8 Easy Local Recipes You Should Try Making At Home


Nursyazana Kahardy •  May 05, 2020

With the extension of the movement control order in Malaysia and Circuit Breaker in Singapore due to the COVID-19 situation, people are getting somewhat restless. After all, staying at home all the time can get a little stale - even for seasoned homebodies! Still, people are resilient and they’re finding more and more creative ways to stave off boredom, like getting creative in the kitchen and trying new recipes! ?‍?

Credit: Giphy

There are plenty of recipes going around on social media at the moment that people can - just to add a little more variety and excitement into their day. Things ranging from Dalgona coffee and souffle eggs to murtabak maggie and one-pot mac and cheese. But for those of you who want to learn how to make something a little closer to home, here are 8 easy local recipes that you can try that are popular on both sides of the causeway! ?‍?

1. Nasi Lemak

If we're talking about local favourites the first item on the list has to be Nasi Lemak! ? With many Malaysians considering this a national dish, this delicious coconut rice dish served with sambal (a hot chilli sauce), fried anchovies, fried peanuts, sliced cucumber, and a hard-boiled egg is usually sold in a wide variety of places; including restaurants, roadside stalls, cafeterias, R&R stops and even gas stations.

A favourite among both locals and foreigners alike, there’s just something so familiar about it, that the thought of not being able to eat it during the RMO is simply unthinkable. Luckily, the process of making Nasi Lemak at home is rather simple! Here’s what you’ll need:

Coconut milk steamed rice

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 3 pandan leaves (tied into a knot)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1 can coconut milk (5.6 oz)
  • Water

Tamarind Juice

  • 1 cup water
  • Tamarind pulp, size of a small ping pong ball

Sambal Ikan Bilis (Dried Anchovies Sambal)

  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 cup Ikan Bilis (dried anchovies)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 shallots
  • 10 dried chillies
  • 1 teaspoon belacan (prawn paste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Other ingredients

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into half
  • 3 small fish, sardines or smelt fish (optional)
  • 1 small cucumber, cut into slices and then quartered


  1. Just like making any other type of steamed rice, rinse your rice and drain it thoroughly. Add in the coconut milk, a pinch of salt, and some water. The secret to achieving that mouth-watering fragrance Nasi Lemak usually has is to add pandan leaves into the rice when cooking it.
  2. While the rice is cooking, rinse the dried anchovies and drain the water. Fry the anchovies until they turn light brown and put aside.
  3. Prepare the tamarind juice for the sambal by soaking tamarind pulp in water for 15 minutes. Do ensure to squeeze the tamarind constantly to extract all the flavour into the water. Drain the pulp and save the tamarind juice.
  4. Prepare the red onions for the sambal by slicing them into rings.
  5. To create the spice paste for the sambal, pound the prawn paste together with shallots, garlic, and deseeded dried chillies with a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can alternatively use a blender or food processor to grind these ingredients together.
  6. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the spice paste until fragrant. Add in the onion rings. Add in the Ikan Bilis and stir well. Add tamarind juice, salt, and sugar. Simmer on low heat until the gravy thickens. Set aside.
  7. To add more texture and flavour to your Nasi Lemak, you can choose to add some small fish to the dish. To prepare them, simply clean the small fish, cut them into half and season with salt before deep-frying them. Set aside to add into the Nasi Lemak later on.
  8. The final step is to simply cut the cucumber into slices and then quarter them into four small pieces to serve with the Nasi Lemak.

Once all the steps are done, all that is left to do is dish up a plate of steamed coconut milk rice, pour some sambal Ikan Bilis on top of the and garnish with fried fish, cucumber slices, and hard-boiled eggs. Voila! Your Nasi Lemak is complete and ready to be eaten! ?

2. Popiah

Another beloved dish that’s near and dear to Singaporeans and Malaysians alike is the humble popiah. This local street food is often made using bean sauce, shredded jicama, bean sprouts, French beans, lettuce leaves, and more, wrapped with popiah skin and topped with a little sauce before eaten.

The two most common ways of eating them are by holding them like a burrito ? or by cutting the popiah roll into slices to be picked up by chopsticks. While you can find popiah at most roadside stalls, this easy and healthy dish can be made at home by following this easy recipe from Bee of Rasa Malaysia!

