I’ll be real with you: the first time I made this nasi lemak I told myself I wouldn’t make it again. It took too long to make! Too many components. But then I took a coconuty, eggy, cucumbery, peanuty bite, and uh, I guess this one’s a keeper. Crunchy, crispy, savory, and sweet, this Malaysian classic has it all.
3 1/2 ounces dried bird chiles or dried chiles de arbol
1 cup avocado oil
1/2 cup peanuts
2 1/2 cups small dried anchovies
2 shallots, halved
3 garlic cloves
2 Holland chiles (or similar red chile), stems removed, halved lengthwise
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons tamarind paste
2 cups jasmine rice
1 teaspoon salt
3 pandan leaves
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 Persian cucumbers or 1/2 English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
Soy sauce, for serving
1. Chop dried chiles into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding 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.
2. Meanwhile, bring oil and peanuts to a 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 paper towels; let cool. Set ¼ cup oil aside.
3. Pulse shallots, garlic, and 1/4 cup fried anchovies (save remaining anchovies for serving) in a food processor until a smooth paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add dried 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 puree to a small bowl.
4. 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 puree 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 1/4 cup water and cook, stirring often, until sambal is much darker in color and thickened, 25–35 minutes.(Sambal ikan bilis can be made 1 week ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.)
5. Make the rice: place rinsed/cleaned rice in a medium saucepan and cover with 2½ cups cold water; stir in salt. Gather pandan leaves 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.
6. Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. 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.
7. 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.