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LEMANG: Rice Cooked In Bamboo

The making of a traditional Malaysian food.

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KUALA LUMPUR- It was around the time of Eid-ul-Adha, and families in the urban village across the expressway from the apartment complex that I’m staying in were preparing for the holiday. In front and behind houses were little fires cooking something that I couldn’t immediately distinguish.

I walked up to a small fire that a guy was tending to, and saw around a dozen bamboo stalks lined up along a piece of corrugated steel that had an open flame heating it up from behind.

“What are you cooking?” I asked.

He said that it was lemang, a traditional food of Malaysia and Indonesia. He then explained that he had stuffed the bamboo with rice and coconut milk. Separating the food from the wall of the bamboo was a thin layer of banana leaves. The guy presided over the operation, poking a metal stake down into each bamboo stalk to discourage stickage and to make it cook evenly. After a few hours it would all congeal into a sticky glutinous mass.

Filed under: Food, Malaysia, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3705 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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