Nasi tumpeng is a dish of turmeric-flavored rice, bright yellow and shaped into a cone served with other traditional Indonesian dishes. I have been wanting to learn making this for a long time. The traditional cone is shaped by bamboo-weaved mould. The mould is pretty big, enough to feed 10-20 people. I am using my Royal Selangor pewter mould, perfect for shaping nasi tumpeng for one serving.
This dish has significant meaning to us, originally from Javanese culture, but now widely adapted in the country. Whenever we have something to say thanks about, it has to be present. Wedding, birthday, anniversaries, new year. The mounds of rice represents gold, and the many dishes surround it shows bountiful of food and luck.
I am not going to lie. It is a lot of work. Rice needs to be prepared overnight. The accompanying dishes are at least 4-5 dishes, and they should be chicken dish, beef dish, egg dish, green vegetables or salad. The tumpeng is always decorated with banana leaves and on top of the cone, a flower made of red chilies.
The rice I made was served with chicken rendang, chicken gizzard sambal, sambal belacan, carrots and cucumber sticks and omelette with rice crackers.
The turmeric rice is also called Nasi Kuning, or yellow rice, for a fairly obvious reason. Seasoning of rice is tamarind slices (asam potong) and fresh turmeric. Big gigantic turmeric root. The root is what gives the rice the beautiful yellow.
Wash rice grains thoroughly.
Grate turmeric. I used this archaic grating tool with little nails that looks like something out of ‘Silence of the Lamb’ movie set. We lined the grater with a thick piece of plastic so that the fibre won’t stick and easier to remove. And also, my fingers and nails are all yellow now. I tried scrubbing with warm soap but the color just wouldn’t go away.
Place grated turmeric in a muslin bag (or disposable tea bag). We only want the flavor and color out of turmeric. Using a bag instead of adding turmeric directly to rice is much better, so that you won’t get funny fibers when you eat your rice.
Combine rice, tamarind slices and turmeric in a big bowl. Add clean water.
Soak for 6-12 hours.
When you are ready to cook the rice. get rid of spice bag and turmeric slices. Drain the water off.
In a big saucepan, combine rice and 750cc water.
Cook them over high heat, covered, for about 20 minutes. Stir every now and then to avoid burning.
At the end of the cooking time, the rice would have been cooked and fluffed up, liquid would have been absorbed fully by rice grains.
Remove the rice into a steamer to finish off cooking.
The steamer we use is this traditional steamer with a lot of holes on the side. This would ensure even cooking of the rice. Oh yeah, don’t forget to fill the pot with water. Watch the water level and don’t let it touch the rice. Steam the rice over high heat for 40 minutes.
The rice is beautiful, fluffy, fragrant and most importantly, yellow. It is so yellow that I messed up with the camera setting.
The rice should be filled into the cones warm. The first try, I brushed cones with a little bit of oil and filled them with rice straight away. They were a bit difficult to get off. The second time, I lined the cones with piping bag then filled cones with warm rice. It is much better that way.
To assemble, line flat serving plates with coconut leaves. Cut the coconut leaves to the shape you desire. We love the pokey shape. Place the rice cone in the middle. I propped the rice with a small saucer to make it taller. Arrange the rest of the dishes around it. A bit of chicken rendang, some chicken gizzard sambal, sambal belachan, crackers, sliced omelette and cucumber sticks. Serve warm with cold drinks.
Makes 8 servings
- 60 g fresh turmeric root, grated
- 8 g tamarind slices, about 5 slices
- 1000 g rice, washed and drained
- 750 g water
- 1 tbsp salt
- Turmeric rice
- Chicken rendang
- Chicken gizzard sambal
- Sambal belacan
- Cucumber, cut into sticks
- Omelette, sliced thinly
- Rice cracker
Place grated turmeric in a muslin bag or spice bag.
Combine turmeric, tamarind and rice in a big bowl.
Add water into the bowl to cover all the rice. Leave on kitchen counter overnight, about 6-12 hours.
Drain the water off.
Place rice in a big saucepan. Add water into the pan.
Bring the rice to a boil, covered, over high heat. Cook for about 20 minutes.
Turn off heat and move the rice into a steamer to finish off cooking.
Steam over high heat for 40-50 minutes.
Line cone mould with a piece of plastic. Fill the cone with warm rice.
Press the rice hard to get them nice and firm. Pull the plastic slowly off the mould and flip the rice coned in a flat plate lined with banana leaves.
Arrange the rest of the dish around the turmeric rice.