Sunday, 8 September 2013

Tori Karaage (Japanese fried chicken)

If you thought rice, mayonnaise and bits of fried chicken make for a boring meal, you may reconsider after having this. I couldn't get enough of  karaage don (rice bowl with fried chicken) from Japanese restaurants. It's quite simple to make, so have a go.

400 g chicken breast or thigh fillets, skinless
2 teaspoon of ginger juice or blended ginger paste
1 egg
50 g cornflour
50 g potato starch flour
salt and pepper for seasoning
oil for frying

Clean and cut the chicken breast into small bite-size cubes and marinade in the ginger juice or paste for 15 minutes. Prepare three bowls. Fill the first with cornflour, salt and pepper; second with a beaten egg; and third with potato starch. Heat oil in a frying pan.

Dip each chicken piece in the cornflour (absorbs the moisture), egg (provides the third layer something to cling to) and potato starch in this exact order before frying them. If you can't get any potato starch, you can substitute it with cornflour, but the crispiness of the batter you get from the former is quite unparalleled! Frying on both sides lightly golden and remove from heat.

To emulate the Japanese restaurants' karaage don, serve it on a bed of cooked short-grain rice (also sold as pudding rice), drizzle some Japanese mayonnaise over it and sprinkle liberal amounts of finely chopped spring onions. A bowl of miso soup won't go amiss with dish either.

You can also add some scrambled eggs and shredded seaweed (not shown in this photo) to top off your rice dish

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Pulut Bakar (Grilled glutinous rice)

Much like the pulut inti kuih, this pasar malam regular is also comprised of glutinous rice and a (savoury) filling wrapped in banana leaf. The tubes of this kuih is also grilled over charcoal fire before served, giving it the name (pulut bakar means grilled glutinous rice) and smokey flavour. When making it at home, a regular grill will be an acceptable substitute for coal grill.

2 cups of glutinous rice
1 cup of freshly grated coconut. Alternatively, use the same amount of dried desiccated coconut
1/2 small onion
1 garlic clove
2 slices of galangal
3 dried chilli
1/2 lemongrass
1 teaspoon belacan
1 tablespoon dried prawns
100ml water
Banana leaves and bamboo skewers or toothpicks for wrapping

Soak the glutinous rice in some water overnight. Drain the water, place rice in a steamer and steam for 50-60 minutes or until rice is cooked thoroughly, seasoning it with salt halfway through. Make sure the steamer does not run out of water.

Blend onion, garlic, chilli, galangal, lemongrass, belacan and dried prawns with the 100ml water until it forms a smooth paste. Fry the paste in a tablespoon of oil until fragrant. Add the coconut to this mixture, stir until all the desiccated coconut have evenly absorbed the spice mixture. Season with salt and take it off the heat.

Trim the banana leaves to about 15-20cm x 10cm strips. Flatten a tablespoon of rice on the topside (darker green) of the leaf, long ways. Leave 2cm of the leaf uncovered to enable it to be rolled. Heap a tablespoon of the spicy coconut filling onto the bed of rice, flatten with the back of the spoon. Roll the whole assembly tightly, much like you would when making sushi, and secure both ends of the rolls with toothpicks or staples.
Grill this indoors or on your barbecue for 3-4 minutes on both sides before serving. Don't worry if the banana leaf burns, that's not for eating.

Tip: Work on the rice while they are still warm. They are less malleable when cold, so if the rice cools before you are finished, put them back on the steamer for a few minutes.

Sothi (Coconut Curry)

Sothi is a quick curry to make and does not contain curry powders except turmeric, making it one of the mildest South Indian curries. Some versions of Thai green curry share some similarities with this dish, but sothi is closer to a lean soup to curry in consistency. This is one of my favourite ways to prepare the bottle gourd (also called calabash). However, tapioca shoots, spinach or thick slices of cabbage would work just as well in its place.

