It’s way too easy to fall in love with the Malaysian dish Nasi Lemak, a coconutty rice bowl topped with crispy-crunchy crumbles of teeny little fried anchovies dressed in a sweet-spicy sambal. Look for the smallest dried anchovies (ikan bilis) you can find: They’re known for their superior flavor and texture. We’ve provided a few options for dried chiles below, but any thumb-size red chile you can find at an Asian market will get the job done.
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- 4 servings
- Sambal Ikan Bilis:
- 3½ oz. dried paper lantern chiles, dried bird chiles, or dried chiles de árbol
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- ½ cup red-skin Spanish peanuts
- 2½ cups small dried anchovies
- 2 medium shallots, halved
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 Holland chiles, stems removed, halved lengthwise
- 4½ tsp. sugar
- 1½ tsp. tamarind concentrate
- Rice and assembly:
- 2 cups jasmine rice
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 pandan leaves (optional)
- ½ cup light unsweetened coconut milk
- 4 large eggs
- ½ English hothouse cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
- Soy sauce (for serving)
- Sambal Ikan Bilis:
- Chop paper lantern chiles into ½" pieces, discarding most of the seeds that fall out. Place in a small bowl and pour in boiling water to cover. Let sit 30 minutes to soften, then drain.
- Meanwhile, bring oil and peanuts to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook, adjusting heat as needed, until peanuts are golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer nuts to paper towels to drain; set aside for serving. Immediately add anchovies to oil and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to fresh paper towels; let cool. Set ¼ cup oil aside.
- Pulse shallots, garlic, and ¼ cup fried anchovies (save remaining anchovies for serving) in a food processor until a smooth paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add paper lantern and Holland chiles to food processor (no need to clean) and pulse until very smooth and no visible pieces of dried chile remain. Transfer chile purée to a small bowl.
- Heat reserved oil in a medium skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add shallot mixture and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened in color and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Mix in chile purée and cook, stirring often, until it starts to stick to bottom of skillet, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add sugar, tamarind concentrate, and ¼ cup water and cook, stirring often, until sambal is much darker in color and thickened, 25–35 minutes.
- Do Ahead: Sambal ikan bilis can be made 1 week ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.
- Rice and assembly:
- Place rice in a medium saucepan and pour in cold water to cover; swirl with your hands to rinse away some of the starch. Drain and repeat process 2 more times. Water should be just slightly cloudy at this point. Place rinsed rice back into saucepan and cover with 2½ cups cold water; stir in salt. Gather pandan leaves (if using) together and tie into a knot; add to pan. Bring rice to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover pan and reduce heat to low; cook 18 minutes. Remove lid and stir in coconut milk. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Carefully lower eggs into water. Cook 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise.
- Combine sambal ikan bilis, reserved fried peanuts, and reserved fried anchovies in a medium bowl and toss to evenly coat. Scoop a generous ½ cup sambal mixture into a 12-oz. bowl. Top with 1½ cups rice and pack into bowl with a rubber spatula to compress. The bowl should be filled to the rim. Place a slightly larger bowl upside down over bowl of rice. Invert so larger bowl is now on the bottom; lift off smaller bowl. You should have a dome of rice and anchovy mixture nestled in the center of the larger bowl. Arrange 8 cucumber slices around rice dome, overlapping slightly to make a semicircle. Add 2 egg halves to side of rice with no cucumber slices; season yolks lightly with soy sauce. Repeat with remaining rice, sambal mixture, cucumbers, and eggs to make 3 more bowls.
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