Thursday, 31 May 2012

Fish Curry

Most curries are made using ready mixed curry powders. The base of these curry powders are almost always the same- grounded spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, fennel seeds, chillies, coriander, cloves and star anise, to mention a few.

It is the different combinations and ratios of these ingredients that produce different types of curry powders. These can be spice levels and style specific (mild, hot, jalfrezi, balti etc) or ingredients based (fish, meat, kurma).

Fish curry recipe below uses fish curry powder, but you can make it with curry powder of your choice. However, this curry powder is not limited to only fish. You can cook vegetables or bean curries with it too.


600g kingfish slices, alternately, you may use any meaty, firm fish
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 onion, sliced
5 garlic, minced
3 slices ginger, minced
½ teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon spice mix (mixture of mustard seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek)
3 stalks of curry leaves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
4 tablespoon fish curry powder
1-2 tablespoon chilli powder
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
6-8 small aubergines, halved (alternately, 1 large aubergine cut into wedges)
10-15 small okra, trimmed (remove the stem and tip)
6-8 cherry tomatoes (or 2 large tomatoes)
1 tablespoon tamarind paste diluted in 1 bowl of water, strain and discard the seeds

Clean the fish slices, season with salt and pepper and smear with turmeric powder. They should be shallow fried lightly on both sides for about two minutes. Remove the fish from the oil and keep aside for later.

Fry the aubergines and okra in the same oil for two minutes as well. Remove them from heat and keep them aside as well.

Sauté the spices (spice mix, fenugreek, peppercorns, curry leaves), onion, garlic and ginger in a pot with 1 tablespoon of oil until fragrant. Mix the curry powders together in a bowl of water and pour it into the frying mixture. Simmer with the lid on for five to ten minutes before adding the fried vegetables. Let this boil for ten to fifteen minutes on medium heat, adding water to dilute the curry to the thickness you prefer (South Indian curries tend to be more dilute compared to others). Pour the tamarind in, add the tomatoes, fish and season with some salt. Boil for another five to eight minutes before serving.

Tip: Day old curries are thicker and tastier than fresh ones, as the vegetables and meat have had extra time to soak up the flavours for longer and the gravy gets more viscous when reheated on the hob. I often freeze mine and defrost it again when I’m having some roti canai.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Thai Red Curry

This dish is inspired by the red curry I had while on a trip to Phuket, Thailand. Unlike the variety found in the UK, this Thai Red Curry is dry and does not contain coconut milk, much like the Malaysian sambal. It's also very spicy, so proceed at your own risk!

600g chicken breast, cleaned and sliced against the grain (keeps it tender when cooked)
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2cm ginger
3cm galangal
1 stalk lemongrass
5-10 red bird's eye chillies
3-4 kaffir lime leaves, sliced

Blend the all the ingredients and a splash of water, except chicken and lime leaves, until smooth. Sauté this paste in two tablespoon of oil over medium low heat. When the paste is thick and darker in colour, add the chicken breast slices and fry for another ten minutes. Add the lime leaves and seasoning, and simmer for three minutes. Serve the red curry with rice.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Ghee Masala Dosai

Ghee, or clarified butter features heavily in Indian cuisine, especially in sweets and desserts. It is a fragrant substitute for oil and sometimes suffers a bad reputation due to its calorific nature and rich taste. However, in moderation this divine butter (also credited as ‘food of gods’ by some) turns any humble food into a delectable dish.

Ghee masala dosai is dosai cooked with drops of ghee and used to wrap a mild potato masala. This is the recipe for it:

2 large potatoes, skinned and diced
1 carrot, diced
1 cup of peas
1 onion
3 garlic, minced
2 slices of ginger, minced
1 teaspoon spice mix (mixture of mustard seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek)
1 green chilli, finely sliced (optional)
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 stalks curry leaves
Salt and pepper

Fry the onion, garlic, ginger, spice mix, curry leaves and chillies in two tablespoons of oil for two minutes. The diced potatoes go in next, and add a splash of water and the turmeric powder. Let the potatoes simmer away for ten minutes before adding the carrots. Cook for another five minutes, then add the peas. Season the masala and remove from heat when the peas are done.

