat and easy way of chopping herbs of all sizes. You may need to do this a few times.
TIP: Do not stress if you do not have all the herbs! Use what you have such as commonly found parsley and coriander.
4. MIX IT UP!!
Gently mix up your ingredients IN LAYERS.
Follow these steps, mixing gently in between steps - In a large mixing bowl, add rice + long beans + salty aromatics + earthy root ingredients + shredded coconut + herbs + salt, sugar, pepper + garnish with fried shallots
TIP: Make sure your rice is cooled down to room temperature or it will cook the fresh herbs. We do not want cooked fresh herbs as it will reduce the health benefits and also reduce the deep flavours.
5. Serve at room temperature with whatever sides you like!
ALY'S COOKING TIPS
I will not begin to be an expert in this dish, but I know that some of the herbs found here can be quite tricky to get especially if you are out of Southeast Asia. My advice is to "not sweat the small stuff". If you have the majority of the salty aromatics, most of the roots and unable to find all the herbs... use whatever you have. It can be as simple as just Thai Basil, Coriander, Mint and Kaffir Lime leaves. I promise everything together will carry on the flavour :)
Use rice that has cooled down to room temperature. Remember that this is a rice salad. Hot rice will force the gentle herbs to cook and really change the overall flavours. So remember to never heat this dish up ok!
This dish is a umami flavour bomb and can be served on it's own or with whatever fixins' you have. It's honestly the perfect party food - prep beforehand, cook rice days ahead and mix when your guests arrive! Serious table wow factor!