Nasi Ulam (Rice Salad)
Loosely translated from Malay to English as ‘rice salad’, Nasi Ulam is a traditional dish of aromatic herbed rice.
The dish involves mixing rice with finely-chopped fresh herbs and served with raw or blanched vegetables, with a dollop of fiery sambal belacan. The ingredients are chopped finely such that you get a bite of everything in one mouthful.
Nasi Ulam is usually prepared days in advance, as many of the herbs such as daun kesom (laksa leaves), torch ginger flower (rojak flower), kaffir lime leaves, daun kunyit (turmeric leaves), galangal and lemongrass must be thoroughly washed and dried, then shredded by hand or painstakingly chopped as finely as possible.
During preparation, the steamed rice must be cooled to room temperature to ensure that the herbs do not end up singeing and turning bitter. Raw greens such as delicately diced kacang botol (four-angled wing beans), long beans and cucumber are then added for extra crunch and freshness, but only at the last minute to retain the pleasantly raw, exquisite herb and vegetable flavours.
For many Peranakan families, this dish is only prepared for special occasions. The long list of ingredients and laborious prep work required in finely slicing all the ingredients also means that it is rarely served by hawkers or in restaurants. However, there are still some dedicated to sharing Nasi Ulam’s goodness, ensuring the dish lives on. For instance, the dish is served in limited quantities at Chendol Melaka, a stall tucked away in at the Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop along Upper East Coast Road.
Tastiness aside, Nasi Ulam delights us with the care and craftsmanship that go into its preparation. Have you tried Nasi Ulam before?
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