You can find how to make the dosai here. While cooking the dosai, drip a teaspoon of ghee over it to add crunch and aroma to the pancakes. Spoon 2 tablespoons of masala over one half of the dosai and fold the dosai in half. Serve with chutneys or curries.

Potato masala

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Cekodok (Banana Fritters)

Cekodok is a simple kuih that you can make at home, especially when you have some overripe bananas to put to good use. This used to be a weekend family breakfast favourite during my childhood days. There are several ways of making cekodok, but I’ve written down my favourite version. Hope you enjoy this.


2 cup flour
2-3 overripe bananas
½ cup sugar
2 pinches of salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda 
about 1 cup water
½ grated coconut (fresh or dried)
Oil for deep frying

Spoonfuls of batter are fried in hot oil
Mix the flour, bicarbonate soda, salt and sugar in a bowl and make a little well in the middle. Pour water as you stir the flour in with a whisk. Make sure there are no lumps in the batter. The bananas are mashed with a fork and added to this batter alongside grated coconut. Stir well and drop spoonfuls of batter at a time into the hot oil when deep frying. Fry on both sides till golden, remove from oil and drain off the excess oil with kitchen roll before tucking in.

Tip: For those who are gluten or wheat intolerant, you can substitute the flour with wheat-free flour. The water to wheat-free flour ratio is 1:1.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Spicy Pattaya Fried Rice (Nasi Goreng Pattaya)

Pattaya fried rice is a Thai dish where the (fried) rice is encased within an omelette. Here’s how you can turn your leftover rice and sambal into an exciting dinner.

2 bowls of rice (serves two)
1-2 tablespoons sambal (as spicy as you like it)
1 carrot, diced
½ cup peas
½ sweetcorn
8 prawns, shelled and cleaned
Soy sauce
Salad on the side
2 eggs

Fry the carrots in a frying pan with some olive oil for two minutes. The prawns, sweetcorn and peas are added to the pan. When the prawns turn pink, stir in the sambal and rice (make sure the rice is not in lumps). Turn the heat to medium high, stir well and coat the rice evenly with the sambal. Season the rice with soy sauce (and salt if necessary) to taste. Heat through for five minutes and it’s done.

In a separate pan, fry up two beaten eggs into two thin omelettes. Dish up the rice and cover it with the omelette. Add salads to the side before serving.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Puri and Sardine Perattal (Dry Curry)

Puri is a deep fried Indian bread that is eaten as breakfast or a snack. Like dosai, it too can be served with a variety of curries and chutneys. Mum serves this as dinner with a sardine and potato dip, which over the years has become a comfort food for Paul and I.

2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon butter
¾ teaspoon salt
Just over ½ cup of water
Oil for deep frying

Sardine Perattal
½ onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 slices of ginger, minced
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 star anise
3 medium-large potatoes, diced
1 large tin of sardines or pilchard in tomato sauce
2-4 teaspoon chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it)
2 tomatoes, chopped
¼ lime

Rub the butter into the seasoned flour in a mixing bowl.  Make a well in the centre, pour the water into it and stir the dough in by hand. Kneed the dough well until smooth (not sticky or too dry) and leave it aside to rest for five to ten minutes. Roll out ping pong ball-sized dough into 2mm thick circles and deep fry them one at a time in hot oil. Spoon the hot oil over the top side of the puri to allow it to puff up into a ball (it will taste just as good even if it doesn’t). Turn over to the other side and fry until both sides are golden. Remove them from oil and place them on some kitchen roll or a colander to drain excess oil away.

Sauté onion, garlic, ginger and spices in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and season with salt. A splash of water is poured in to prevent the potatoes from burning. Cook this mixture for about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chilli powder and simmer the curry until the potatoes are soft. Pour in the tinned sardines together with it's tomato sauce and squeeze in the lime juice. Simmer for another five minutes and serve the perattal with puri.

Tip: Left over puri dough and sardine dip can be turned into this.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Mum’s Dosai and Coconut Chutney

Dosai (also known as dosa) is a savoury pancake that can be served with chutneys and curries. It is made using urad dal, a very nutritious pulse. This South Indian dish is a popular all day breakfast for many who have access to restaurants that serve them. However, I’ll be providing my mum’s recipe for those who wish to try this at home.