1 teaspoon spice mix (thalippu)
1 teaspoon fenugreek (additional to the ones in the spice mix)
1/2 onion, slice
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 cm ginger, sliced
2-3 green or red chillies, optional
2 stalks curry leaves
2 small tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 bottle gourd, skinned, cut into rings and into smaller segments
150 g prawns (obviously, skip this ingredient to keep it vegetarian)
1 level teaspoon turmeric powder
200 ml coconut milk

Saute the onions, curry leaves, garlic, ginger and chillies in a tablespoon of oil for 2-3 minutes. Add the bottle gourd segments and a splash of water. Put the lid on and cook for about 10-12 minutes, adding water if necessary. Once the gourd is cooked, stir in the turmeric and prawns. Season with salt, drop the tomatoes into the curry, pour the coconut milk in and bring to a simmer. Take it off the heat once the prawns are pink and curled up, indicating they are done. Enjoy with white rice.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Ayam Percik (Grilled chicken)

Ayam percik, literally translated means 'sprinkled chicken', which refers to the way the sauce is dabbed onto the meat while it is being grilled over charcoal fire. Whole chicken is cut into quarters and marinated in a rich, spicy sauce full of spices and instead of skewers, they are bound onto sugar cane before cooking. The sweet cane juice helps enhance the flavour to the chicken pieces that cook to tender perfection thanks to the marinade. However, since I didn't have any sugar canes to hand, I replaced it with bamboo skewers.

Try this one when you've got your barbecue going next!

1/2 onion
3 garlic cloves
2 cm ginger
1" galangal
4-5 dried chillies
2 lemongrass
100ml coconut milk or yogurt
4 buah keras (candlenut)
1 tablespoon brown/palm sugar
1 teaspoon belacan
150ml water
1 tablespoon of mango puree, alternately, use juice of half a lime

2 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick attached)

Blend all the ingredients except chicken into a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper, then marinate the chicken in the blended result for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight in the fridge if you have the time). Skewer the chicken pieces with two bamboo sticks each and grill on both sides until the juices from the chicken runs clear (takes 20-30 minutes, depending on size of the chicken pieces). Dab the chicken with the marinade while it is grilling, using a  crushed lemongrass as a brush. While the chicken is grilling, simmer the marinade and reduce it by half. When the chicken is cooked, coat it well with the reduced marinade before serving.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Pulut Inti (Glutinous rice with filling)

Although this kuih is easy to make, it does require some early planning. Pulut means glutinous rice in Malay. Pulut inti is more about the assembly rather than the individual components. Sweet coconut on a bed of glutinous rice, wrapped in banana leaf (check out your oriental supermarket for these, but if you can't get any, some clear plastic sheets should be a reasonable replacement).

1 cup of glutinous rice
1 cup of freshly grated coconut. Alternatively, use the same amount of dried desiccated coconut
1 heaped tablespoon of dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons of grated palm sugar
Salt to taste
Coconut milk, optional
Banana leaves

Soak the glutinous rice in some water overnight. Drain the water, place rice in a steamer and steam for 30 minutes. If you wish to, you could add some coconut milk to the rice while it steams, but it's just as good without, so I didn't. Season the rice with salt, leaving it to be noticeably salty without going overboard. The rice will need another 20-30 minutes to cook. Make sure the steamer doesn't run out of water!

To make the inti (filling), place the coconut and sugars in a saucepan, pour half a cup of water and warm it gently until the contents start simmering, stirring occasionally. When the sugar is dissolved into syrup and absorbed by the coconut, take it off the heat.

Now we assemble the kuih by shaping a table spoon of warm glutinous rice into a flat, 2 cm thick slab on the centre of a piece of banana leaf. Some prefer to use the top part of the leaf (darker colour) while others prefer the underside (waxy) to be in contact  with their food. I tried both and found that the leaves are more pliable when you do the latter, and the end result looks better too. Place a teaspoon or two of the sweet coconut filling on the rice. Fold each side inwards, then tuck the extras under. Enjoy them warm or take them along on a picnic. This recipe should make 8-10 pieces.

Tip: Work on the rice while they are still warm. They are less malleable when cold, so if the rice cools before you are finished, put them back on the steamer for a few minutes.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Return from hiatus

After a long absence, I'm back with more mouth watering Malaysian recipes. I've been perfecting my take on classic dishes as well as polishing new fusions I'm blending up in my kitchen.

Before we plunge into a large list of recipes for you to try at home, I'd like to recap with photos of my recent dining experience at Gary Rhodes' 24.

