Malaysian Herbed Rice (Nasi Ulam)

Nasi Ulam is a Malaysian herbed rice dish that is aromatic and full of fresh flavors. The name of the dish translates to “rice and salad.” In this recipe, jasmine rice is mixed with tons of fresh herbs with a touch of coconut milk and coconut flakes!

bowl of herbed rice with chopsticks and coconut flakes surrounding it

Nasi ulam is enjoyed throughout Malaysia as well as in Indonesia and Thailand. In Southeast Asia, you’ll find handfuls of exotic herbs like wild betel leaf, turmeric leaf, and ginger flower used. Each recipe for nasi ulam differs from family to family with the types and quantities of herbs. Those ingredients are very hard to find in the United States, so in this recipe I use readily available herbs like basil, mint, cilantro, and lemongrass.This is a dish that can be personalized, so feel free to add or subtract herbs and their quantities.

Basmati rice vs. Jasmine rice

The rice that is typically used in nasi ulam is jasmine rice because of its floral essence and starch content. Jasmine rice is a long grain rice and contains a decent amount of starch, so that it will be sticky and bind to other ingredients when cooked. One brand of jasmine rice I recommend is Mahatma, which comes in 5 pound bags at my regular grocery store. I have tried store-brand jasmine rice, but I think that Mahatma brand is fluffier and tastier. Basmati rice can also be used — it will be fluffy but the ingredients wont integrate and stick to the herbs as much.

How to toast your own coconut flakes

If you are unable to find toasted coconut flakes at the grocery store, you can easily do it at home — and with better results too.

When you toast coconut flakes in a saucepan, it gives them a crispy texture and brings out a natural nutty flavor. In this dish, the crisp and crunchy texture of the coconut flakes contrast against the fluffy rice, so definitely don’t skip out on this step!

Toasting the shredded coconut is very easy, it just requires patience and a constant eye on the pan so it doesn’t burn – it only takes a few seconds for them to go from good to great to burnt to a crisp. Not speaking from experience or anything at all…but there is no salvaging burnt coconut.

dry toasting coconut in pan until light brown

Simply heat a saucepan over medium heat, and pour the coconut flakes in the pan — no oil needed. Continuously stir until the flakes turn golden brown. It should take 3 to 5 minutes.

TIP: Use unsweetened shredded coconut flakes, sweetened coconut will make the dish too sweet.

How to make Malaysian herbed rice

Cook jasmine rice in a rice cooker, or over the stove by bringing water and rice to boil and then turning heat down to low for 10 minutes or until all water is absorbed. When the rice is finished, place it into a large bowl and spread the rice up the sides of the bowl to let heat escape. Place in the refrigerator.

shrimp frying in a pan

Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, then add in shrimp. Season with a few cracks of salt. The shrimp will turn pink when cooked, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

a bowl of herbs, lemongrass, scallions, and coconut milk

mixing herbs, coconut milk, scallions, and shrimp with a wooden spoon in a bowl

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, ginger, scallions, basil, mint, cilantro, lemongrass and salt. Then mix in the shrimp.

Mixing rice, herbs, shrimp, and coconut in a bowl

Take the rice out of the refrigerator, and pour the coconut-herb mixture into the bowl. Mix until the sauce is incorporated. Add in the toasted coconut flakes, leaving some for garnish.

Nasi ulam in a bowl with chopsticks and coconut flakes around it

Malaysian Herbed Rice (Nasi Ulam)

Nasi Ulam is a Malaysian herbed rice dish that is aromatic and full of fresh flavors. The name of the dish translates to “rice and salad.” In this recipe, jasmine rice is mixed with tons of fresh herbs with a touch of coconut milk and coconut flakes!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Malaysian
Servings: 4
Author: Globally Flavored

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of jasmine rice
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 pound of medium shrimp
  • 0.5 cup coconut milk
  • 1 ⁄2 of a lime juiced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 8 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of fresh basil leaves finely chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh mint leaves finely chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass finely minced
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 ⁄2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut toasted

Instructions

  • Cook jasmine rice in a rice cooker, or over the stove by bringing water and rice to boil and then turning heat down to low for 10 minutes or until all water is absorbed. When the rice is finished, place it into a large bowl and spread the rice up the sides of the bowl to let heat escape. Place in the refrigerator.
  • Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, then add in shrimp. Season with a few cracks of salt. The shrimp will turn pink when cooked, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, ginger, scallions, basil, mint, cilantro, lemongrass and salt. Then add the shrimp and mix.
  • Take the rice out of the refrigerator, and pour the coconut-herb mixture into the bowl. Mix until the sauce is incorporated.
  • Add in the toasted coconut flakes, leaving some for garnish.

Notes

Use unsweetened shredded coconut flakes, sweetened coconut will make the dish too sweet.


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