2 cups uncooked rice
½ cup cooked rice
1 tablespoon fenugreek
Pinch of salt

Coconut chutney
1 cup of freshly grated coconut (or the same amount of dried desiccated coconut and 2 tablespoon coconut milk)
¼ onion
2 garlic cloves
2 slices of ginger
1 red chilli (optional, so leave it out if you don’t want a spicy chutney)
½ carrot
1 tomato
2 stalks of curry leaves
1 teaspoon of spice mix (a mixture of mustard seeds, fenugreek and cumin)

Soak the uncooked rice, urad dal and fenugreek for two to three hours. Wash these thoroughly and add the cooked rice to this mixture.

Using a blender or food processor, blend the mixture with 1-1½  cups of water until smooth. Add a pinch of salt to the batter and leave it covered overnight in a warm place. The cooked rice in the mixture will allow this batter to ferment and aerate, leaving the batter smooth, full of bubbles and soft when cooked.

Coconut chutney is quite easy to make. Blend the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, carrot, tomato, coconut and a splash of water until smooth. Fry the spice mix and curry leaves in a spoonful of oil for two minutes over low heat. Pour the blended mix into the frying mixture and simmer for three minutes. Keep aside for later.

To cook the dosai, you’ll need a frying pan (substituting for the traditional iron dosai pan), some cooking oil and a kitchen roll. Heat the pan; use the kitchen roll to spread the oil onto the pan. Pour a ladleful of batter into the middle of the pan, and gently spread it thinner in an outward circular motion. Cook for two minutes and it is ready. Serve with chutney while it’s hot.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Kembung Bakar (Grilled Mackerel)

Mackerels (ikan kembung in Malay) are great for grilling, and this Malay infusion in marinade works wonderfully to balance the strong flavours of the fish. This only takes minutes to prepare, ideal for when you want a tasty meal with minimal effort. You can substitute other fish if you’re not a fan of mackerel, but similarly oily fish are better for grilling than others.

1 medium mackerel, cleaned, left on the bone
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chilli paste
½ teaspoon belacan

½ medium onion
2 garlic cloves
A slice of ginger
1 teaspoon of galangal paste
1 red chilli
1 lemongrass stalk

Slices of lime
Cucumber slices

Blend the marinade ingredients with a splash of water until smooth. Leave three shallow slashes each side of the mackerel to allow the flavours of your marinade to penetrate and for the fish to cook quicker.

Coat fish well and allow it to marinade for about 10-15 minutes. Remove the excess marinade off the fish, stuffing only a spoonful in the fish. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over it and grill the fish for about eight minutes or until the skin is browned.

The excess marinade is fried in a spoonful of oil with the chilli paste and belacan for about five minutes to make a sambal sauce for the fish.

Serve the fish with sambal, slices of lime and cucumber. It works wonderfully with plain white rice.

** Those who aren’t big fans of spicy dishes can leave out the chillies and belacan (which is not spicy, but will not be required in this dish without the chillies) to make an equally tasty but mild kembung bakar.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Nasi Lemak

A basic nasi lemak is a traditional Malay breakfast. Conventionally, the broken kernels of white rice are cooked in coconut milk and flavoured with pandan, or screwpine  leaves and served with a spoonful or two of spicy sambal, fried anchovies and peanuts, half a boiled egg and a few slices of cucumber. However, these days it is made from regular or fragrant jasmine rice and is eaten any time of the day, complemented with anything from rendang, fried chicken, gulai prawns, squid sambalkangkung (a.k.a water morning glory) belacan and various vegetables.

I’ll be jotting down the signature basic nasi lemak recipe here.


2 cups of rice (serves 4)
2 cups of water
1 cup of coconut milk
Pinch of salt
2-3 pandan leaves, knotted. Alternately, you can use 1 tsp of pandan flavouring.

