Friday, 31 August 2012

Merdeka Menu

Today Malaysia celebrates its 55th year of independence since colonial rule. Whether you are also celebrating this, or just the fact that the weekend is here, I present to you, the Merdeka* Menu for the occasion:


Chicken Rendang with white rice

Cucumber and tomato salad



*Merdeka means freedom in Malay. It was famously cheered by the first prime minister of Federation of Malaya when announcing the independence gained from the British on this day in 1957.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Curry Laksa (Mi Kari Indonesia)

Egg noodles, vegetables and an array of shellfish immersed in mildly spicy, aromatic creamy coconut-y soup. Drooling yet?

Mi Kari (mee curry), curry laksa, Singapore laksa- however you prefer to call it, is a must try if you happen to be in Malaysia, Singapore or in British branches of HK Diner restaurants- they do this dish justice.

While the general flavour of the curry soup is likely to be vaguely similar in different restaurants, some regional variations are likely to be seen across Malaysia. The standard version may feature slices of chicken, fish ball*, fish cake*, and bean sprouts. PJ (Petaling Jaya, a city just outside Kuala Lumpur) mee curry contains the above, along with long beans and scalded cockles. The version I’m attempting is closer to what my local mee curry stall in Malaysia served as Mi Kari Indonesia. This is another dish that shouldn't be eaten when you’re wearing white!

200g egg noodles
6 fish ball, halved
6 slices of fish cake
6 small porous tofu, or 3 halved medium sized ones
6 medium-large raw prawns, shelled and de-veined
2 heads of pak choy
1 cup bean sprouts
2 stalks curry leaves
200 ml coconut milk
3 cups water
2 tablespoon coriander powder, try using a fine blend by curry powder producers rather than bottled spice makes
White pepper
1 boiled egg, peeled

Spice paste
¼ onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cm ginger
2 cm galangal
2-3 dried chillies, less f you want a milder curry
½ teaspoon belacan
1 cm turmeric root, alternatively, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 stalk lemongrass

Blend the spice paste ingredients with 100 ml water until smooth in a blender. Sauté the paste in 1½ tablespoon of oil over low heat for five minutes. When the paste looks drier and darker in colour, add the water and curry leaves and bring it to a boil. Boil the porous tofu, fish balls and fish cakes until they float. Drop the prawns into the boiling soup, followed by coconut milk. Bring to boil and remove it from heat.

Meanwhile, prepare the noodles, bean sprouts and pak choy by blanching. I simply place them in a metal colander (positioned over the kitchen sink) and pour boiling water over them, but you can drop them in a pot of boiling water and fish them out if you prefer.

Ladle the soup and its contents over the noodles and vegetables, garnish with half a boiled egg and enjoy. This recipe serves two.

* Starchy processed fish products. If you haven’t had them before, the closest approximation in describing them is ‘fish sausage’.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Continental Breakfast

Croissant, coffee and orange juice...weekend breakfast for Bank Holiday weekend.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Ginger Yakiudon

Udon noodles, also called Hong Kong noodles are thick, white wheat noodles. It is widely used in Japanese cuisine, as well as certain Chinese dishes such as Hokkien Noodles (udon cooked in a silky, wet concoction of dark soy sauce, vegetables and meat or seafood).
This variation of a certain high street restaurant dish is prepared over high heat to help seal in the flavour and is ready in minutes- but keep your wits about, or you might end up burning your dinner!

½ onion, cut into wedges
2 spring onions, halved and cut into large segments
4 mushroom, sliced
6 large prawns, shelled and de-veined
2 teaspoon mirin
3 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
200 g udon noodles
A dash of white pepper

Pickled ginger
About 3 cm of ginger, grated
1 tablespoon mirin or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
A drop of red food colouring

Mix the pickled ginger ingredients together and let it sit in the fridge for an hour, or longer if possible.
Heat a wok; pour in a tablespoon of oil. Stir fry the onion and mushrooms for two minutes. Add the prawns, udon noodles, mirin and both soy sauces. Season it with white pepper and stir well over high heat. Throw the spring onion in, tousle together well with the noodles and serve up when contents of the wok have heated through.

Serve the noodles with some drained pickled ginger. This recipe should serve two persons.

Ginger yakiudon served with eggrolls and vegetable gyoza sides and dipping sauces

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Pongal (Sweet Rice)

In Tamil language, pongal means 'overflow', referring to the bubbling over of starchy water when rice is cooked. While pongal can refer to several types of rice dishes, sweet or savoury, in Malaysia it is more commonly used to describe sweet rice (sakarai pongal) cooked with milk, sweet smelling spices and sugar. 

Traditionally, this dish is cooked for a harvest festival (Thai Pongal) in Tamil Nadu, in clay pots over wood fire. The Tamil community in Malaysia still observe this festival, making pongal on the day, regardless of their involvement or the lack of, in the agricultural sector.  However, it is also enjoyed throughout the year, so don't hesitate to try it now! In essence, it is not far from rice pudding, but with a spice twist. Here's how my mum makes it:

½ cup rice
3 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
3-4 tablespoon brown sugar
100 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon ghee, or clarified butter
2 cups water
pinch of salt

Wash the rice and drain the water. In a pan, heat the pan with two cups of water until it boils. Add the cardamom and cloves and salt to season. Let it simmer further until the rice is cooked, and tries to overflow. Flavour it with ghee, brown sugar and coconut milk before adding the raisins and cashew nuts to the rice. I prefer a mushy consistency for my pongal, so I let it cook further (adding more water when needed), but if you are partial to firmer grains, you can remove the dish from the heat when the ideal consistency of rice is reached.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Roti Telur (Savoury French Toast)

Here’s an idea for funking up your weekend breakfast- savoury eggy bread! The following recipe serves two persons.

