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What Is Nasi Kuning?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 17, 2024
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Meaning "yellow rice," nasi kuning is an Indonesian rice dish made with coconut milk. The rice gets its yellow coloring from the turmeric spice that is always included. Popularly served during festivals, such as Ramadan, nasi kuning is considered a symbolic dish since the yellow coloring of the rice resembles gold, symbolizing wealth and good fortune. It may be served in a mound with side dishes surrounding it, or in a pointed cone shape, called tunpeng.

Long-grained rice, coconut milk, and turmeric are the essential ingredients for nasi kuning. Salam leaves, the Indonesian version of bay leaves, are usually used as well, though bay leaves can be substituted if salam leaves are unavailable. Bruised lemongrass stalks, pandan leaves, and lime juice, as well as onions and garlic can also be included to add extra flavoring. In order to cook the rice, chicken stock or water are normally used and salt is often added to taste.

Most easily made in a rice steamer or dutch oven, nasi kuning may also be made in a simple sauce pan, with the rice often boiled in broth or water before being combined with the rest of the ingredients. If garlic and onions are included, they are first chopped and fried in oil, and the coconut milk is boiled with the remaining ingredients before the rice is stirred in. Alternatively, the spices may be added to the onions and garlic, and the rice coated with the resulting mixture. Afterward, the coconut milk and lemongrass are added, and the mixture is covered and simmered until the rice absorbs the liquid. Often, the nasi kuning is allowed to rest after it is removed from the heat, with the lemongrass removed before the dish is served.

Nasi kuning is usually served with a variety of sides, such as sliced omelettes or fried chicken, and many Indonesian-based dishes are served as well. A spiced coconut relish, called serundeng, or fried potatoes, called perkedel kentang, are often served with the dish. Other side dishes include fried prawns, a type of shredded fried beef called abon, and kering tempe, or fried, partially-cooked soy-based cakes. Garnish is usually included on this dish as well, such as sliced cucumber and shrimp crackers as the most frequent toppings, though fried shallots or sliced chili peppers may also be used.

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