1 cup of dried chillies, soaked and blended until smooth to form a paste with as little water as possible.
1 onion
5-6 garlic cloves
2 cm ginger slice
1½ teaspoon belacan paste or powder. Alternately, you can use the same amount of dried shrimps.
1 lemon grass stalk
½ lime
½ cup of dried anchovies, cleaned
1 tbsp white or palm sugar

2 hardboiled eggs
100g dried anchovies, cleaned and fried until crispy
100g peanuts (salted ones from a packet would do if you don’t want to fry or roast your own)
1 cucumber, sliced

Wash the rice 2-3 times and drain. I prefer to cook it in a rice cooker with the water, coconut milk, seasonings and flavourings, but you can also cook it on the hob.

Blend half an onion, garlic and ginger with the chillies. Cook the paste that forms in four tablespoons of oil in medium heat. This might induce some splattering, so a spatter guard might come in handy at this point.

You’ll find that the paste needs to be cooked for about eight minutes before it is drier and darker in colour. Slice the remaining half of the onion and add it to the paste, along with a chrushed lemon grass, belacan, and after a minute, the anchovies too. Add a cup of water and allow to simmer for ten minutes.

Season the sambal with some salt, lime juice and sugar. Remove from heat when you’re happy with the consistency of the sambal. I try to make mine a medium consistency- somewhere between runny and stodgy.

A normal serving would consist of a portion of rice, a few spoonfuls of sambal, ½ boiled egg, some anchovies, peanuts and 3-4 cucumber slices. Enjoy!
Dinner-sized portion:
Nasi lemak with fried chicken and egg

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mee Goreng (Fried Noodles)

This particular style of fried noodles is one emulating the type served in Malaysian 'Mamak Restaurants'- a popular haunt for most Malaysians of all ages. In a nation where alcohol is not consumed by majority of its citizens, pubs are replaced with such establishments where you can hang out with friends, eat tasty Malaysian dishes at very reasonable prices (which is also the place to go for a proper mug of teh tarik) and watch football on big screen television.

400g yellow or egg noodles (for 3-4 people)
12-15 large prawns, cleaned and shelled (I left the tail on)
10 fish balls, sliced and fried
1 medium block of tofu, diced and fried
2 tomatoes, chopped
50g bean sprouts
3 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce

Spice paste (blended until smooth)
5 dried chillies, soaked
5 garlic cloves
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon belacan or shrimp paste

Fritter batter
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup water
A pinch of salt

Spring onions, chopped
Cucumber slices

Mix the fritter batter ingredients in a bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Heat up a cup of oil in a frying pan. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the pan and fry them on both sides until golden. Strain and leave them aside for later. Cut them in halves when they are cool enough to handle.

Sauté the blended spice paste in two tablespoon of oil in a wok over medium high heat until fragrant. Add prawns, tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the soy sauces. After a couple of minutes, stir in the tofu, fish balls and noodles. Coat the noodles evenly in the sauce and heat them through.

The bean sprouts and fritters are added just a couple of minutes before turning the heat off. You still want some crunch to the bean sprouts when they are served. Garnish the noodles with spring onions and cucumber and enjoy them hot.

Tip: Frying this noodles at high heat is the key to great taste. However, be careful not to burn it!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Onde onde

Onde onde is a type of kuih, also sold as mochi in some places. It is a glutinous rice-based dessert with palm sugar filling and covered in desiccated coconut. It’s easy to make and a perfect companion to your afternoon cup of hot beverage. Onde onde is normally made using fresh pandan or screwpine leaf juice, but if you don’t have access to any, it’s easily substituted with artificial colour and flavouring (check out your local oriental superstore).

1 cup glutinous rice flour
½ cup water
A drop of green gel food colouring, or ½ teaspoon green food colouring
½ teaspoon pandan flavour
Palm sugar, cut into little cubes
1½ cup freshly desiccated coconut, or dried desiccated coconut

Stir in two pinches of salt into the desiccated coconut and steam for 5 minutes. Leave it aside spread out on a plate.

Place the flour in a bowl and make a little well in it. Pour the colouring and flavouring into the bowl. Stir the water in gradually and knead to form soft dough that is not sticky. You may need gloves to prevent from staining your hands if you are kneading by hand.

 Pinch a small amount of dough and flatten it. Place a palm sugar cube in the centre of the dough, fold the edges together and roll again in between the palms of your hands. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Boil a little pot of water. Drop the sugar filled onde onde into the boiling water. When these parcels float to the surface of the water, they are done. Using a slotted spoon, scoop them out and drain the excess water. Roll them around in the plate of desiccated coconut to cover them entirely.

