Malaysia’s National Food ‘Rice in Cream’ – Astounding Flavors at Nasi Lemak Tanglin
Nasi Lemak is one of Malaysia’s most well-loved and easily recognizable foods – well worth the title of Malaysia’s National Food.
Serving quite possibly tens of millions of breakfast plates a day actually, from the South of Thailand, through Malaysia, and all the way to Singapore, this perfect simplicity of ‘Rice in Cream’ is nearly impossible to beat.
One of the best versions you’ll ever have is at Nasi Lemak Tanglin, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and it is this restaurant I want to tell you all about right now!
Nasi Lemak Tanglin
Nasi Lemak Tanglin is part of a section of stalls all selling Malaysian style breakfast and lunch foods.
We visited the restaurant on a Friday, and the parking lot was absolutely packed – we had to make four or five laps before finding a single spot.
Each stall has their own specialty dish, and plenty of them look absolutely delicious as well – but we have it on good advice from local friends, Nasi Lemak Tanglin is the one you just have to visit.
Rain or Shine, Nasi Lemak Tanglin sells out Daily
An awning was being extended to protect customers from any rain, as hundreds of people moved in to find tables in the seating area.
All these people, and it was only 10 AM!
Friends recommending this restaurant give a guarantee that the Nasi Lemak stalls finish their rice and all the ingredients every day without fail – so you have to be sure and arrive before its actually time for lunch (it often sells out by 1130am).
There is usually a live band, playing pop music (local Malay’s own style of “Pop Yeh Yeh”), so arriving early and sitting to wait for a short time is not so bad at all.
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A Few Different Ingredients
Not only is Nasi Lemak what most Malaysians call their ‘comfort food,’ its also the national dish of the country itself.
Nasi Lemak is a traditional dish, its made with just a few basic ingredients, but I love seeing how Malays still so obviously love it to this day.
By the way, for budget travel, Nasi Lemak is also one of the more friendly ways to enjoy local food when traveling anywhere in Malaysia.
‘Nasi Lemak’ literally means ‘fat rice,’ but the dish itself has so incredibly much variety throughout Malaysia that there couldn’t be a more simple or underestimating name.
The rice comes first, using coconut milk to soften while cooking, and pandan leaf to give it the recognizable and gentle fragrance.
Necessary ingredients include something salty, and something else that’s crunchy, and in most cases this will be salted fish, fried peanuts, and a few crunchy cucumbers.
Finally, the sambal, which may appear at first glance to be quite basic, is actually very time consuming, and tricky to make. Its usually a little spicy, sometimes tangy, and also sweet if it includes a fruit ingredient, and the sambal is there to just mix in with the rice, and tie everything together.
How To Order
Walk over to the counter in the food court area, and wait in line for a plate of white rice.
Choose from a selection of curries, and don’t be at all surprised if your plate is immediately too small for all the things you want to try.
A staff member will ladle out your choice of curries and meat onto your rice, you can just pay here conveniently while they’re still holding your plate for you.
Note: Although some people might miss the traditional banana leaf serving style of the Nasi Lemak meal, a plate is both reusable, cutting down on waste, and is much quicker to handle as well. You are helping to take part in both Malaysia’s attempt to ban single-use plastics, as well as their efforts to stop the excess cutting of banana trees in protected jungle areas.
Always Ask for Extra Spleen
One of our friends claims the cockles as his favorite, but another says that he can’t visit without have at least one spoonful of ‘kolong’ (beef intestines and spleen).
Therefore, I just had to go with the spleen, which was just so incredibly rich, and almost mushily creamy in texture – a great recommendation. It is so flavorful after being covered as well with a thick dark brown curry sauce on top, and I advise you to always ask for extra of the spleen when you visit Tanglin as well.
Finally, I chose to have Rendang (also made with beef), and I asked for the curry made with the Rendang as my ‘bonus ladle’ of curry broth (which the chef will just dump over any exposed bits of white rice still visible on your plate).
Throw on an egg of course, because just about every food in the world, definitely including Nasi Lemak, is better when you add on a fried egg.
Mix it in, getting the flavors deep into the rice with your fingers, always eating Malay-style when in Malaysia. The flavor is just so much more warm and full that way, the curry broth coating each and every individual grain of rice in ways that eating with a fork or spoon just can’t capture.
The Restaurant Experience
This is really a great place to come for a weekday lunch, very lively but also still very relaxing at the same time. Its wonderful setting to just enjoy a great fill of purely local food.
It doesn’t get much more local more delicious for early lunch in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia than a visit to Nasi Lemak Tanglin.
It seems to be common to have live music at lunch restaurants throughout Kuala Lumpur, the live music making for quite an enjoyable lunchtime experience. Sitting outside in the open space, relaxing under the tents amidst incredible jungle views is a wonderful way to take your mid-day break.
Don’t Miss Nasi Lemak Tanglin
Nasi Lemak Tanglin is a restaurant that stands out in my mind among all the gorgeous street food in the city of KL. Although they serve pretty much an exact set of the ‘standard’ meal of Nasi Lemak, they also have so many more wonderful meats and curries to go piling on top of your rice as well.
I love the mix of both the traditional Nasi Lemak style ingredients, but also the large array of trays servings meats, curries, and fresh and steamed vegetables, that diversity for me is reason to visit this restaurant.
Don’t miss having at least one meal of Nasi Lemak when you travel to Malaysia, and if you are in Kuala Lumpur, make sure to visit Nasi Lemak Tanglin, at Kompleks Makan Tanglin.
Name: Nasi Lemak Tanglin
Location: Kompleks Makan Tanglin (Google Maps)
Hours: 7am – 1pm Open Daily
Prices: A single plate of Nasi Lemak is 2RM, and adding eggs and/or meat items will be 1-5RM more per plate. Our entire meal (for 4 people) this day came to 35RM (US$8.50$).