Nasi Bambu: The Delicious and Cultural Delicacy of Malaysia

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Bamboo rice, also known as “nasi bambu” in Malaysia, is a unique dish made by cooking rice in a bamboo tube. This dish is popular in Malaysia, especially in the East Coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang, where bamboo rice is a traditional delicacy that is enjoyed during special occasions such as weddings, religious festivals, and family gatherings. In this article, we will delve into the history, preparation, and significance of bamboo rice in Malaysia.

The History of Bamboo Rice in Malaysia

Bamboo rice has been a part of Malaysian cuisine for centuries. It is believed to have originated from the East Coast states, where the local people would cook rice in bamboo tubes while they were out in the fields or on hunting trips. The bamboo tube was a convenient way to transport and cook the rice at the same time, and it gave the rice a distinct aroma and flavour. Over time, bamboo rice became a popular dish in the region, and it was served during special occasions as a way to show hospitality and respect to guests.

Bamboo rice is a typical breakfast dish for many Malaysians during the months of Ramadan.

The Preparation of Bamboo Rice

To prepare bamboo rice, the first step is to select the right type of bamboo. The best bamboo for making bamboo rice is the “buluh betong” bamboo, which is thick-walled and has a narrow opening at one end. The bamboo should be cut to a length of about 30 cm and then cleaned thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris.

Next, the rice is washed and soaked for several hours in water. After the rice has soaked, it is mixed with coconut milk, salt, and pandan leaves to give it a fragrant aroma. The mixture is then spooned into the bamboo tube, leaving some space at the top for expansion during cooking. The bamboo tube is then sealed with banana leaves to prevent the rice from falling out during cooking.

To cook the bamboo rice, the bamboo tube is placed over an open flame or charcoal fire. The rice inside the bamboo tube slowly cooks and absorbs the aroma and flavour of the bamboo, coconut milk, and pandan leaves. After about 45 minutes to an hour, the bamboo tube is removed from the fire, and the banana leaves are peeled away to reveal the cooked bamboo rice.

The Significance of Bamboo Rice in Malaysian Culture

Bamboo rice is more than just a delicious dish in Malaysian culture; it is a symbol of hospitality, respect, and tradition. In the East Coast states, bamboo rice is often served during special occasions as a way to show hospitality to guests. It is also a way for families to come together and celebrate their cultural heritage.

In addition, bamboo rice has religious significance in Malaysian culture. During the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, bamboo rice is often served as a pre-dawn meal known as “sahur.” The dish provides a filling and nutritious meal that sustains Muslims throughout the day of fasting.


In conclusion, bamboo rice is a unique and important dish in Malaysian cuisine. Its history, preparation, and significance all contribute to its popularity and importance in Malaysian culture. Whether enjoyed during a special occasion or as a pre-dawn meal during Ramadan, bamboo rice is a delicious and culturally significant dish that is loved by many in Malaysia and beyond.

Article curated by Lavanyah Magenthiran