Sunday, 30 December 2012

Steamed Pomfret (Bawal Kukus)

Another blast from the past, this dish takes me back to childhood. Even though it was it was served on a rare few occasions, it is one of my more memorable favourites and is quite easy to make. You will need a big enough steamer to fit your fish- it can be bamboo or stainless steel or even just a large wok with a lid and a rack to hold up the plate of fish that is being steamed.

Bawal (in Malay), or pomfret is a warm sea fish which may prove difficult to obtain fresh in temperate climates. Its flesh is very soft and white, with a few chunky bones (easier to pick them out), making it ideal for many types of recipes. You can use frozen pomfret bought in oriental supermarkets or substitute it with other fishes with similarly soft flesh.

1 medium or large pomfret, gutted and cleaned (you could leave the head on if preferred)
Slices of ginger

Some cooking oil
Sesame oil
Chopped spring onions, optional

Soy sauce
Green chillies, chopped
Garlic, minced

Arrange slices of ginger on the fish after it has been cleaned. Place the fish on its serving dish and put it in the steamer. Add about 3 cups of water to the steamer, close the lid and set the heat on low/medium. Let the fish cook in the steam for about 30 minutes or so (depending on the size of the fish and how much heat is being applied to the steamer). Avoid opening the lid too many times-it will take extra cooking time to replace the escaped steam to cook the fish.

When it is done (use a knife to prod the flesh- if it is white throughout, the fish is cooked), remove the fish from the steamer. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Add a few dashes of sesame oil to it. Wait until the oil is very hot before drizzling the oil over the fish- you should hear it sizzle the fish skin. Garnish the fish with spring onions.

Serve this steamed pomfret with some white rice, a small sauce dish of soy, chillies and garlic and a vegetable side dish if desired.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Tomyum Nabe

Nabe is a Japanese one-dish hotpot which can include any vegetables and meat in a good, hearty broth. In this recipe, I have attempted nabe with a twist by using tomyum flavour as the soup base.

This dish is perfect for the days when its cold outside
and want something fast and tasty! Cooked in a claypot dish, the hot pot will stay hot for longer as you sit around with friends and tuck in.

1 tomyum cube (or 1 tablespoon of bottled tomyum paste)
3 litres of water
1 carrot, sliced
1 chilli, whole (optional)
a quarter head of cauliflower, broken into florets
8 young corns
1 medium chicken breast, thinly sliced against the grain
4-5 mushrooms, quartered
50-70g of dried noodles per person

Bring the water to boil and melt the tomyum cube (or past) in it. Carefully arrange the ingredients in the pot and leave the lid on. Cook for 3-5 minutes and serve up. Condiments such as soy sauce and chilli sauce would go with this dish.

Tip: If you have a dish warmer, you can place this claypot on it and leave it warming over the tealights while you eat.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Kuih Gulung (Coconut Pancake Roll)

 ‘Green, spring roll-like snack filled with sweet, grated coconut’ pretty much sums up kuih gulung. Most kuih sellers in Malaysia will have them, but it’s something you can make at home with minimal ingredients, effort and time.

Normally, freshly grated coconut is used for this kuih. However, if that is not a readily available ingredient at your local shop, dried desiccated coconut will work just as well if cooked as mentioned below.

1 cup flour
180ml water
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon green food colouring
¼ teaspoon pandan (screwpine leaves) flavouring
1 tablespoon oil

150g desiccated or grated coconut
2 heaped tablespoons of brown sugar, the darker the better
1 teaspoon water

Warm the sugar and water in a small pan over low heat. When it has dissolved, add the coconut and let it absorb most of the moister. When the mixture is nearly dry, remove from heat and leave aside to cool.

Whisk the flour and water to form a smooth batter without lumps. Add the salt, oil, food colour and flavour. The oil helps emulsify the ingredients together and allows the batter to cook into beautiful pancakes.

Spoon a ladle of batter onto a medium hot non-stick pan (add a drop of oil if using a regular pan), swirl it around to cover the base. Cook for a minute before flipping over and cook for another minute.

