Lemang: Nature’s rice cooker

11 Nov

This Monday was a public holiday for the observance of Eid al-Adha (Hari Raya Haji), which commemorates Abraham’s (almost) sacrifice of his son, and also marks the end of the Haj. Like Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, it’s celebrated with big family meals (and, apparently, the sacrifice of a goat) — and in Malaysia, that means it’s time for lemang.

Left, a whole lemang; right, unwrapping the lemang

I had my first lemang at a pasar Ramadan, but I missed my chance to post about it. It’s glutinous (aka mochi) rice mixed with coconut milk which is stuffed into a banana-leaf-lined bamboo and cooked over an open flame, a sort of natural rice cooker. Lemang seems to be reserved for special occasions; it’s not what you’d call home cooking, and I’ve only seen vendors during the festive seasons. I felt a bit sheepish only buying half a lemang, when most people buy five or ten, but I only have two mouths to feed, after all. We had lemang with the traditional accompaniments of beef rendang (procured at the same vendor) and curry. The richness of the coconut milk plays off the slightly smoky, woody flavor from the bamboo.

The most exciting part of lemang is opening up the package. Take a machete, or more likely, a cleaver, and split the bamboo; peel back the woody bits to expose the lemang. I always love a dish that requires big knives; it feels so festive!


2 Responses to “Lemang: Nature’s rice cooker”

  1. Nate @ House of Annie November 15, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Mmm, lemang and rendang are the perfect match.


  1. Ketupat (Steamed Rice Dumplings) « Straight Out of Kampung - August 22, 2012

    […] absorbs the flavors of the rendang — but all in all, I still prefer the other festive rice dish, lemang, which is glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk inside bamboo. (Unfortunately, lemang can be […]

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