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Giant Multi-tier Steamer

When we talk about unique ways of Malay cooking, this giant multi-tier steamer really fits the bill. This method of cooking for making plain rice or nasi lemak is very suitable for feeding a large number of people. This steamer is normally used to prepare the rice at a school hostel or during a wedding feast.

Giant Multi-tier Steamer
Giant Multi-tier Steamer

The technique is really simple, a large cauldron (kawah in Malay) is filled with water. In the cauldron, a square steel frame with "rungs of ladder" is placed in it. A circular tray filled with rice and water is placed on each rung. The large cylindrical aluminum "hat" shaped like a rocket acts as the cover to contain the steam.

Voila, you get a giant multi-tier steamer!

It's also not for nothing that the rice cooked in this way is called nasi kawah.

It takes around two to three hours for the rice to be ready, depending on the number of trays you place on the grid. In order to make the rice more fragrant, strips of pandanus leaves are placed in the water inside the cauldron. Long strips of thick clothes are also placed around the bottom of the cylinder, blocking any empty space, to prevent steam from escaping.

Fuel used in this method is liquid petroleum gas (LPG). The burner is a heavy-duty commercial type with four gas intake points.

As full blast fire is required to keep the water boiling, the LPG gas cylinder has to be placed in a large bucket full of water to regulate the temperature of the gas cylinder.

Watch this video for a clearer picture
on how this rice rocket steamer works.

When compressed liquid petroleum comes out of the valve at great speed, there will be a marked change in the temperature as it turns into gas. The temperature is much lower.

Hence, condensation will form outside the gas cylinder. If the temperature of the cylinder is not raised enough, it will cause wastage of fuel.

The reason is because the liquid fuel does not have enough time to turn into gas and will escape through the valves in droplets form. Liquid petroleum does not burn efficiently like gas. By placing the cylinder in a bucket of water, the temperature of the outer wall of the cylinder will be hold in check so that it will not be too cold and the liquid fuel has enough energy to expand into gas.

Yes, it is almost like rocket science.

Giant Multi-tier Steamer being Opened
Giant multi-tier steamer being opened

The rocket cap is pulled up when the time comes. Kids truly enjoy watching this moment, even older men who are young at hearts consider this as an entertainment.

I am sure a lot of people would be very amused to see that these multi-tier giant steamers still exist and are widely used in Malaysia rural areas, especially during festivities.

Nasi Minyak

In most weddings, the rice is prepared in a special way. It is called nasi minyak meaning: oil rice.

If someone asks you: "When are you going to eat nasi minyak?". It implies, "When are you going to be married?"

Nasi minyak is prepared in this way:

  • Wash rice and drain well.
  • Measure same volume of rice to water and place them in a pan or a tray for steaming.
  • In a wok or saucepan, heat some oil and saute cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise and sliced shallots until brownish. The quantity depends on the amount of rice. As a rule of thumb, 1 part of oil to 5 parts of water used to cook the rice.
  • Pour the hot oil together with the spices on the rice and water mixture in the tray.
  • Sprinkle some salt on top of the rice mixture.
  • Steam the rice.

Mmm... the smell wafting from the giant multi-tier steamer is truly wonderful. It makes those watching really hungry.

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