Place the pancake on a plate; add a spoonful of the coconut mixture in a line near the edge of the pancake. Fold in both sides and roll the rest up tightly. The kuih gulung is ready to be served. It can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Best enjoyed with your favourite hot drink!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Chicken Liver Tapas

While chicken liver rarely makes an appearance on British dinner tables, this underrated ingredient's usefulness extends beyond pâté (homogeneous spreadable meat). Around the world, chicken livers are prepared in curries, fried, and prepared in a variety of manner. In this dish, I combine the creamy, rich taste of liver with some spices and fresh coriander to cook up one of my favourite tapas entrée. This recipe had featured in an earlier entry, but here's an improved version of it:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 stalks of curry leaves
1 tablespoon kurma curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
400 g chicken liver, cleaned and cubed into bit size pieces

a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

Sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over very low heat. When the onions are soft and translucent  the garlic, chilli, fennel seed and curry leaves are added to this frying oil. In 2-3 minutes, pour in the liver and curry powders. Season lightly with salt and pepper and let it cook slowly, caramelising in the dry kurma flavoured oil. 

Cook this for about 20-30 minutes (depending on how low the fire is and the size of the liver chunks), cut into the bigger pieces of liver to check it is cooked before serving it, garnished with generous amounts of fresh chopped coriander. Works well both as tapas or side dish for rice and curry.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Kuih lapis

Layered steamed kuih i.e. kuih lapis is another firm favourite at kuih stalls all over Malaysia. Executed correctly, you will be able to peel each coloured layer of this pandan-flavoured kuih to eat them, not that it is a compulsory step to do so! With a decent steamer, you too can knock this sweet snack at home.

Normally, the kuih lapis is much like the Malaysian flag- red and white stripes, but there is no rule against using other colours. In fact, the Malaccan versions of this kuih (part of the Nyonya cuisine) are particularly known for their multicolours.

150 g rice flour
30 g mung bean flour
175 g sugar
400 ml water
300 ml coconut milk
1 teaspoon pandan or screwpine flavouring
food colouring (own discretion)
pinch of salt

Mix the flours together with salt and whisk in the water and coconut milk. Form a smooth batter before adding the sugar and flavouring. Separate this batter into two or three parts (depending on how many colours you want), allocating a different colour to each layer.

Boil some water in some steamer. If you don't have one, or if your tray is bigger than your steamer, you can use a large wok as the steamer. You will need to use it with a lid and a wooden stand to keep the tray from touching the bottom of the wok.

Oil a medium sized tray, about 20 cm or longer and at least 5 cm deep, and pour a layer of the batter (around 1/6 of the total batter for each layer) into it. Steam this layer until the batter becomes solid, which could take between 5- 10 minutes. Repeat this layer by layer until all the batter is used up.

Leave this tray to cool before cutting the kuih with a wet, sharp knife into smaller pieces to serve. Enjoy with your favourite hot drink!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fusion Chicken Sambal (in spicy sauce)

Most sambal recipes are pretty standard but you can tweak which flavours you wish to bring forward according to which main ingredient go into it. For example, dried anchovies are best used for plain sambal or ones with prawns and tofu. This is another one of my mum’s creations- a blend of aromatic Indian spices compliments the chicken sambal very well.

500-600g chicken pieces/ breast meat (in slices)
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
2 cm ginger, minced or crushed
1 large cinnamon stick
3-4 star anise
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
3-4 tablespoon of blended chilli paste
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
1-2 teaspoon dark brown sugar or grated palm sugar

Shallow fry the seasoned chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Leave it aside for later.

If possible, use the same pan and  about 2-3 tablespoon of the oil used for frying the chicken for the second part of this recipe (this adds the flavour lost from frying back into the dish); excess oil can be left aside in a clean, dry bowl and added to the sambal if needed later. Fry the chilli paste until it becomes darker and lumpy. Add the spices, onion, crushed garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes until it becomes fragrant.

The tomatoes go in next along with ½ cup of water. The chicken in added to the sambal and let this simmer for ten minutes or until the desired consistency is reached. Lemon or lime juice, sugar and some salt is added to taste.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Chickpea Curry

Chickpea curry served with chappati

Chickpeas are an easy way of adding protein to your vegetarian dishes. While they are quite delicious boiled and served on their own, as hummus, falafel or with minimal flavouring, this mild curry version makes a perfect accompaniment for Indian breads such as chappati* or naan.