The meal
Starter- White asparagus soup, soft poached duck egg, almond crumble and almond puree
Main course - Pan fried sea trout, tempura of scallops, oyster mushrooms, sweet corn puree and tarragon butter sauce
Dessert - Bramley apple mousse, custard and macadamia ice cream

Food: 8/10 (Excellent contemporary British menu. Personally, I would have preferred a smaller starter and bigger main.)
Atmosphere: 8/10 (view overlooking the Gherkin from floor 24 was great)
Service: 8/10 (the table was not ready for the booked time, but the waiters made a fuss over us)
Value for money: 7/10 ( pricey end of dining experience)
Extra points: Complimentary appetizers (beetroot soup with horseradish and walnut oil) and mini desserts trio (lemon cheesecake, blueberry muffins and berry truffles) and French wine on the menu. Yummy!

Verdict: 9/10. A good place to splurge or celebrate a special occasion.

Watch out for a kuih recipe, coming soon!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Red Bean Porridge (Bubur Kacang Merah)

Bean porridge serves as a pudding in Malaysian fusion cuisine. Made from either mung beans (green, small ones) or red beans (both small and large Japanese Aduki type beans), they are sweet, creamy bowlfuls served warm, sometimes with char kuey.

150 g of red beans, soaked for 30 minutes
250 ml coconut milk
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon (white) sugar
1 tablespoon small sago
1 teaspoon pandan essence (or 2-3 fresh leaves if available)
pinch of salt

Boil the red beans in 2 bowlfuls of water (and the fresh pandan leaves if you're using them), seasoned with salt until they are cooked, topping up water if it dries out. This may take 30-60 minutes, depending on the type of beans used, so it may be advisable to do it in a pressure cooker if you have one.  Before the beans are overcooked, add the sago (and more water to allow the sago to re-hydrate and to reach your desired thickness of the porridge), sugar, pandan flavourings and bring to boil. When the beans are soft enough to mash with the back of the ladle, pour the coconut milk in and bring to simmer. Make sure the sago are translucent before serving the porridge.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Mackeral hot pot

This is one of the minimum effort dishes I came up with during my university days. It needs few ingredients, but still turns out an indulgent meal. Better still, this takes next to no effort to make!

Mackerels are definitely one of the healthier fish for consumption- they are not only high in omega 3 fatty acids, but also have low mercury content. They also have a rather meaty bite to them, which can make for a rather satisfying meal. Like most fish with strong fishy aroma, mackerel can be made more palatable with some fragrant ingredients like lime/lemon and ginger to take some of the fishiness away, as well as lending delicious tones to its flavour.

1 medium mackerel, gutted and cleaned
3-4 slices ginger
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green chilli (optional), cut lengthwise
1 block of tofu, cut into bit-size pieces
1 carrot, cut into about 3 mm slices
3-4 mushroom, sliced thick
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1/4 broccoli head, cut into small-medium florets
1 tablespoon thick, dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
dash of cracked black pepper and salt

Place the fish in an oven proof dish. Scatter the onion, tofu, carrots, mushrooms, tomato and cauliflower around and on the fish. The recommended sizes for the vegetables here (slices, florets etc.) are to ensure they are equally cooked at the end. Mix all the the soy sauces, sesame oil and seasoning in a bowl. Stir in the chilli, ginger and garlic into the sauce and allow them to impart their flavour into this mixture before pouring them over the fish and vegetables.

Let the flavours from chilli, garlic and ginger mingle with the sauces and oil before pouring onto the fish and vegetables.
Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake in the oven at gas mark 6 (180 °C) for 20-25 minutes. Part the fish flesh with a fork to check if it is cooked; naturally, larger fish may require longer cooking time, and when cooked the flesh should be white and flaky. Best served with freshly cooked rice and lime wedges.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sotong Kunyit (Squid in turmeric sauce)

Another personally improvised dish inspired by Malay cuisine, sotong kunyit is a mellow, fragrant preparation for small to medium sized squids. When it comes to squid, size does matter- the smaller ones tend to be more tender and less rubbery than their bigger relatives, making them ideal for this recipe.

