Nasi Kandar

Nasi Kandar is a popular dish eaten throughout the Malay peninsular which originated in Penang. The dish is heavily influenced by the traditional cuisine of India. 

Plate of Nasi Kandar

Plate of Nasi Kandar

Nasi Kandar comes in lots of different varieties, however, the common feature is the mixture of steamed rice with several Indian style curries, usually with a chicken or beef curry and a vegetable curry of okra or aubergine. The rice is sometimes flavoured like biryani or pilau rice and the assortment and taste of the curries varies, however, whatever the precise recipe and ingredients the dish is nonetheless easily identifiable as a nasi kandar or ‘nasi mamak’ as it also sometime called by Malay people.


About at Nasi Kandar


In the Malay language the word ‘nasi’ means rice, and there are other famous ‘nasi’ dishes in Malaysia such as ‘nasi lemak’ or ‘nasi goreng’. The word ‘kandar’ refers to the bamboo pole which vendors (mostly Muslims from Northern India) would use to carry large containers of nasi kandar during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. According to local folklore the dish was very popular amongst the workers in the busy docks of Penang Island during British colonial times, many of whom themselves were immigrant workers from elsewhere in British Empire, particularly the Indian Sub-Continent. For this reason Nasi kandar is a dish which is closely associated with Penang, and some people believe that Penang is the only place where the dish is made correctly.

Nasi Kandar ready to serve

Nasi Kandar ready to serve

The way that Nasi Kandar is served is that a variety of pre-cooked curries are added to a plate of rice. In larger nasi kandar restaurants there can be a choice of up to 40 or 50 different dishes to add to the rice. The amount you are charged for dish depends on how many curries you add to the dish and what meats are in the curries. Beef and Lamb tend to be the most expensive, however, even if you eat a very large plate of nasi kandar in Malaysia you will generally only pay a maximum of around 14 MYR (roughly $3.5 USD). An important feature of the way nasi kndar is served is that the gravy from the various curries will also be added to the rice as an additional flavouring. Malay people have specific word for the practice of adding gravy to the rice, ‘banjir’, which means flooding. If you want to have your nasi kandar served correctly we suggest that that you let the people in the restaurant or stall serve the dish up for you, just point to the curries you want and let them do the rest. 

Next read about Khao Kluk Kapi (rice fried with shrimp paste)