1 onion, chopped
1 green or red chilli (optional)
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sliced of ginger, chopped
1-2 potatoes, cut into medium cubes
1 teaspoon spice mix/thalippu
2 stalks of curry leaves
1 tomato, chopped
1 can of chickpeas, drained (if using dried chickpeas, you will need to soak and boil according to the instructions on the packet before using it in this recipe)
1 heaped teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon kurma curry powder
a dash of coriander powder (optional)
1 tablespon gram (chickpea) flour
salt and black pepper powder

Sauté the spice mix, onion, garlic, ginger and chillies in 1 tablespoon oil over low heat. Add the curry leaves, potatoes and season lightly. Splash a bit of water in the mixture and let it simmer for a few minutes. The curry and spice powders are added along with a cup of water. Leave the lid on and allow the potatoes to cook through. This may take 15-20 minutes, depending on how high the heat is. When the potatoes are cooked, pour in the chickpeas and tomatoes and let it boil for a few more minutes. Use the gram flour to thicken the excess water into a smooth sauce. Season and serve with your favourite bread.

* Chappati is a tortilla-like bread made using atta flour (unrefined wheat).

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Nasi Goreng Udang (Prawn Fried Rice)

 A must-try for spice-fiends, this mouth scorching rice never fails to satisfy my hunger for hot food. As usual, the amount of spice depends on the quantity and quality of chillies used for this dish and can be altered to suit your own taste. Beginners should approach with caution!

Fried rice requires firm rice to avoid it turning into mush when fried. The best option is to use cold, leftover white rice. If you are cooking it fresh, best to give it time to cool before using it to make fried rice.

3 cups of cooked rice
2-3 tablespoon of dried chilli paste, the hotter the chilli, the less you will need
1 ½  teaspoon belacan
½ onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup of frozen peas
½ cup frozen sweet corn
½ cup diced carrot
200-250 g prawns, shelled and de-veined
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Soy sauce or salt to season
1 large egg

Sauté the chilli paste in about 2 tablespoon of oil until it becomes lumpy and darker in colour. Next, the onion, belacan, garlic and  prawns are added in and cooked for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the sauces and the vegetables into this frying ingredients, allow it to cook for another  few minutes before stirring in the rice. Turn the heat to medium-high, stir quickly to cover the rice evenly with the sauces and season with salt or soy sauce to taste.

Make a well in the middle of the wok, add a splash of oil and break the egg into it. Wait for a moment to let the egg cook, then stir the rice into it. When the rice is dry (egg is cooked), it is ready to be eaten. Serves 2-3 persons.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Sometimes called the Japanese pizza, the okonomiyaki is essentially a cabbage-filled omelette cooked on the hotplate. In Japanese okonomiyaki-ya (restaurants that serve okonomiyaki, yakisoba etc.), it is cooked in front of the customers, but all you need to try it at home is a good non-stick frying pan measuring about 22 cm (with a lid).

120 g white cabbage, remove the hard parts and shred the rest finely
3 eggs
120 g flour
120-150 ml water
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
150-200 g meat of your choice (boneless chicken/prawns/squid)
Bacon (optional)
Oil for frying

Mix the flour, baking powder and water to form a lump-less batter. Stir in the eggs, shredded cabbage, meat and seasoning. Leave for 5-10 minutes.

Heat the frying pan and 1 desert spoon of oil over low-medium heat. If using bacon, fry the strips of bacon lightly on both sides and take it off the heat. Pour in half the mixture, spread it into a circle and flatten to half an inch. Place the bacon strips on the top side of the batter. Cover the pan, flip it over every five minutes or so. It takes about 20 minutes to cook each - the finer the cabbage, the quicker it cooks.

Okonomiyaki is normally garnished with a generous lashing of okonomiyaki sauce*, Japanese mayonnaise*, powdered seaweed (aonori) and bonito flakes before serving, but I didn’t have the last two items and substituted it with shredded sheets of seaweed.

* These items are available in most oriental supermarkets.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Mee Hoon Goreng (Fried Vermicelli)

Rice vermicelli (commonly referred to as mee hoon in Malaysia) is one of the tastiest noodles that you can stir-fry, most probably because the fine noodles offers plenty of surface area for the sauces to cover.

There are many types of rice vermicelli sold in the shops; make sure you get a firm variety that is more suited to frying than the ultra fine variation that is used in soups. The whiter the noodles, the higher quality it tends to be and it’s best to soak the noodles in cold water for an hour or two before cooking them al dente by soaking them in boiling water. Over cooking will result in broken, mushy mee hoon.

Mee hoon goreng has many variations in Malaysia and it eaten for almost any meal of the day! I admit my favourite one is the one my mum makes- it’s spicy and delicious. I’ll try and do it justice in this recipe. For a vegetarian version of these noodles, substitute belacan with an equal amount of mushroom sauce or vegetarian stir fry sauce and the anchovies and fishballs can be replaced with more vegetables like mangetout, carrots and cabbage.