5-6 medium squid (both body and tentacles), cleaned and left whole and not scored
1/2 onion
3-4 garlic cloves
3-4 cm galangal
2 cm ginger
1 lemon grass
2 cm turmeric root, or alternatively 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 red chilli, chopped
5-6 kaffir lime leaves
200 ml coconut milk

Stuff the tentacles of the squid in its body after cleaning the squids. Blend the onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger, galangal, lemongrass and 2 tablespoons of water into a smooth paste. Sauté this paste in 2 tablespoon of oil over low heat for five minutes. The chilli and lime leaves are added into the frying ingredients, let the flavours incorporate for another five minutes over low-medium heat. Pour 1 cup of water into the mixture and bring this to the boil. Pour the coconut milk in and add the fresh squid to the cooking pot. Cook for ten minutes before serving up with a bowl of freshly cooked rice and vegetables.

Note: Squid preparation was previously discussed here.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Mutton Biryani

The ultimate savoury rice, proper biryani (sometimes called dum briyani) are often prepared in a massive pot over wood fire where the lid is sealed to the pot with fresh dough, turning it into a pressure cooker. This dough is not broken off until the contents of the pots are cooked- something that requires impeccable timing! Traditionally, this North Indian dish is laden with meat and spices and flavoured with mint leaves. Over the years, however, there are many variations on preparing this rice and here's one I formulated. As with most rice dishes, I'm making this in my trusty little rice cooker, but it could also be done on the gas or electric hob/cooker.

0.8- 1 kg mutton or lamb, with the fat trimmed off and meat cut into small cubes
2 cups of basmati rice, washed
2 tablespoon ghee
1 onion, diced
6 large garlic cloves and 5 cm ginger, blended into a paste
1 bunch of fresh coriander leaves; pick out and leave the leaves whole, chop the stems
1 cup of thick yogurt (make it two cups if using runny yogurt)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (or 4 medium sized fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 heaped tablespoon meat curry powder
2 heaped tablespoon kurma powder
1 desert spoon coriander powder
1 desert spoon chilli powder (optional)
30-50 g cashewnuts
juice of half a lemon
4 boiled eggs
salt for seasoning

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 star anise
2 large cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods
8 cloves

Raita (salad in yogurt)
1 cucumber, cubed
1 small tin of pineapple chunks, drained
2 tablespoons of thick yogurt (or 1 cup of runny yogurt)

Over low love heat, gently melt the ghee in some cooking oil. Before the oil gets too hot, add the spices and sauté for two minutes. Pour in the ginger and garlic paste and cook further for two minutes. Add the onions, coriander stem and meat to this frying mix, season with salt and stir well. Leave it with the lid on for five minutes.

Stir the yogurt, curry and spice powders, lemon juice and chopped tomatoes into cooking ingredients. Leave it to cook over low heat until the meat is cooked thoroughly (which may take up to 30 minutes for small pieces of mutton), stirring it occasionally to avoid it burning at the bottom. You can speed it up by turning the heat up but the slow cooked meat will impart more flavour into the rice later.

All the meat and its gravy will be transferred into the rice cooker pot, together with the washed basmati rice and 3 cups water. Add half the cashews and coriander leaves too, and leave it to cook. Again, stir periodically to stop the rice from burning at the bottom of the pot.

Making the raita is just a matter of stirring all the ingredients listed above together. Serve the rice with tomato chutney, boiled eggs and raita, garnished with the remaining coriander leaves. This recipe serves four.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Nasi Goreng Kampung

Just as there are many ways to prepare pasta dishes and noodles, the Malaysian fried rice too has many faces- nasi goreng Cina (an approximation on the Chinese fried rice), nasi goreng Pattaya (a Thai dish where the fried rice is encased in an omelette), and nasi goreng USA (one with several types of meat). Nasi goreng kampung literally translates to 'village fried rice'. While many fancier versions are the result of cultural fusion, this humble take on nasi goreng sticks close to the Malay roots with wholesome ingredients.

