Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Swordfish Skewers

Inspired by a starter I had in an Italian restaurant, I turned this into a main course with Japanese and Malaysian fused flavours. Perfect for putting some fish in your barbecue menu while the summer lasts.

2 swordfish steaks (about the size of your palm and 1” thick)
16 large prawns, remove head, shells and vein
Bamboo skewers (4 long or 8 short)

1 teaspoon of miso paste
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
½ lime juice
1 red chilli, chopped
1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking wine (white or rose)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for a minimum of 10 minutes. This stops them from burning in a barbecue and allows the meat to come off easily when eating.

Cut the swordfish steaks into 8 square chunks. Mix all the marinade ingredients into a smooth paste and pour over the fish and prawns. Coat well and leave in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Assemble the fish cubes and prawns with the skewers- two of each to a skewer. Grill (or pan fry) the skewers for about 2 minutes on each side. If you can put a lid on these for a minute whilst cooking, it will help the fish from drying out.

The left over marinade is combined with cooking wine and olive oil and brought to boil for 2 minutes to make a complementary sauce for your fish. Serve with fresh spring onion chunks and Chinese five spice flavoured baked sweet potatoes. 


Friday, 18 April 2014

Vegetarian varuval (very dry curry)

Varuval is the driest form of curry in South Indian cooking. Often, the main feature is chicken or mutton-meats that would not disintegrate with prolonged cooking or stirring. The intense, rich flavour of this dish is achieved by starting with a perattal (dry curry) and dehydrating all moisture in it.

While vegetarian/mock meats are still not very popular among non-vegetarians in the western world, the reverse is true in many eastern countries including Malaysia, where production of these meat-replacements have concentrated on not only the taste but also its texture. I've used a Malaysian brand vegetarian meat (made of mushroom protein, soy) this time and therefore took only about 25 minutes to make. A meaty variant of this recipe will take much longer, depending on quantity and size of the meat chunks. Best to use a non-stick pan to cook this, by the way.

1/2 onion
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
4-5 slices of ginger, minced
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 star anise
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 stalks of curry leaves
400 g of vegetarian meat pieces
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 lime juice
1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce (should be a dark sauce as the purpose of adding it is to acheive a dark colour. Use half a teaspoon of dark soy if you don't have this)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1 teaspoon ghee

Curry powders
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon chilli powder
2 tablespoon meat curry powder

Saute the cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, onion, garlic, ginger and curry leaves in 2 tablespoon of oil over low heat. Add ghee and fry until the onion starts to brown. Pour the curry powders into the pan, add water and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lime juice, sweet soy sauce salt and sugar- season to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the curry is very dry, whichever first, constantly stirring to avoid burning.

Serve with rice and mild curries like sambar or spinach curry. This recipe makes 3-4 portions.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Kuih kasturi

Kuih kasturi is simply sweetened patties of mushy mung beans, battered and deep fried. Kuih kasturi's similarity to an Indian sweet may be a result of fusion of cuisines, but personally i prefer this sweeter kuih to the latter. Although this is a simple snack to make (especially for those who have mastered deep frying), it remains a rare find in kuih stalls of Malaysia. Here's how to make your own batch to serve with a cup of coffee or teh tarik.

120 g mung beans
2 1/2 tablespoon sugar (white or brown)
2 tablespoon grated coconut( or dried desiccated coconut)
A pinch of salt
1-2 Pandan leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon of the same flavouring)
Oil for deep frying
2 tablespoon rice flour
2 tablespoon plain flour
100ml water (or just enough to make a medium thick batter)
A drop of yellow food colouring

Cooked mung beans

Soak the beans overnight. Boil it with pandan leaves until it is slightly overcook, this takes about 30 minutes (beans should be easily mashed with the back of a spoon). Drain the beans, fish out the pandan leaf and stir in the sugar, salt and grated coconut (and the flavouring if it's used). Mix well, divide into 8-9  portions and form medium-sized, 1 cm thick round patties (like a burger). You can make bigger but fewer patties if you wish. Leave these to chill in the fridge for 2 hours or 5-10 minutes in the freezer for a quicker process.

Meanwhile, mix the batter ingredients to get a smooth batter with medium consistency- not too runny or too thick. For lump-free batter, always add the liquid to the dry ingredients and use a whisk.
Heat oil for frying in a pan. Dip and coat the cold patties in the batter and gently drop it into the oil. Fry on both sides until golden.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Claypot Fish Head Curry

You don't like your dinner staring back at you? Then don't try this at home. Fish head curry is not for the faint of heart. The tangy fish curry loaded with okra and aubergine features a massive fish head (normally a grouper or red snapper) full of meat for diners to pick at. This tastes much better than your regular curries, thanks to the flavour imparted by the fish head. So, if you're feeling brave, give this dish a go.

I used a salmon head from the local fish monger (only £1 for a large head!).

1 large fish head
1 onion, sliced
5 garlic, minced
3 slices ginger, minced
½ teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon spice mix (mixture of mustard seeds, fennel seeds, urad dhal and fenugreek)
3 stalks of curry leaves
1 teaspoon whole black 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 head, season with salt and pepper and turmeric powder. Heat some oil in a claypot. Shallow fry it lightly on both sides for about two minutes. Be careful and use a splatter guard (or lid) if possible, frying fish head may cause spitting oil due to the fat or eyeball! Drain and keep aside for later. Use the same claypot to make the curry, so that none of the flavour is lost.

The rest of the process is similar to my earlier fish curry entry, only incorporate the fish head into the curry for 20 minutes before taking it off the heat and simmer over low heat. Enjoy!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Baby Kailan in Oyster Sauce

Kailan, a member of the broccoli family is a leafy vegetable that is common in Chinese cuisine both in restaurants and home cooking. The baby kailan, is considered an indulgence as the younger crop is both more tender and tastier than its older harvest (therefore more expensive too!). Stir-frying in oyster sauce is one of many simple ways of preparing these greens.


400g baby kalian
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
White pepper powder to taste

Prepare the greens by removing the flowers off the tops and halving them lengthwise. Wash these  thoroughly. Sauté the onion and garlic in a dessertspoon of cooking oil for 1 minute. Add the kailan to the frying ingredients and turn the heat to high. Add the oyster sauce and stir for 3-4 minutes. The vegetable should still retain its crunch when eaten, so don't overcook it. Serve as a side dish with rice and meat or other vegetable dishes.

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.