 200 g mee hoon/rice vermicelli, soaked in cold water, then hot until it cooks al dente and drained
½ onion, sliced
5 fishballs, halved
50 g anchovies
1 block of tofu (100-200 g)
2 cups of beansprouts
1 egg, beaten and seasoned with salt
2 stalks spring onions, chopped

Spice paste
½ onion
4-5 cloves garlic
10 dried chillies, soaked until soft (1 hour or more)
1 teaspoon belacan/shrimp paste
50 ml water

1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
1-2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

Shallow fry the tofu and fishballs over medium heat. Remove from heat and slice the tofu into cubes. Keep them aside for later.

Blend the spice paste ingredients until smooth. Fry it in 2 tablespoon of oil over medium heat until the colour is darker and the paste turns lumpy.

Add the slices of onion, anchovies and vegetables, if any. Cook for about three minutes before adding the sauces and the noodles. Turn the heat to medium-high/high, pour in the fried tofu and fishballs. Toss everything together until all the noodles are evenly coated with the sauces; the best way to do this is using both spatula and oversized chopsticks (meant for cooking)/tongs.

Make a well in the middle of the noodles, pour in a drop of oil and the beaten eggs. Wait for a moment before stirring the noodles into the egg. The beans sprouts are strewn into the noodles just a couple of minutes before it is removed off the heat. Taste and add some salt if needed and garnish with spring onions. This recipe should serve 2-3 persons.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Claypot noodles

This is a noodle recipe I knocked up using a claypot to stew the soup base in. The soup is a rich, thick broth with plenty of vegetables and meat. You don’t have to use a claypot to cook this, however, the subtle flavours which earthenware cooking lends to the food cooked in it are not found in metal pots and pans. Nevertheless, it should still taste good and it makes a great warming dinner on a wet, cold evening!

½ onion, sliced
2 minced garlic cloves
¼ Chinese cabbage, chopped into big chunks
1 carrot, sliced
5 young corn, cut into chunks
300 g boneless chicken meat, cubed
2 ½  cups of chicken stock (1 stock cube diluted in boiling water)
Corn starch (1 teaspoon corn flour mixed into 1 tablespoon water)
1 spring onion, cut into small chunks
1 egg
2 servings of dried egg noodles (approximately 50 g/serving). I used thick, flat ones, but you can use any noodle shapes desired.
White pepper

1 tablespoon thick, dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Minced garlic
Sliced green chillies or pickled chillies
Soy sauce

Sauté the onion and garlic in two desert spoons of oil in a heated claypot. Add the chicken to the frying ingredients, followed by the vegetables after five minutes. Pour the chicken stock and sauces in shortly afterwards, place the lid on and allow it to simmer on low heat for about ten minutes. Season the soup with white pepper, and additional salt if needed.

Place the bundles of dried noodles at the bottom of the pot, piling the vegetables and meat on top of the noodles. Allow it to cook with the lid on (for as long as instructed on it's packaging- the noodles I cooked required three minutes). When the noodles are cooked add spring onions to the soup. Pour the corn starch in and stir quickly to thicken the remaining soup. Break an egg over the top, put the lid back on and turn the heat off. The egg will be semi-cooked in the residual heat of the soup while you are preparing the condiments.

Stir the egg into the soup and serve up with condiments. This recipe serves two.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Tamarind rice

Tamarind rice may have originated as a temple offering in India, although it has been enjoyed outside religious grounds for centuries. Tamarind rice is a very easy way of jazzing up regular white rice, especially if it is served without an accompanying curry or gravy, such as a tapas dish or part of a salad.

This tamarind rice recipe is faithful to how my mum makes it at home.

1 cup of rice
1 ½ cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½  teaspoon spice mix (thalippu)
½ teaspoon fenugreek
1 stalk curry leaves
½ onion, diced
2 dried chillies, cut into chunks

Wash and cook the rice with 1 ½ cup of water and some salt. This should be enough water for the given rice, so let it evaporate away when the rice is cooked. 

Sauté the spice mix, fenugreek, curry leaves, dried chillies and onion in a dessert spoon of oil. Dissolve the tamarind paste into ½ cup of water and sieve out the seeds and other solid bits. 

Then pour the tamarind water into the frying pan along with the turmeric powder and rice. Mix well and let the excess water evaporate off before serving.