1 onion, chopped
3-5 garlic cloves
2 tablespoon chilli paste (or according to taste)
2 teaspoon belacan or shrimp paste
3 bowls of cooked rice, preferably a day old and cold (straight from the fridge), for 3 servings
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
20 g dried anchovies (cleaned)
150 g spinach or kangkung (water convulvulus/morning glory)
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the chilli paste in a wok in 2 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the belacan,  onions and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes more. Allow the anchovies to fry with this mixture and become lightly crispy before the soy sauces and spinach are integrated to the cooking ingredients. Pour in the cold rice, making sure they are loose (no lumps), season with salt and pepper and stir well over high heat. Make a well in the middle of the rice, add a splash of oil and break an egg in it. Wait one minute before stirring the eggs into the rice. Fry for a further 2-3 minutes to ensure the eggs are cooked before serving up.

Nasi goreng kampung served with fried egg and chopped spring onions

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Chicken Broth

Chicken broth served with rustic bread

Instead of the creamy kind, this is a spicier, leaner take on chicken soup. This is my mum's recipe and it's not only great for when you're feeling poorly, but also whenever you want a warming dinner. However, it helps that it's nearly effortless to make. Since you're mostly after the broth, this recipe calls for the full flavour imparted by the skin and bony cuts of chicken- the ribs, wings, and if you're not squeamish, even the neck.

1 small onion,  sliced thick
3-4 garlic cloves, left whole
2 cm ginger, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 stalk curry leaves or a small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
400 g of bony chicken pieces, with some skin on
2 potatoes, skinned and cut into medium cubes
1 carrot, sliced thick
1 tomato, quartered
1 cup of cauliflower florets (medium chunks)
1 chicken stock cube
1 teaspoon of whole black pepper corns
1.5 litre water
cracked black pepper and salt to taste

Put all the ingredients except potatoes, carrot, tomato and cauliflower in a pot and bring to boil. Leave it to simmer over medium heat for about 30-40 minutes. Put the vegetables into the soup next and cook for another 15-20 minutes, adding more water if needed. The soup is ready to be served with some bread, rice or enjoy on its own.

Tip: Boil the remains of a roast chicken and a stock cube if you prefer not to deal with bony cuts of chicken.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Hokkien Mee (Seafood)

This used to be a treat at supper time during school holidays at my grandparents' place when my cousins and I stayed over. It's signature flavour comes from pork lardons (similar to bits of bacon/pancetta), but my recipe replaces them with slices of chicken thigh where the meat is fat-rich.

This Hokkien dish is one that requires high heat frying to seal in the delicious flavour, so be ready for some speedy cooking!

100 g chicken thigh strips (as lardon substitutes)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of vegetables each: chinese cabbage (sliced), carrot (sliced), mushrooms (quartered)
300 g mixed meats: chicken pieces, prawns, squid, fish ball halves
300 g Hong Kong/udon noodles (fresh)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
soy sauce to taste
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 chicken stock (1 stock cube in 2 cups of water)
cornstarch (2 heaped teaspoon corn flour in 2 tablespoon cool water)

fresh minced garlic
finely chopped green or bird's eye chilli (according to personal spice tolerance)
soy sauce

Fry the chicken thighs over medium heat in a tablespoon of oil until crispy. Remove them from oil and put aside. Turn the heat higher and flash fry the fish ball, garlic and vegetables for two minutes. Add the meat and cook further for two minutes before pouring in the chicken stock and sauces. Bring this to simmer before the noodles go in. When the soup starts boiling, quickly stir in the cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Top the noodles with the crispy chicken bits before serving with the condiments.

* If you're not into eating raw garlic and chillies, use only the flavoured soy that gains a hint of both garlic and chilli kick.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Asparagus Belacan

Asparagus belacan (in shrimp paste) is a dish I have sampled in a Malaysian Chinese restaurant. Considering this vegetable was considered an exotic western ingredient at the time, this fusion of flavours left an impression on first time diners (thanks to a variety of cooking shows, asparagus is now very popular in Malaysia and is even available from pasar malam*!). So you could blanch, boil or grill your asparagus any day, but if you want that little something extra to tickle your tastebuds, try this. Here's a my approximation on this recipe.

1 medium white onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon belacan, or shrimp paste
about 14 sticks of asparagus

Trim off the woody bottom part of the asparagus. You could cut them in half if they are too long.

Over very low fire, sweat the onion and garlic for  five minutes. Add the belacan and asparagus to the frying mix and cook further for ten minutes. Thinner (more tender) asparagus will obviously need less cooking time. Season and serve up as a side dish. It goes well with rice, potatoes and meats.

