Nyonya Sayur Lemak

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Last Updated on December 16, 2020 by Chef Mireille

Blogging Marathon #25 
Theme: Cooking with Alphabets – S, G, N

Malaysian food and culture was celebrated with great fanfare a few days ago in New York City’s Bryant Park.  For two days, people headed out with temperatures hovering around 30 F to a tent in the middle of the park to watch food demonstrations, try food samples from several local Malaysian restaurants and enjoy the multi-cultural Malaysian dancers with their fusion of Indian, Chinese and Malay dance.

Here’s some video I took of a Malaysian chef making Roti Canai.  It really is an art form.

I was planning on making this dish anyway for my BM theme this week for the letter N, but after enjoying a container of Mee Laksa (a spicy soup of noodles and shrimp), I felt especially inspired to continue the Malysian theme of the week.

Nyonya is the name of the local people of Malaysia.  This is a popular vegetable dish cooked in coconut milk.  It can be made with any variety of vegetables and usually includes tofu, however since tofu and I don’t like each other, there is none in my version here.

Nyonya Sayur Lemak

Serves 6

  • 1 fresh bamboo shoot, peeled and sliced (approximately 1 cup) (you can use canned bamboo shoot, if you don’t have access to fresh)
  • 4 oz. green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
  • 6 oz. jicama peeled and cut into french fry size pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut approximately the same size as the jicama
  • 2 cups firmly packed Napa cabbage, sliced
  • 13 oz.. pumpkin, cut into large dice
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • 13.5 oz. water
  • 3 candlenuts, aka as Kemiri nuts
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, reconstituted in boiling water for 5 minutes (omit if you are Vegetarian)
  • 2 red bird’s eye chiles
  • 5 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste/ belachan (substitute fermented tofu if you are Vegetarian)
  • salt, to taste

Using a food processor, grind the candlenuts, dried shrimp, chiles, shallots, turmeric and belachan together to a paste consistency.
Heat oil.  Add spice paste and fry for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the coconut milk.  Fill the can with water and add that to the pot also.  Bring to a boil.
Add pumpkin.  Reduce heat to medium and cook on a high simmer for 8 minutes.
Add carrots and green beans.  Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add cabbage, bamboo shoot and jicama.  Stir for 1-2 minutes, until cabbage starts to wilt.  Bring back up to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook on a high simmer for 5 minutes.

Add salt, to taste.

Serve with Jasmine Rice.

 …linking to Favorite Recipes: non-Indian food hosted by CookCookandCook, Cook Like a Celebrity Chef & Muhibbah Malaysian Monday


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Reader Interactions


  1. Ohhh I have read so much about the cuisine that I kicked the poor husband for not getting the awesome spice mixes and pastes for me when he was at Malaysia for a week. The Lemak looks stunning Mer ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It was only when I saw the onion and chili in the food processor click, that I felt at home with this recipe. Else right from the name of the dish, it sounded too complicated ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. @Mireille. Yes, it looked overwhelming at firsrt. Now when I go through the recipe again, it looks do-able ๐Ÿ™‚

    And again, if we keep on cooking only our comfort foods, how can we challenge ourselves – rt :)?

  3. I have just started cooking all Thai, Malaysian dishes Mireille and this one seems just right for my next weekend's Lunch. Would def try it soon..

    Following you now, cant believe I was not doing it until today .. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I love such food fests.And we have a Malaysian restaurant nearby and I love their food.
    When veggies are cooked with spices in coconut milk, it is bound to be delicious.Nice one Mir…

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