Nasi kerabu is a traditional Malaysian dish that is famous for its blue rice. In addition to the rice, this filling dish also contains fish, which is the base of the kerabu, or vegetable mixture. The other elements of typical nasi kerabu are the coconut-based sweet and salty sauce and the garnish, which includes vegetables and a variety of ingredients commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking.
The rice in a nasi kerabu is blue because it has been pre-cooked in the blue extract from the dried flowers of the Clitoria ternatea plant. These flowers, which are a strikingly vivid shade of blue, are also used to dye rice in other Malaysian dishes such as pulut tai tai and nonya chang. In a typical nasi kerabu recipe, a ratio of 1 cup (237 ml) of cooked rice to one medium fish is used.
Traditionally, the fish used for the kerabu is mackerel. In a typical recipe, the fish is grilled and flaked before being fried together with grated coconut and blended ginger and shallots. The resulting mixture then has sugar and salt added to it. Sometimes dried fish is used in place of fresh produce.
In many nasi kerabu recipes, the base for the sauce is coconut milk. Other ingredients normally include shallots, dried chili and lemongrass. The milk is combined with these flavors and set on a stove to simmer, with salt and sugar being added to the sauce as it does so.
The garnish usually consists of a salad vegetable such as cucumber, along with runner beans. Traditional Southeast Asian flavors used include lime, fish sauce and herbs such as Thai basil leaves and Vietnam coriander. Herbs and spices such as cilantro, mint, ginger and turmeric are sometimes used as alternatives, depending on how Westernized the recipe is. As with the sauce, chilies and lemongrass also usually make an appearance in the garnish.
Usually, nasi kerabu is served with the kerabu on top of the rice, along with some torn pieces of Vietnam coriander. It is traditional to serve nasi kerabu as a side dish to a main meal. Many food stalls in Malaysia sell the dish to passers-by.
There are many other Malaysian dishes with nasi as their base. Two of the most well-known examples are nasi goreng and nasi ulam. Nasi ulam is, like nasi kerabu, a herbed rice dish, and nasi goreng typically consists of fried rice, spices and protein such as chicken, prawns and egg.