*Night markets- epitome of local cultural acceptance, in my books.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Sambal Sotong (Squid Sambal)

This is a variation on the earlier sambal recipe, blending more aromatic Malay herbs and spices for a more fragrant result. This version is just as spicy and will work well with tofu or other meats such as chicken and prawns too.

A crash course on squid preparation:
If you have bought whole squids but have no experience at cleaning them, it can be rather intimidating at first, but with some instructions at hand, you'll be cooking in no time. Check out how to clean and prepare squid here: 

1 cup of dried chillies, soaked and blended until smooth to form a paste with as little water as possible
1 onion, cut into wedges or thick slices
5-6 garlic cloves
2 cm ginger slice
4 cm galangal slice
1 cm turmeric root slice or 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 lemon grass stalk
1½ teaspoon belacan paste or powder. Alternately, you can use the same amount of dried shrimps
Juice of half a lime
300g of squid, cleaned and scored
1 tbsp white or palm sugar

Blend half an onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, galangal, turmeric and lemongrass with half a cup of water until smooth. Fry the paste that forms in four tablespoons of oil in medium heat.

Cook the paste for about ten minutes or until it becomes drier and darker in colour. Fry the remaining onions and belacan with the paste. Add a cup of water and allow it to simmer for ten minutes.

Season the sambal with some salt, lime juice and sugar. Add the squid to the sambal and cook for ten minutes or less. Overcooked squid, much like the prawns, will result in rubbery texture- which may not be your favourite way of serving this shellfish. You can judge if the squid is done by the way it curls up when cooked (this is where scoring the meat before cooking comes in handy- it's not just to look pretty!). Remove from heat when you’re happy with the consistency of the sambal.

Sambal sotong nasi lemak

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Omelette Rice and Gyoza Bento

Turning leftover katsu curry into an omelette rice is the fast lane to an enviable al desco dining- just stir in the curry into the rice and cover with a thin omelette when packing your bento box.

I've also complimented the small portion of rice with some home-made gyoza (you'll need some gyoza skins and filling) and cucumber and carrot batons.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Ikan Asam Pedas

Literally translated, this spicy tamarind fish item is one that features heavily in Malaysian cuisine. Blending of fragrant spices and chillies, an asam pedas recipe often also calls for daun kesum (also called Vietnamese mint/coriander). My take on this recipe replaces daun kesum with the more readily available mint leaves.

2 medium sea bass, gutted with head left on (optional)
2 tablespoon chilli paste
1 medium onion
4-5 garlic cloves
1 lemon grass
1 teaspoon belacan or shrimp paste
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (2-3 medium ones if using fresh tomatoes)
tamarind water (made with 1 ping pong ball sized tamarind paste diluted in 150 ml water; sieve out the seeds and bits)
1 desertspoon sugar
mint leaves from 3-4 stalks
juice from half a lime
a light dusting of turmeric powder, salt and pepper

Season the fish with salt, pepper and turmeric powder. Shallow fry them until lightly brown on both sides. Leave aside for later.

Blend the chilli, onion, garlic and lemon grass until smooth. Sauté these in 2 tablespoon of oil until cooked (the paste will turn into a dark colour and become lumpy). Add belacan to this frying mixture, shortly followed by chopped tomatoes. Simmer for about five minutes before seasoning further with tamarind water, lime juice, salt, sugar and mint leaves. Keep simmering for another five minutes before placing the fish in the gravy, coating it well. Avoid stirring too much, the fish flesh may break. In 3-4 minutes, the fish is ready to be served.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Kangkung Belacan (water convolvulus/morning glory)

This leafy vegetable (kangkung) is also called water convolvulus or morning glory in some restaurants/supermarkets. It is a tasty component in yong tau foo, and is perhaps most commonly cooked as a side dish for rice based meals. Here’s the belacan-based stir fry recipe for these leaves. This is a yummy, natural accompaniment to nasi lemak. It also tastes just as good without the belacan if you prefer the vegetarian version.
½ onion
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon belacan or shrimp paste
3-4 dried chillies or 2 teaspoon chilli paste
200g kangkung (leaf and stem), wash thoroughly, leave the leaves whole and cut the stems into medium chunks
Roughly blend the onion, garlic, belacan and chillies into a paste. Fry this paste in 1 tablespoon of medium hot oil until fragrant. The kangkung and 1/2 cup of water go in next. Mix well and put a lid on the wok for 5 minutes. Season with salt and cook for a further 7-8 minutes until the stem is cooked. Plate up and enjoy.