Making Popiah is super simple and while you can make them on your own, it’s more fun to get the whole family involved and turn it into a nice bonding activity. ?

3. Char Kway Teow

Char Kway Teow - which literally means 'fried flat rice noodles'- is another beloved local dish that is made up of flat rice noodles while the other ingredients are a veritable free-for-all - depending on your personal preference. Some ingredients that you can use to make Char Kway Teow include (but are definitely not limited to) chicken sausages, beef, prawns, squid, bean sprouts, eggs, onion, cockles and dried chilli flakes. ?️

But if you’re not looking to make something all too fancy, here one of the easiest and most basic char kway teow recipe that you can use to easily whip up a plate of delicious noodles at home:

  • 7 ounces kway teow (wide, flat rice noodles)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sambal chilli paste (according to personal preference)
  • 2 chicken sausages, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 6 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper (to taste)
  • 6 ounces mung bean sprouts
  • 1/2 pound shelled, cooked crab or shredded crabsticks


  1. Place the noodles in a large pot of boiling water and let sit for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the noodles are tender. Once done, drain the noodles and rinse with cold water to stop the noodles from overcooking.
  2. Coat a large wok with oil and heat it over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. This should take about 30 seconds. Stir in a tablespoon of sambal and increase the heat to medium-high before adding in the sausages.
  3. Add in the onions and cook for about 1 - 2 minutes before adding in the noodles and soy sauce. Stir until the noodles are well coated.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the wok and proceed to crack in the eggs. To make a well, just push the noodles aside and away from the centre of the wok. If they fall into the centre, just keep pushing them aside.
  5. Cook the eggs until whites begin to set (this should take about 3 minutes). Break the yolks with your spatula and start scrambling the eggs and tossing them with the noodles.
  6. Add white pepper, 1 tbsp. water, the bean sprouts, and crab. Keep cooking, and stir occasionally for about 2 minutes until the bean sprouts are a tender-crisp.  Once that’s done, your char kway teow is ready to serve.

As mentioned before, this is just a basic recipe for making char kway teow. You can also choose to add in a ton of other ingredients, depending on your personal preference (or using whatever’s in your fridge). But if you do need to do a little bit of a grocery run in order to prepare this dish to your preference, do consider also getting some of these long-lasting grocery items while you’re at it. After all, it never hurts to be prepared! ?

4. Satay

What could be easier than grilled meat on a stick? Satay is a grilled meat dish that’s been skewered onto wooden sticks (known as satay sticks) and grilled over charcoal or your own backyard BBQ.

Traditionally made of chicken, lamb or beef meat, it’s usually accompanied with a side of fresh peanut sauce, a must-have for any true satay lover ?. So the next time you’re craving for some satay, why not give this recipe from Rasa Malaysia a try?

One helpful tip when it comes to BBQ-ing your satay skewers is to soak your bamboo skewers in water overnight. The reason for doing this is that by doing so, you’ll be able to prevent the satay sticks from splitting or burning once they’re on the grill ?. When marinating the skewers you can also leave them in the marinade overnight so that they soak up all the flavour of the spices. ?

5. Ikan Assam Pedas

This sour and spicy fish dish has its roots in both Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. Served with rice, this simple yet addicting dish is oftentimes made by cooking assorted seafood or freshwater fish in assam (tamarind) juice - sprinkled with chilli and a host of other spices ?.

Once you've prepped all the ingredients needed, this dish only takes about 15 minutes to cook - making it a great menu item if you need to cook in a flash! To make your own Ikan Assam Pedas, you’re going to need:

  • 400g fish
  • 6 okra (ladies' fingers)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 20 dried chillies (25g)
  • 3-4 shallots (35g)
  • 3 garlic cloves (10g)
  • 1 onion (55g)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (or  3-cm piece of fresh turmeric root)
  • 1 lime worth of juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons assam jawa (tamarind) paste (soaked in some water to extract the flavour)
  • 2 sprigs of Vietnamese cilantro (daun kesum, laksa leaf)
  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 800ml water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon sugar


