On special occasions like when I’m entertaining some friends at home or for my open houses during Chinese New Year (whenever in a moment of temporary insanity, I decide to stay back in Sibu for the festive season), I would cook this yellow rice to go with the curry or the masak hitam (a Sarawak meat dish which is a lot nicer than the masak merah in the peninsular) or satay…and without fail, no matter how much I cook, I would run out of the rice very quickly so I will have to cook some plain white rice quickly or resort to serving slices of sandwich bread.

I don’t know exactly what it’s called – whether it’s nasi kuning (yellow rice) or nasi kunyit (tumeric rice) or nasi minyak (oil/ghee rice) and I don’t know how other people cook theirs but this how is I do it. I will chop some shallots and cut them into thin slices – the more I use, the more fragrant the rice later. Then I will buy a packet of the combination of spices that is easily available from any sundry shop, with cinnamon stick, star anise, bunga chengkih and buah palaga…and I will need some tumeric powder (serbuk kunyit), raisins and ghee. 

STP's saffron rice - ingredients 1

I will also wash the rice and drain it and prepare some knotted pandan (screwpine) leaves…

STP's saffron rice - ingredients 2

After heating up the wok, I will heat up the ghee and once it is hot, I will put in the shallot slices and saute until they turn golden brown. Then I will remove them from the oil to be used for garnishing when serving. Do take care to remove every little bit as what remains in the oil may get burnt and will affect the colour and appearance of the rice later.  Then I put in a handful of raisins and they will expand and turn round and brown in colour. Remove them from the oil and they will shrink and return to their original size and colour. Like the fried shallots, the raisins are also kept for garnishing when serving too. After that, I put in the spices and fry them in the oil and when I can smell the fragrance, I will remove the spices and discard them. I do not cook these together with the rice as I do not like the smell to be too strong, but some people may prefer it that way.

Then I put in the rice and add a teaspoon of tumeric powder (serbuk kunyit) and mix it all thoroughly with the now very fragrant ghee/oil, after which I will transfer it from the wok into the rice cooker. After adding water plus salt and msg according to taste, I will then cook it as I would cook rice normally, with the knotted pandan (screwpine) leaves submerged in the water. Stir regularly to ensure that the bottom part of the rice will not get burnt.  Once the rice is cooked, it is ready to be served. Sprinkle the fried shallots and raisins on top like this…

STP's saffron rice

It’s actually quite easy, so you can give it a try should you happen to be cooking curry, rendang or one of those nice Malaysian dishes that the rice is most compatible with. Good luck!