Tip: The belacan/shrimp paste can be substituted with anchovies.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Palm Sugar Sago (Sagu Gula Melaka)

Sago |(sagu in Malay) is a versatile, palm starch based food. Often shaped like pearls, small and large (as found in bubble tea drinks), they are most commonly used in Malaysian desserts. Sago also comes in green, noodle-like shapes (called cendol) which is used in a dessert-drink of the same name.

Palm sugar sago is a delectable, warming desert you can prepare with ease. Alternately, you could also prepare it in advance and allow it to chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

1/2 cup sago
700ml water

Sugar syrup
3 heaped tablespoon of grated palm sugar
1-2 pandan (screwpine) leaves or 1 teaspoon pandan essence
150 ml water

Coconut milk
250ml of coconut milk

Simmer the water and sago over medium fire for about 20 minutes, adding more water is necessary. The sago would absorb all the liquid and expand into clear pearls. Cool the sago slightly before serving, or for a cold dessert, chill in the fridge for a few hours.

Melt the palm sugar in some simmering water and flavour with the pandan leaves/essence. 

Extract 1 cup of coconut milk from fresh grated coconut (or if using tinned milk, dilute with warm water- you want a medium-rich coconut milk mixture, a bit like semi-skimmed milk). Season with some salt.

To serve, place about a few spoonfuls of the chilled sago in a saucer of coconut milk and drizzle the palm sugar syrup over it to taste. Tuck in! The above recipe serves 4.

Tips: You could separate the sago into portion-size moulds or bowls. It makes for cute presentations for your dinner guests.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Popiah (Spring rolls)

While spring roll is a starter dish in UK Chinese restaurants, it's Malaysian cousin, popiah is another type of kuih sold in stalls along with banana fritters and curry puffs, often eaten with a cup of afternoon teh tarik.

The filling is almost always vegetables, although you can make them with meat fillings if you wish, and served with a home made sweet chilli dip. Here's how you can knock up the perfect popiah for your party.

spring roll skins (sold in the frozen section of most Oriental and several mainstream supermarkets)
1/2 onion, chopped
150g bean sprouts
1 carrot, shredded
50g white cabbage, finely sliced or shredded
1 tablespoon oyster sauce, substitute with mushroom flavoured sauce for a vegetarian version
a dash of black pepper powder
oil for deep frying

Dipping sauce
3 fresh red chillies
1/4 onion
1 garlic clove
a dash of lime juice
200ml water

Fry the onion in a small amount of oil. The bean sprouts, cabbage and carrot go in next, along with the oyster sauce and pepper. Cook for about five minutes over medium heat until the vegetables wilt slightly. It is not necessary to overcook them.

Wrap the filling with the spring roll skins (see diagram below). Deep fry in oil until they are golden on both sides.

Blend all the dipping sauce ingredients until smooth. Heat it in a pan until it reduces by 1/3. Taste for seasoning and serve with the spring rolls.

Tip: If using meat fillings for the popiah, make sure to cook them beforehand. Bottled chilli sauce or ketchup are often decent substitutes for home-made dips.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sambar (lentil curry)

Sambar can refer to most dhal (lentil) based curries. These are vegetarian and not spicy. This versatile curry can be concocted with most vegetables of your choice. One of the versions already explored in this blog is the keerai kari.
This next sambar is the multi-vegetable (traditionally made with odd number of vegetable types- 3, 5, and so on. Potatoes counts towards one of these), slightly tangy curry packed full of lentil goodness. The lentil choice, therefore, becomes rather an important factor on how good your curry turns out. I normally try and aim for a balanced taste and consistency in my curry; using 2:1 ratio of green and yellow lentils to toor dhal. The latter lends beautiful flavours to the curry but stays rather firm however long they are cooked, while the green and yellow lentils turns to mush when cooked and thickens the curry easily.
50g toor dhal
50g green lentils

