5 times nasi lemak defied our expectations of what it should be

5 times nasi lemak defied our expectations of what it should be
PHOTO: McDonald's, Tiana Kitchen

*List last updated July 17, 2017.

Singaporeans and Malaysians can't seem to get enough of nasi lemak, with the latter even claiming it as their national dish.

And what's not to like about the fragrant pandan-scented coconut rice dish?

In its most basic form, the rice is eaten with some fried ikan bilis (anchovies) and peanuts, omelette, and the quintessential spicy-sweet sambal (chilli paste), all nicely wrapped up in a banana leaf.

In fact, some believe the nasi lemak even had a fashion 'moment' in Paris, when Jean Paul Gaultier sent a clutch which looked like the banana leaf-wrapped dish down the runway, way back in 2010.

As proof of how much we love nasi lemak, creative home cooks and chefs both here and across the Causeway have also pushed the boundaries of the dish.

Here are 5 times the humble nasi lemak transcended the ordinary:

1. Nasi Lemak Burger

McDonald's has finally done it - by putting the nasi lemak on a menu that is, albeit in a different form. The Nasi Lemak Burger features a coconut-infused fried chicken thigh sandwiched between semolina buns, and comes complete with sambal, fried egg, cucumbers and even caramelised onions. How about an 'A' for effort? The burger, which was launched July 13 for a limited time only, has so far gotten mostly positive reviews, with some complaints about the saltiness and coconut flavour. For a nasi lemak fan, I had hoped to love it, but unfortunately, it's just not for me.

on Twitter

2. Nasi Lemak Cube

It is a cute squarish block, which some may mistake for a slice of cake or a piece of art, but nasi lemak it is, though not as we know it.

The nasi lemak cube ($2.90 each) is the brainchild of the owners at Food Anatomy, located at Tanjong Pagar Centre which sells food in cuboid form. Other dishes on the menu include chicken rice, Thai basil rice, and laksa pasta.

Their version of the nasi lemak comes with layers of coconut and pandan-infused rice, egg, and an otah, topped off with a dollop of sambal (the ikan bilis were missing when we were there).

Taste-wise, it still retains the flavours of the dish, and the meaty otah had a deliciously spicy kick. However, due to its compacted nature, much of the fluffiness of the rice - an essential component of a good nasi lemak, we think, was gone.

3. Nasi Lemak 'Cake'

Here's an idea on what to get someone who doesn't have a sweet tooth for his birthday.

It looks like a birthday cake, but we're pretty sure a whiff and taste of this will reveal it is anything but.

This nasi lemak on steroids features a mound of rice layered with egg, and topped with sambal, ikan bilis and peanuts, decorated with cucumber slices around the cake for good measure.

The combination was created by Tiana Kitchen, a home-based caterer based in the Kuala Lumpur area.

Customers can even choose their own toppings, which includes sambal sotong (cuttlefish), sambal prawn and sambal petai (bitter bean).

The basic nasi lemak cake is being sold for RM58 (S$18.40), while a cake with any of the three toppings is RM78 (S$24.75).

4. Nasi Lemak Ice Cream

Sambal on ice cream? Yes, and egg and ikan bilis to boot.

Malaysian Melissa Tan Chia Hui, 25, took three months to come up with the "perfect" nasi lemak flavour for her ice cream, Bernama reported in January 2017.

Her creation, available for RM10 (S$3.20) a cup at a cafe in Alor Setar, has become a hit among fellow Malaysians, though it was definitely not for everybody.

on Twitter

This was not the first time nasi lemak ice-cream appeared in Malaysia. Cielo Dolci cafe in Kuala Lumpur launched the flavour in 2012, when "nobody wanted to try it".

It seems like the flavour is finally catching on. There was also a stall selling nasi lemak ice-cream at Kuching Festival Fair 2016.

5. Jean Paul Gaultier's 'nasi lemak' clutch

No, this is not a food item, but surely a nod to the cultural significance of the dish.

The French designer's one-of-a-kind creation weaved its way into runway fashion during his Spring 2010 couture show, where supermodel Karlie Kloss had the honour of carrying the green bag that looks just like our beloved banana leaf-wrapped nasi lemak.

Photo: Internet, Twitter

The image resurfaced in November last year, as social media users from Singapore tickled by the uncanny resemblance, began retweeting photos of the bag.

on Twitter

We're still not sure if Gaultier did take inspiration from the dish, but the fashion house probably wouldn't have guessed that this bag would go on to become a much-talked about item, six years later.

This is definitely a must-have fashion accessory only for die-hard nasi lemak fans, though.

candicec@sph.com.sg

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