Nasi Kerabu is a Malaysian delicacy with a bold appearance and tasty condiments. This traditional rice dish comes from the east coast state of Malaysia, Kelantan.
The rice appears blue when you cook it with blue pea flower powder. Mix with herb salads known as Kerabu, and you can taste that flavorful, rich note of citrus, spicy, and sweet.
We love serving this to our friends at dinner parties, along with both meat and fish options. The exotic flavour combinations have always impressed our friends and are worth every effort to make. We also like adding more fresh vegetables to make it healthier.
Even if it's not for parties, you can enjoy this hearty dish at any time of the day.
If you've never tried this blue rice dish, stop wondering what it would taste like and try our easy recipe. Our healthy Nasi Kerabu recipe is approachable even for beginners.
What is Nasi Kerabu?
Nasi Kerabu is made of blue rice served with various salads called Kerabu. Its history starts back during the 15th century. This herb rice has its origin in Kelantanese Peranakan families.
They serve it with anchovies sauce, known as budu. Back then, the Peranakans also married Thai women. So this food spread to Thailand and Thais call this dish khao yam.
Another famous Malaysian treat called kuih ketayap also came from the Peranakan culture.
What does Nasi Kerabu taste like?
This blue rice dish has a fishy taste from the anchovies sauce (budu). Meanwhile, the herb salads (kerabu) give citrus, grassy-like flavours, and the spiced sauce offers a mix of creamy and spicy taste.
Nasi Kerabu calories
Our simple Nasi Kerabu recipe has about 400 calories per serving. However, adding fried fish or chicken side dishes can give you 550 to 600 calories per serving.
Nasi Kerabu ingredients
The ingredients you need to make Nasi Kerabu are divided into 4 key components. These are blue rice, herb salad, spiced sauce and other optional side dishes like meat and Keropok.
To make blue rice, you will need:
Blue pea flower powder
You need ½ tablespoon of blue pea flower powder for 1 cup of rice to make the blue rice. This natural colouring is relatively concentrated. So, use the same ratio as you increase the serving size of your Nasi Kerabu.
If you use the dried flowers, soak 10 blue pea flowers in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Steep everything and mix the juice with 1 cup of long-grain rice.
This blue rice dish doesn’t feel right without a spiced sauce. So, you need coconut milk, chillies, ginger, clove garlic, shallot, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and lime juice to make the sauce.
You can use either canned or powdered coconut milk. Both products yield the same taste. Since you need water to turn this powder into liquid form, you can control the thickness of the milk.
Use 3 tablespoons of coconut milk powder for 1 cup of hot water. Add more powder if you prefer it thick.
For the herb salad:
- Ginger torch leaves
- Long beans
- Kaffir lime leaves
- Lemon grasses
To make herb salad, you need cucumber, ginger torch leaves, long beans, cabbages, kaffir lime leaves, and lemon grasses, If some of these vegetables aren’t available where you live, you can make a simple salad using bean sprouts, cabbages, cucumber, and common beans.
Be sure to wash everything and serve them raw. You should also shred and cut these vegetables into tiny pieces to make the salad look more presentable.
If you want to avoid raw greens, then we recommend parboiling them for a few minutes. However, avoid overcooking them as you want the herb salad to still be slightly crunchy.
- Coconut milk
- Clove garlic
- Lemon grass
- Vegetable oil
- Lime juice
Other ingredients you'll need:
Most people eat Nasi Kerabu with fried chicken or fish. But if you love beef, you can choose roast beef as your protein source. You can marinate the meat one day earlier to make roast beef. This period is enough to tenderise the meat before cooking.
Budu is a fish sauce made from fermented anchovies. This brown sauce offers your blue rice dish a distinctive, fishy flavour. If you can’t find budu or fermented anchovies in your local store, replace them with Thai fish sauce or make your own coconut fish flakes.
Later on, we'll show you how to make coconut fish flakes as a great substitute. We found that this combination is the closest to the fishy taste we're familiar with in Malaysia.
Keropok is a traditional cracker made from fish, prawns, and other seafood. Since this dry snack is always sold raw, you must fry it before serving it with your dish. On the other hand, you can also replace keropok with salted eggs for an added salty taste or prawn crackers.
How to make Nasi Kerabu
Despite having many components, making Nasi Kerabu is pretty straightforward. To simplify everything, let’s break it down step by step. We first start with fried fish or chicken that you can cook beforehand.
Making fried chicken or fish
Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder with 2 pieces of chicken or fish. Marinate everything for 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt for an extra salty taste. Fry the fish or chicken for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat.
If you prefer roast beef, marinate the meat one day before cooking. Then, prepare 1 piece of lemongrass, 5 pieces of garlic, ¼ of sliced ginger, 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, and 2 tablespoons of honey to make the marinade sauce.