50g yellow lentils
1 onion, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, whole
3-4 slices of ginger
1 teaspoon spice mix (thalippu)
2-3 dried chillies
2 stalks of curry leaves
1 green chilli, whole
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 large or 5-6 small potatoes, peeled and cut into six
1 large carrot, cut into chunky slices
1 medium aubergine (2-3 if using the smaller variety)
2 tomatoes, quartered

100g Indian broad beans (avarakkai), see (; prepared by removing the 'strings' from each side of the pods

3 drumsticks, see (; prepared by scraping the skin off lightly with a knife, then washed and cut into 2-3" segments
*white cabbage/pumpkin/snake gourd/bottle gourd/white radish (daikon) are some of the other vegetables that are commonly used in this curry.

Lentils I used in this curry (clockwise from top): toor dhal, yellow lentils and green lentils

Sambar vegetable (clockwise from top): Avarakkai, mini aubergine and drumstick

Soak the dhal for 30-60 minutes. Wash and boil them next in a pot with 2 bowls of water, garlic, ginger, green chilli, turmeric  powder, salt and a teaspoon of oil until the pulses are nearly cooked.

Include the potatoes and cracked black pepper at this point and let it boil. Around 10 minutes later (when the potatoes are half done), add the other vegetables except tomatoes.

In a separate frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil over low heat. Sauté the onions, thaalippu (spice mix), curry leaves and dries chillies until the onions are soft. Pour the entire contents of the pan into the curry.

Season the curry with tamarind juice and salt, add the tomatoes to the pot and boil until the vegetables are cooked. You can add a splash of milk, cream or coconut milk for some creaminess, but it may remove the signature tanginess of this dish. Best enjoyed with rice, pappadoms and lime pickle. Leftover sambar are also an ideal dip for roti canai.

Sambar with rice, papadom, fried seabass and lime pickle.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Egg curry

Another South Indian curry, this is an eggy take on the earlier chicken version of this recipe. Suitable for lacto-ovo vegetarians, this curry is quick, easy and meat-free. As with most of the curries I make, it does not require coconut milk or cream, but you could add some if you wish, especially if you find the curry too spicy and wish to make it milder.
Not only great with rice, egg curry also works well as dip for breads such as naan, roti canai, dosai or spicy pancakes, especially when it's a day old!
4-6 eggs
1 onion, sliced
4-6 garlic cloves, blended into a paste or pounded
3-4 slices of ginger, blended into a paste or pounded
1 large cinnamon stick
2-3 star anise
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 stalks of curry leaves, alternately you can use a few stalks of fresh, chopped coriander
2 large potatoes, skinned and cut into medium chunks
1 desert spoon turmeric powder
1-2 desert spoon chilli powder (use less or none if you prefer a mild curry)
4-5 desert spoon meat curry powder (does not contain meat)
2 desert spoon kurma curry powder
1 desert spoon coriander powder
2-3 large tomatoes, cut into quarters
½ lime juice
2-3 bowls of water
Optional ingredients

5-6 cashew nuts, ground into a paste (for richness and thickens the gravy)
100 ml coconut milk (creamy, milder taste)
2 tablespoon of single cream (creamy, milder taste)
50-100 ml semi skimmed milk- for a little bit of creaminess and well rounded taste, but less calories than some of the above

Boil the eggs for 10 minutes and leave to stand for another 10 minutes in cold water before peeling off the shell. Alternately, you could beat the eggs together with a pinch of salt, fry them into one big, thick omlette and cut them into smaller pieces. Leave the eggs aside for later.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok over low heat. Sauté the cinnamon, fennel seeds and star anise before adding the onion, curry leaves and garlic and ginger paste. When the sautéing ingredients are aromatic, the potatoes go into the wok. Season with salt and pepper, stir well and leave the lid on for three to five minutes.

The curry powders are diluted with a bowl of water and poured into the pot. Bring the curry to boil for fifteen minutes over medium high heat. When the potatoes are cooked, add water to a desired thickness, tomatoes and ground cashew nuts/coconut milk/cream/milk to the boiling curry and allow to simmer for another ten minutes. Add lime juice,seasoning and the eggs, and simmer for a few more minutes before serving.