Kerabu Rice/Nasi Kerabu

(serve 2)

Rice on its own is so bland,its almost unpalatable.But it is this blandness which makes white rice the prefect foil for the spicy and savoury dishes we love in this part of the world.A dress up rice dish can be a star attraction of any meal!
Of the many dishes , Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Ulam are two dishes to name a few , which is a regional specialty from the state of Kelantan on the east coast of Malaysia. Traditionally, the rice is tinted bright blue from petals of flowerscalled bunga telang [clitoria in English]. For a family size serving of rice, hundreds of these petals have to be sun-dried and boiled in water. There are several varieties of local herbs; which is used to tint the rice in different colors; red, black or blue. This Nasi Kerabu or Nasi Ulam is normally a combination of fresh aromatic herbs; local mint, basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric leaves and raw vegetables; bean sprouts, long green beans, shallots, cucumber, are combined together with strong flavored ingredients such as salted fish, dried prawns, fish crackers, kerisik [fried grated coconut] and other savory garnishing.Each house hold have their own secret recipe for Nasi Kerabu or Nasi Ulam.

Nasi Ulam translated as Herb Rice, has a combination of many herbs in it compare to Nasi Kerabu . You must like eating vegetables if you are to enjoy both these types of rices. The vegetables and herbs are fresh and you can feel the aroma being released in your mouth as you chew on the kerabu mixture.
This recipe comes from a chef working in a hotel in Subang Jaya.There are no herbs in this kerabu so its easy for all of us to prepare it at home since the ingredients used are quite common and easy to get.By all means you can add in any type of herbs you want in this recipe.

There is a small variation that I have done to this recipe which is I have separated the sliced cucumber which should be added in the kerabu ,with some sweet pineapples and serve as a side dish.Since I did not have fish crackers/keropok ikan with it ,I have omitted it ,but by all means if you decide to prepare then try getting the crackers as well.Serving nasi kerabu in a claypot or banana leaf enhances the dish further.

There are a few stages to prepare so lets go by one by one:

For the sambal :
5 dried chillies (cut into few segments and soak in warm water for 30 mins)
½ in shrimp paste/belacan

5 large shallots (sliced thinly)
1 large garlic (chopped)
2 fresh lemon grass (slice thinly ,discard the top part,only use the bottom part)
2 tbsp tamarind juice
2 tbsp palm sugar/gula melaka or brown sugar
1 cup thick coconut milk
A pinch of salt

Grind dried chillies and shrimp paste until fine. In a wok, add in enough oil, sauté shallots until soften ,add in finely chopped garlic and lemon grass.After about a minute , add in the chilli paste and sauté until aroma arise.Add in tamarind juice ,salt,palm sugar and coconut milk and stir for a few minutes. Cook until oil start floating on top. Close fire.Leave to cool .

For Fish mixture
1 slice of Spanish mackerel /tenggiri
½ cup dessicated coconut
½ tsp pepper
½ tbsp palm sugar syrup

You can grill the fish or deep fry it by rubbing some turmeric powder and salt.
Discard the bones from the fish .Make into small pieces.Leave aside.In a pan ,fry the desiccated coconut without oil in low heat .Half way add in the fish .Fry until the coconut turn brownish.Finally add in pepper and palm sugar syrup.Leave to cool.

Pineapple-cucumber salad
3 ring slice pineapples (I used the pineapple in sugar syrup available in stores)
1 cup finely sliced cucumber
½ red chillies(discard seeds and sliced finely)
1 tbsp chopped onions
½ tsp vinegar
1 cup sugar syrup( from the tin pineapple)

Cut ring pineapples into desired size.In a bowl,combine all the ingredients together.Leave about 1 hour to marinate before serving.

Ingredients for kerabu
1 bowl cooked white rice
6 french beans (sliced finely and blanch)
½ cup beansprouts (blanch)
2 lemon grass(shredded finely)
2 tbsp chopped spring onions

Final stage :

In a large bowl or claypot, add in white rice,blanch vegetables ,lemon grass,spring onions and chilli sambal .You can put as much chilli sambal as you want depending on how spicy you want it . Add in about 1 tbsp of the fried coconut with fish .Combine all the ingredients together until it is well incorporated with the rice. You can add more as you want it . Serve with more chilli sambal, pineapple-cucumber salad and fish crackers.
For variations ,you can add in carrots, finely sliced turmeric leaves ,any type of herbs that you like.

This Nasi Kerabu will last only up to 2 hours ,therefore prepare it before serving .

Linking with My Culinary Creations for the Rice Event


  1. That looks beautiful and you have taken so much trouble to show us the ingredients and the recipe.

    Lovely photos - great post; thank you!


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