Tip: You can add peanuts and cooked lentils in the rice to give it some texture.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Satay Ayam (Chicken Satay)

While satay is generally associated with the cuisine of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, grilled skewers of meat is not unique to this region. Kushiyaki (e.g. yakitori) in Japan, shish kebab in Middle East and French brochettes are examples of similar style of cooking from around the world.

What makes satay stand out, however, is its unique blend of fragrant marinade and the peanut sauce dip. Satay vendors of Malaysia use a long metal grill filled with coal to cook, using a oil brush fashioned out of a stalk of lemongrass. You can grill your satay in an indoor grill if it’s no longer barbecue weather where you are, but if you are using the oil brush, take care as the drippings may sometimes cause the coal fire to flare up!

400g chicken meat without bones, with some skin if preferred
1 lemongrass, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon honey
a dash of white pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
10+ bamboo skewers

cubes of cucumber
wedges of onion
cubes of ketupat (compact rice)

Peanut sauce (click to view)

Cube the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces. Mix the rest of the ingredients together to form the marinade. Coat the chicken well in this marinade in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight if possible.

Soak the bamboo skewers for ten minutes or more before skewering the chicken pieces together. The soaking prevents the bamboo sticks from burning when grilled. Standard satay comprises of 3-4 cubes of meat on each skewer (or three meat cubes and a piece of skin in most cases). 

Skewered marinated chicken

Grill these skewers over coal fire or indoor grill until the meat is cooked. Some charring of the satay is normal, so don't worry if it burns a little bit! Serve the satay with peanut sauce dip and sides.

Chicken satay served with cucumber, onion and peanut sauce

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Vegetarian Yellow Curry

Here’s my take on a Thai style yellow curry. How is it different from other Thai curries? – It is a milder and creamier dish with less chillies compared to the red and green curries. This recipe is vegetarian, but you can add your meat of choice to it as long as it’s cooked thoroughly before eaten.

Left to right: young corn, mangetout, sweet potato wedges and sliced onion

2 cm piece galangal
1-2 slices ginger
1-2 cloves garlic
½  onion, slice half of it, and keep the rest for the curry paste
1 cm turmeric root
2 dried chillies
1 stalk lemongrass
100 g young corn
100 g mangetout
1 medium sweet potato, cut into wedges
150 ml coconut milk
1 cup of water

First, blend the galangal, ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric root, dried chillies and lemongrass into a paste. Fry the paste in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat for about five minutes. Add the sweet potato, salt and white pepper. Cook further for five minutes before pouring in water and letting it boil until the potatoes are soft.

Pour in the rest of the vegetables (mangetout and young corn need to retain a little crunch, so don’t cook them for too long) and coconut milk. Let it simmer and serve with fragrant white rice.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Chicken and Leek Wantan

This is a variation on the dumplings (wantan) found in an earlier recipe of mine. Here I am using a simple chicken and leek filling and frying the wantans instead of boiling them. However, it can be steamed or boiled if you prefer it that way. Fried wantans work better as party food!

150g chicken breast meat, minced or chopped finely
1 small leek, cut into fine slices
1 tablespoon teriyaki marinade sauce
A dash of white pepper powder
Wantan skins

Sweat the leek over low heat in a spoonful of oil for five minutes. Add the chicken and teriyaki sauce. Cook these further for ten minutes to ensure the chicken is done and the teriyaki flavour permeates both chicken and leek. Splash some water from time to time if it is looking too dry, but the end product should be relatively dry. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool before making the dumplings.

Minced chicken and leek in teriyaki sauce

Place a small spoonful of filling in the centre of a wantan skin. Wet the edges of the skin and seal them together. Deep fry the wantan until golden, place on kitchen roll to remove excess oil and serve with some sweet chilli sauce.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


This gram-based fritters are another South Indian snack. It takes minutes to prepare and is generally a crowd pleaser. It’s perfect served with chutneys, sweet chilli sauce or on its own.

1 cup gram flour
1-2 teaspoon chilli powder
Salt and pepper
3-4 stalks of curry leaves, chopped finely
1 onion, chopped
1-2 green or red chillies, chopped
About ¾ cup water
Oil for deep frying

Add all the ingredients, except oil, together in a bowl to form a thick, smooth batter. Deep fry bite-size batter portions in oil until golden on both sides. Tuck in while it's hot!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Rasam (Spicy South Indian soup)

Rasam is a spicy, sour soup that is often served at the end of the meal in South Indian restaurants as an aid to digestion. It can also be a main ‘curry’ for your rice and vegetables, and is especially soothing to sip on for those with a cold or flu. 