  1. Using a food processor or blender, grind the shallots, garlic cloves, onion, lemongrass stalk, dried shrimp, chillies and turmeric powder until they form a paste. You can add some water to help ensure that the mixture is smooth.
  2. In a pot, add 4 tbsp of cooking oil and add in the spice mixture. Cook on medium heat and continuously stir for 10-15 minutes or until the oil separates out from the mix.
  3. Add in the fish and 800 ml of water into the pot. (If you prefer to have a thicker gravy, you can reduce the amount of water). Add in sliced okra, tomatoes and 2 sprigs of Vietnamese cilantro. Cover the pot and bring the mix to a boil. Reduce to low heat and let cook for 8 minutes or until the fish is fully cooked.
  4. Add 1 ½ tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, lime juice and 2-3 tbsp of tamarind juice. Be sure to taste the mix and adjust the flavour to your liking. Cover the pot and let it simmer for an additional 5 minutes before serving with rice.

Also, it’s important to note that while traditional Ikan Assam Pedas is usually made with stingrays or skate, you can also substitute it with any other white fish like red snapper or sea bass. ?

6. Naan Bread

Traditionally baked inside a clay tandoor oven, naan bread is a type of Indian flatbread that is extremely delicious, soft, airy, and is characterised by the unmistakable brown spots on the surface. But did you know that you can make naan bread at home using nothing but a very hot cast-iron skillet and your stovetop?

Prep may take a little over an hour (as the dough would need some time to rest), but once that’s done, it’ll only take 10 minutes to whip up a batch of healthy and delicious homemade naan. ? If you’re excited to try this out, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 oz active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Some oil, for greasing the skillet
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter


  1. Add the sugar, warm water, and yeast together in a bowl and stir it; ensuring that all ingredients are combined well. You’ll notice when the yeast activates when the mix becomes foamy - which should take about 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer the flour onto a flat surface and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast mixture, yoghurt, salt and oil. Proceed to knead the dough until the surface becomes smooth and shiny. This should again take about 10 minutes or so. Once that’s done, cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise for an hour in a warm place until it doubles in size.
  3. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle, roughly 8” in size.
  4. Heat up your skillet (cast-iron preferred but if you don’t have one on hand, then a tri-ply stainless-steel skillet works just as well!) over high heat and lightly grease the surface with some oil to avoid the dough from sticking to the skillet.
  5. Place the dough onto the skillet. When it puffs up and bubbles and burnt spots appear, flip it over and cook the other side. Repeat the same with the other portions of dough. Once all the naans are cooked, brush them with some melted butter and serve warm.

This naan bread recipe is pretty easy to follow but if you do run into some trouble with the dough being too sticky, don’t worry. Just toss in 2 tablespoons of flour to help bind the dough together, and adjust the ratio of flour and water accordingly.

7. Bubur Lambuk (Spiced Congee)

For Ramadan, you’re going to want to have a recipe on hand that is not only easy to make but will also be able to sustain you for the whole day until the time comes to break your fast. With that in mind, what could be a better recipe to learn than delicious, hearty and most importantly filling ‘bubur lambuk’? ?

A fan favourite amongst many Singaporeans and Malaysians (especially during the fasting month), here’s a delicious and easy to follow recipe that we’ve found online on how to make this delectable, spiced congee dish! ?

Usually, the making of bubur lambuk is a group effort - with people making it in large vats and giving it away to friends and neighbours. With the current situation, you can still rope in your family members to help prepare this easy to make comfort food and not only fill your stomachs, but also your soul with goodness. ?

8. Beef Rendang

Another easy dish that just so happens to be a favourite is the explosively flavourful beef rendang dish. Served during Raya and special occasions (or when you’re feeling incredibly inspired in the kitchen), beef rendang tastes amazing when paired with rice or nasi lemak. ?

With Raya coming up, this simple recipe from Azie's Kitchen is just what you need to whip up a serving (or two or three!) of this iconic dish!

While preparing the ingredients should take very little time, the overall cook time takes a little over an hour and a half as the meat needs to slow roast - but rest assured, once you’ve tasted your beef rendang, all that time spent waiting would have been worth it! ?

Credit: Giphy

And there you have it! 8 recipes for local favourites to make at home that will curb your cravings, expand your culinary repertoire and hopefully keep you from reaching out for instant noodles for every other meal. While there are endless new recipes to try out right now, there's nothing quite like the classics! ?