The onde onde are ready to eat, but they will be hot on the inside. They can also be chilled and enjoyed cold.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fish Sambal

Sambal is a gravy cooked using paste made from ground dried chillies. This dish can range from medium to very spicy, depending on the type of dried chillies used. The smaller and shorter the chillies the spicier they tend to be. You can use tofu, eggs, chicken, fresh or dried fish to complement your sambal. Malaysian sambal often uses belacan (shrimp paste) and fragrant herbs like lemongrass and is served with rice as a main dish, or as a condiment to spice up bland meals.


3 small white pomfrets, cleaned and cut in half 
1 onion, sliced into rings
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon corn flour
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 cup water
Juice of half a lime
1 teaspoon sugar

Sambal paste
½- 1 cup of dried chillies, cut into smaller chunks and soaked in water for 2 hours, depending on how spicy you would like your sambal to be
½ onion
4-5 garlic cloves
1 lemongrass stalk
2cm ginger
2cm galangal
1 teaspoon belacan (normally available as paste of powder)

Pomfrets (bawal in Malay) is a fish found in tropical oceans. In colder climes, you can usually find them in oriental and asian supermarket's frozen sections. You can also choose to use white fish such as cod and seabass for this recipe.

Coat the fish in the turmeric powder, corn flour, salt and pepper. Shallow fry them in some cooking oil for four to five minutes or until lightly golden, but not overcooked. Drain and leave aside.

Using a blender or food processor, blend the sambal paste ingredients until the seeds of the chillies are no longer whole. Sauté the paste in three tablespoon of cooking oil until fragrant, the colour has darkened and the paste appears lumpy. Be careful to ensure some ventilation when frying the chilli paste- it’ll make you sneeze!

Add the onion slices and fry for another three minutes. Add water and tomatoes and let them simmer for five to ten minutes. Season the sambal with lime juice, salt and sugar to taste.

Stir in the fried fish carefully so that they don’t disintegrate. Simmer for another three minutes and and it's ready to makan*!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Curry puffs

Kuih is a term for treats that can either be sweet or savoury. They are often bite-sized, colourful and encompass a variety of baked, steamed, fried and boiled snacks. These kuih are often eaten as breakfast or during tea time.

Curry puff (karipap in Malay) is one such savoury kuih that can be found in almost every kuih stand in Malaysia. It is a little tedious to make it at home, but it will be worth your while when you bite into the freshly cooked pastry.


150g flour
50ml cold water
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon butter

2 large potatoes, skinned, and diced
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cm ginger, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick              
2 star anise
1 tablespoon (meat) curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup water

Add the butter to the mixing bowl containing flour. Rub the cold cubes of butter into the flour using your finger tips. Make a little well in the flour, add the water little by little, mixing it well with the flour. Knead the dough until it is firm, not sticky and leave aside to ‘rest’.

Saute the fennel seeds, cinnamon and star anise with onion, garlic and ginger in some oil on low heat. Add the potatoes and seasonings. After cooking for four minutes, add the curry powder and water and allow the potatoes to cook with the lid on for 20 minutes, or until they are soft. It’s important for the curry to be thick, or it may leak out of the pastry shell when frying.

Roll out a small amount of dough (somewhere between the size of a grape and a large strawberry) to 2mm thick. Use some flour to dust the surface you are rolling out these pastry. Trim the edges to form a circle if it isn’t already in that shape. Spoon a small amount of the potato curry filling into the centre of the dough, fold in half and crimp the edges. This process will be easier if you had a curry puff or pasty mould. I normally just pinch the edges to crimp them.

Here would be the best opportunity to freeze some if you are making extras for another day. Heat two cups of oil in a wok and fry the curry puffs two minutes on each side. Drain excess oil off  with some kitchen roll and enjoy. Take care while deep frying and beware that the filling might be hotter than the pastry when you eat it!

Tips for deep frying:
Ideal oil temperature for deep frying is 170-190 °C. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer (neither do I), the best way to test is to drop a small piece of the pastry into the oil. If it starts fizzing and frying immediately, you know it’s hot enough, but it shouldn't be evaporating away, or it’s too hot.