Nasi Lemak with Sambal Chilli Ikan Bilis

Nasi Lemak is a favourite malay customary dish as well as a national dish of Malaysia. Not only a very simple dish to make but it has an enormous amount of flavour.  Nasi Lemak exactly means “rice in cream”, essentially rice cooked in coconut milk or cream with pandan (screwpine) leaves, sometimes with ginger or lemon grass added for the pungent flavour. Then the coconut rice is served on a plate lined with banana leave together with other condiments like hard boiled eggs, fried anchovies, toasted or roasted peanuts, sambal chilli with anchovies and sliced cucumber. The sugar and tamarind (Assam) added give the sambal chilli sauce a sweet and tasty flavour. For my gluten free recipe, I am cooking basmati rice in coconut milk with pandan leaves, ginger and salt. My side dishes include sambal chilli anchovies, toasted peanuts, fried crispy anchovies, hard boiled eggs and cucumber. This recipe is gluten free, soy free and dairy free. For nasi lemak special like the ones served in many Malaysian chain restaurants all over the world, simply add chicken curry or beef rendang. This recipe is not only naturally gluten free, it is also dairy free, soy free and corn free.

Gluten Free Nasi Lemak

Normally, nasi lemak is served in Malaysia as a street food or hawker food, with the rice and accompaniments wrapped in banana leaves with brown paper or newspaper. Traditionally, a favourite breakfast dish, but now its available all day for any meals. Due to the popularity of this dish, there are a big variety of side dishes served by many different chefs or home cooks according to their preferences. Some examples are chicken curry, fried chicken pieces, beef rendang, sambal prawns or sotong (calamari), fried eggs, small fried fish like yellowtail scad (yellow trevally fish) or sardine, and assam (tamarind) prawns. Other vegetarian side dishes are sambal kangkong (water spinach), long beans and achar (pickled vegetables) are also available. Malaysian Chinese will also add Hakka braised pork with woodear black fungus mushroom.

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak with Sambal Chilli Ikan Bilis

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Author: Daphne Goh


For the Coconut Rice:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 270 ml gluten free canned coconut milk
  • 6 cm peeled ginger halved and crushed
  • 3 pandan leaves screwpine, tied into knot
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Extra virgin olive oil for pan frying
  • 100 g 3.5oz dried split anchovies (Ikan Bilis)
  • 1 large oriental cucumber thinly sliced crosswise
  • 375 g 13oz red skin peanuts
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs refer relevant recipe, cut into halves

For the Spice Paste:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small brown onion cut into wedges
  • 3 long fresh red chillies deseeded and cut into 3cm pieces
  • 15 small dried red chillies deseeded
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the Sambal Chilli Anchovies:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 g 3.5ozpan fried dried split anchovies (Ikan Bilis)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 French onion shallots
  • 2 medium onions thinly sliced into rings
  • 3 cm ginger peeled and finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind puree or paste
  • 2 tablespoons stevia or raw brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water


For the coconut rice:

  • Wash the basmati rice and cook in an electric rice cooker by adding extra virgin olive oil, water, coconut milk, ginger, pandan leaves and mix well. Use chopsticks to fluff up the rice. Keep warm in the rice cooker. Alternatively, you can also steam the rice in a wok or steamer.

For the condiments:

  • Heat up a large non-stick frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil on high heat. Pan fry the dried anchovies on medium to low heat until lightly brown and crispy. You can pan fry the anchovies in 2 batches if preferred. Remove and drain the cooked anchovies in a sieve. Set aside 100g (3.5oz) for condiments and 100g (3.5oz) for the sambal chilli anchovies. Clean pan with kitchen paper towel.
  • Heat up the large non-stick frying pan with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and toast all the peanuts on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the peanuts are lightly brown and cooked through. Clean pan with kitchen paper towel.

For the spice paste:

  • Add the ingredients for the spice paste into a food processor and blend until you get a smooth paste. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle if preferred.

For the sambal chilli anchovies:

  • Heat up the non-stick frying pan again with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium to high heat. Pan fry the garlic, shallots, onion and ginger on low to medium heat until the garlic are lightly golden and onion are caramelised.
  • Then add in the spice paste, tamarind paste or puree, sugar and salt and pan fry for 3 minutes on medium heat until the spice paste is aromatic. Add in the water and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Lastly, add in the pan fried dried anchovies, stir and mix well with the sambal chilli. Turn off the heat, remove and set aside in a bowl.

For serving the nasi lemak:

  • Use a small bowl to shape the coconut rice and place on center of a serving plate. Serve with some sambal chilli anchovies, eggs, some pan fried anchovies, toasted peanuts and cucumber.


Dried split anchovies and small dried red chillies can be purchased from Asian groceries stores. Split anchovies means they have been cleaned, heads removed and split into halves.
Allergens: Anchovies, eggs and peanuts.
Nutrition Facts
Nasi Lemak with Sambal Chilli Ikan Bilis
Serving Size
6 g
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Did you make this recipe?Tag me on Instagram @healthygfasian or tag #healthygfasian!

Nasi Lemak with Sambal Ikan Bilis

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