Nasi Kebuli Pahang: A Royal Dish Fit for a Sultan
Nasi Kebuli is considered a heritage spiced rice dish of the Kuala Lipis district of Pahang. It is sometimes called Pahang’s Royal Rice because its long name is Nasi Kebawah Duli, based on the royal title of “Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia” which literally means ‘Under the dust of the Almighty’.
Nasi Kebuli is likely to be influenced by Arabian, Afghan and Indian cuisine. According to etymology study, Nasi Kebuli is related to Kabuli Palaw which is an Afghani pilaf dish from Kabul, similar to biryani from india.
Legend has it that Nasi Kebuli in Pahang was created to be served to their Sultan during his visit to Kuala Lipis, accompanied by his 60 followers. The Sultan ordered the village cook to create a rice dish enough to feed everyone. The cook then created this dish, using locally available ingredients. Today the dish is so royal that it is still served in the palace.
Preparing the dish is a tedious task. A whole chicken is marinated with turmeric and salt for a few hours. It is then boiled in a richly spiced broth made with toasted coriander seeds, black peppercorns, shallots, ginger, lemongrass, and galangal until cooked through. The chicken is then removed from the broth, cut into smaller pieces and deep fried until golden brown crispy. The oil is then used for frying the rice briefly until fragrant. The rice is then simmered in the spiced broth until all the liquid has been absorbed. The cooked rice is then served with the fried chicken and some other dishes. The rice looks beautiful with its yellow colour from the turmeric and it is full of wonderful aromas from all the spices.
In the past, the oil being used for frying the rice came from the cured seed of the kepayang tree called Buah Keluak, as most kepayang trees are found in Pahang. The oil gives the rice a unique smell and taste. However, most of the trees have been lost to the floods and kepayang oil is no longer produced. Most people who cook Nasi Kebuli these days do not even know of the oil’s existence.
In Pahang, Nasi Kebuli is typically served during special occasions, but you may find it in some Malay restaurants, eateries, or food stalls.
There is a related dish with the same name in Indonesia but it is cooked with a different method.