½ onion
3 cm ginger
4-5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon spice mix
2 stalks curry leaves
3 dried chillies
½ cup of tamarind paste
1 large tomato, chopped or cut into wedges
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder

Roughly blend the onion, garlic, ginger, peppercorns, cumin and fennel seeds. Sauté the spice mix, dried chillies and curry leaves over low heat in some oil to release the flavours. Pour in the blended paste and bring it to boil. Dilute the tamarind paste in a cup of water and sieve out the bits. Pour in the tamarind juice and tomato with the rest of the ingredients and add the turmeric powder. When the soup starts to boil, add some water and turn the heat off.

Rasam and rice

Saturday, 8 September 2012


I tried making sushi by youtube video instructions alone. Sure there are master classes out there which you could try if you are really interested, but these videos were most informative for a novice like me. Click here for nigiri sushi (slices of raw fish on a bed of rice) video and here for maki sushi (rice and filling wrapped in seaweed sheet) video.

I made the several different sushi using just a few core items. Other than that, a very sharp knife and a bamboo mat for rolling your maki will come handy too.

short grain/Japanese sushi rice
raw salmon
nori (seaweed sheets)

soy sauce
pickled ginger

Have fun trying!
Left to right: cucumber maki, crabstick and avocado maki, salmon nigiri, salmon maki and avocado maki.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Rojak (Malaysian Salad)

An array of rojak ingredients and peanut sauce

Rojak is Malay for ‘jumbled’ or ‘mixed’, which describes the appearance of this salad. This savoury dish is not to be confused with Pasembor (also called Rojak Singapore), a dish based on fish ball and seafood skewers popular in Singapore and Penang, or Rojak Buah (Fruit salad) which contains a mixture of local fruits- jambu air (Syzygium samarangense), guava, cucumber etc., doused in a thick sauce topped with crumbled peanuts.

Malaysian Rojak is another one of many favourites of a mamak restaurant. It used to be peddled on vendors on their bikes before it took a firm root in restaurants. There are two main variants to this dish- with and without egg noodles. Other differences may include substitution of plain fritters for kuih udang, or a potato based sauce rather than peanut sauce. This recipe describes my favourite version of the dish.

The sengkuang root

The soul of this salad is sengkuang, also called jicama or yam bean. It may prove harder to find in the West, but some of the best Asian/Oriental supermarket may stock them. The freshness and nutty taste of this root is rather unique and it is this flavour that gives the rojak its distinctive taste.

½ yam bean, peeled and julienned
½ cucumber, julienned
2 boiled potatoes
1 cup of bean sprouts
150 g firm tofu
Boiled egg, peeled and halved

½ cup flour
50 ml water
Pinch of salt
½ cup of bean sprouts, chopped (optional)

Peanut sauce
2 cm piece galangal
1-2 slices ginger
1-2 cloves garlic
¼ onion
½ teaspoon belacan, or shrimp paste
1 cm turmeric root
2 dried chillies
1 stalk lemongrass
1-2 digestive biscuits or cream crackers, crushed into powder
1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
A dash of white pepper
½ cups water

To make the peanut sauce, grind the galangal, ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric root, belacan, dried chillies and lemongrass into a paste. Fry the paste in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. After frying it for about 4-5 minutes, add water and season with salt and white pepper. Bring this sauce to boil before pouring in the crushed biscuits and chopped peanuts. If desired (especially if you want to make the sauce taste less spicy), you may add about 1-2 tablespoon of coconut milk, but the taste should be sufficiently rich even without it. Your sauce is ready when it starts to boil.

To make the fritters, beat the flour and water to form a smooth batter. Season with salt, and if desired, add chopped bean sprouts. Deep fry spoonfuls of the batter until they are golden on both sides. Check here on detailed methods.

Boil the potatoes with the skin on. When they are cooked through (use a fork to pierce and check if they are done), cool them under running tap water and peel the skin off. Cut them into cubes.

Shallow fry the block of tofu until lightly golden on all sides. Blot out excess oil with some kitchen towel and cut them into thin slices. The beansprouts are blanched before serving.

Assemble all the ingredients, place the desired amount of each item on your plate and garnish with the peanut sauce and tuck in.