Lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo)

Lemang © Adrian Cheah

Although lemang is available all year round, it is nonetheless an exceptionally special dish during Hari Raya open house. Although the preparation seems simple enough, cooking lemang requires an open area with plenty of ventilation – which is why people just prefer to buy lemang rather than attempt to make it themselves.

Lemang © Adrian Cheah

About two days or so before the end of Ramadhan (the fasting month), vendors can be seen cooking and selling lemang by roadsides. Lemang is usually 'bought by the bamboo' and should be left unopened until it is ready to serve.


  • 1 kg. uncooked glutinous rice
  • 2 old coconuts
  • Salt to taste
  • Young banana leaves
  • Bamboo trunks about 3ft in length. Remove grit from the hollow core.


  1. Wash and soak glutinous rice in water for six hours, then strain in a colander and leave to dry.
  2. Extract 8 cups of coconut milk from the 2 coconuts. Add salt to taste.
  3. Line inside of bamboo with clean banana leaves.
  4. Fill the hollow of the bamboo with glutinous rice.
  5. Add coconut milk. Use the 'finger test' to determine the right proportion of rice and milk - dip your finger into the mixture until the tip touches the top layer of the rice. The distance from the fingertip to the milk must be at least 1½ finger joints.
  6. Place the bamboo trunks over an open fire. Turn the bamboo every few minutes to ensure that the rice is evenly cooked and not burnt (hangus).

To serve, break open the bamboo and remove the leaf-wrapped rice. Cut into 1 inch thick slices and serve at room temperature with beef rendang, beef floss (serunding) or thick curries.

Another way of cooking lemang is by immersing the bamboo trunks in a vat of boiling water. When prepared this way, the lemang is very tender and lacks the hard crust and aroma of fire-cooked lemang.

Written by Raja Abdul Razak
Photographed by Adrian Cheah © All rights reserved