Think you can’t cook Malaysian food? Too complicated? Wouldn’t know where to start? Think again! This spicy, tangy, vibrant cuisine is well within reach if you have a copy of chef Christina Arokiasamy’s new cookbook. She served as Malaysia’s first official Food Ambassador to the U.S., so take her word for it and whip up some authentic nasi lemak tonight.

It’s hard not to love nasi (rice) lemak (rich and creamy), so popular that its greatest advocates insist on calling it the country’s national dish. Throughout my school years, I would savor nasi lemak, wrapped in green banana leaves, at least three times a week. Inside the bundle was warm coconut rice infused with the vanilla-like aroma of pandan leaves and citrusy ginger accompanied by a hard-boiled egg, crispy fried anchovies and peanuts, a few slices of cucumber, and a dollop of sambal — flavors that are still etched in my mind.

Since all the side condiments can be served at room temperature, they can be made well in advance. I always prepare more than I need at one time so I can enjoy this dish again whenever I want. For instance, the fried peanuts and anchovies, which bring complexity and crunch to the dish, can be fried and then stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The sambal can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and then microwaved when you need it. When all of the main preparations are done ahead of time, you are only left with cooking the coconut rice, which should be served piping hot along with warm hard-boiled eggs and fresh slices of cucumber.

Reprinted with permission from The Malaysian Kitchen