Blend everything well and add 1 cup of water. Finally, add 200g of beef and let it soak. To cook roast beef, place the marinated meat in an oven. Turn the heat up to 220° Celsius for the first 20 minutes.
Then, bring the heat down to 170° Celsius for 30 minutes. If you like it well done, roast the beef for up to 1 hour.
Preparing spiced sauce
You can also make the spiced sauce one day before cooking the blue rice. First, gather clove garlic, ginger, lemon grass, lemon grass, and shallot in a blender. Next, add ¼ cup of water. Then, blend these ingredients well into a paste.
Drop 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a saucepan. With low heat, stir-fry the paste for 4 minutes. Then, add 1 cup of coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of sugar and salt. Keep stirring until the sauce becomes thick.
Cooking blue rice
To make the blue rice, you can start by washing the rice thoroughly. Then, use ½ tablespoon of blue pea flower powder for 1 cup of water. Stir the mixture and steep to remove any solids.
Combine the uncooked rice and blue mixture in a pot. Add 2 pieces of kaffir lime leaves and 1 piece of lemongrass.
You can also use 1 piece of pandan grass for 1 pot of blue rice to get that grassy vanilla fragrant. Then, turn on the rice cooker and start cooking.
Making Budu sauce
If you have access to budu, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons to the spiced sauce to get that extra fishy flavour. You can also use 4 to 5 tablespoons of budu as a dipping sauce for 1 plate of herb salad.
Replacing Budu with coconut fish flakes
Another condiment that you can have with Nasi Kerabu is coconut fish flakes. To make the fish flakes, you need 1 cup of grated coconut, 1 cup of boiled fish flesh, 1 tablespoon of salt, and ½ tablespoon of ground or black pepper.
First, fry the grated coconut over low heat without using any oil. Let it turn golden brown before transferring to a small bowl.
Mix fish flesh, salt and pepper in the pan. Using the same heat level, cook everything for 10 minutes until these ingredients turn to flakes.
Mix the fried coconut and fish flakes in a pestle and mortar. Grind everything well before serving
Although there are many parts to this blue rice dish, serving and presenting this dish is simple. First, take a plate and place the rice in the middle.
Pour one spoon of spiced sauce and budu on top of the rice. Place herb salad, fried chicken or fish, and keropok on the side. And that’s it!
Since Nasi Kerabu is suitable for breakfast, you can have it with a sweet drink like teh tarik. The creamy taste is great to wash off any lingering fishy or spicy flavour from the herb rice.
Storing and preparing in advance
You can store this herb rice in a refrigerator for later use. The best temperature would be under 5° Celsius. Ensure it is kept in a tight container to prevent outside moisture from entering.
In addition, don’t keep everything in one place. For instance, separate the blue rice, budu, herb salad, spiced sauce, and other side dishes. Keep each of them in its container to prevent the fishy smell from the budu spreading.
You can keep this blue rice dish for up to 2 days before it turns sour.
Healthy Nasi Kerabu Recipe
- 1 pc chicken breast
- 1 cup cooking oil
- 2 tbsps turmeric powder
- ½ cucumber
- 2 ginger torch leaves
- 1 lemon grass
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- ½ cabbage
- 2 long beans
- 3 tbsps coconut milk
- 3 red chillies
- 1 clove garlic
- 6 shallots
- ¼ ginger
- 1 lemon grass
- 2 tbsps vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- Add 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder and ½ tablespoon salt to 1 chicken breast. Marinate everything for 5 minutes.
- Fry the chicken on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Set it aside to cool.
- Wash the rice 4 to 5 times. Add kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass.
- Mix ½ tablespoon of blue pea powder with 1 cup of warm water. Stir the mixture well before adding it to the rice. Then, cook the rice.
- Mix chillies, clove garlic, shallots, and ginger in a blender. Add ¼ cup of water. Then, blend these vegetables into a paste.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a frying pan. With medium heat, stir-fry the paste for 4 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of budu, ¼ cup of water, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, and ¼ tablespoon of salt and sugar.
- Keep frying and stirring until the sauce becomes thick. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it cool.
- Slice cucumber, ginger torch leaves, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grasses, long beans, and cabbages into tiny pieces. Mix these herb salads in a bowl.
- Scoop the cooked blue rice into a plate. Pour the herb salads on top of the rice.
- Place one spoonful of spiced sauce on the side.
- Add fried chicken, keropok, and coconut fish flakes before serving your Nasi Kerabu.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Our simple Nasi Kerabu recipe uses fried chicken as a healthy protein source. But you can also enjoy this herb rice with ayam percik or chicken rendang.
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