3-4 sliced bread, white or brown
2 eggs
1 spring onion, chopped
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
A dash of ground black pepper

Beat the eggs and add the spring onion, oyster sauce and pepper to it. There should be no need to add salt, as the oyster sauce should have enough salt in it. Dip the bread in this mixture on both sides. Fry for a minute on each side of the bread in a lightly greased frying pan. Enjoy while it’s hot!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Kuih Keledek Goreng (Sweet Potato Fritters)

Kuih stands are little make shift stalls that normally sell a variety of sweet and savoury snacks. Dotted along residential streets, these stalls are operated in a small and medium enterprise-manner, and are open for business for breakfast and in the afternoon. Often, when patronising such stalls, you would buy a selection of kuih to share with family or friends when you have your 5 p.m. teh tarik.

Kuih keledek goreng, or sweet potato fritter is often sold in the same kuih stands as banana fritters. Almost always these two are fried there and then! Sliced thinly, these sweet roots are fried in a light, crispy batter. Not all sweet potatoes are born equal, and it is best to use the sweetest of sweet potatoes (such as the Japanese varieties) for this recipe and keep the more savoury ones for your Sunday roast.  You can use the same batter given in my earlier pisang goreng post, but the batter recipe below will give you even crunchier results!

1 small-medium sweet potato, sliced into 4mm slices 
2 heaped tablespoon rice flour
2 heaped tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt
120 ml cold water
Oil for deep frying

Whisk the water into the mixture of both flours and salt until smooth. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Dip the sweet potato slices in the batter, coating them well. Drop them gently into the hot oil, to avoid being splashed with hot oil. Fry on both sides until golden. Remove from heat and drain off excess oil with some kitchen roll and enjoy with your cup of hot drink.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Seafood Wat Tan Hor (rice noodles without pork)

This Chinese noodles dish, also known as gong fu chow is a must-try if you have yet to do so. In Malaysia, halal variations of this are also served as mi goreng ladna. I used to get treated to this for supper when visiting my grandparents for school holidays- happy days!

While it is commonly served with fried pork lardons (small bits of diced bacon), I'm substituting those with seafood.

300 g kuey teow (flat rice noodles)
100 g vermicelli (thin rice noodles)
300-400 g squid and prawns, cleaned
½ Chinese cabbage, cut into chunky slices
1 carrot, sliced
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
2 cup chicken stock (1 stock cube in 2 cups of boiling water)
Corn starch (1 teaspoon corn flour in 5 teaspoon water)
1 egg
Soy sauce
Dark soy sauce

Condiment/sauce (optional)
Minced garlic
Chopped green or bird’s eye chilli

You can use either fresh or dried noodles for this dish. If you are using dried kuey teow and vermicelli, soak them for about an hour in cold water first. When they are soft, drain and soak them in boiling hot water. Drain again when they are cooked (as per instruction on the packet).

All stages of the cooking of this dish should be using high heat. The noodles are first fried in a generous amount of oil with half the minced garlic, a drop of dark soy sauce and about 2 teaspoon of soy sauce for 3-4 minutes. Plate up in a deep dish and keep it aside.

Noodles fried and left aside

The rich broth with meat and vegetables that will be poured over the noodles

Fry up the remaining garlic in some oil. Add vegetables, seafood and chicken stock. Flavour the soup with a dash of soy and simmer until the meat is cooked (prawns should turn pink and squid slices should curl up). Pour in the cornstarch to thicken the sauce and stir well. Break in an egg (the yolk should be lightly broken and scattered), remove from heat immediately and pour it over the noodles. Serve with condiment for some added heat.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sambal Udang (Prawns in chilli)

Sambal Udang is a scorching hot dish filled with prawns, large or small. It is best enjoyed with white rice, although it is also at times served as part of nasi lemak, nasi campur* or other dishes. This is one for the masochists out there, so it really should come with a health warning (or at least a milkshake or mango lassi afterwards to cool the palate!).

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
1½ teaspoon belacan paste or powder. Alternately, you can use the same amount of dried shrimps
1 lemon grass stalk
Juice of half a lime
300g of large or medium prawns, shelled and de-vein
1 tbsp white or palm sugar

Blend half an onion, garlic and ginger with the chillies. Cook the paste that forms in four tablespoons of oil in medium heat. Be careful of the splattering!

Cook the paste for about ten minutes or until it becomes drier and darker in colour. Add the remaining onions to the paste, along with a crushed lemon grass, and belacan. 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 prawns to the sambal and cook for ten minutes or less. Overcooking will cause the prawns to acquire a rubbery texture, which I would advise to try and avoid. Remove from heat when you’re happy with the consistency of the sambal, adding water if you want it to be a little runny.

*Nasi campur: Some restaurants prepare several different types of curries, vegetable and meat dishes and leave it up to the customers to choose as many (or as little) side dishes as they would like with their basic plate of rice. This is called nasi campur, or literally, mixed rice. The plate of food will be charged according to the number of items added to it.

Sambal udang with boiled eggs

Tip: Selecting the right type of chillies can make a real difference to the spice level you are aiming for. The smaller dried chillies pack more punch than menacing large ones. Even for those who have a high spice tolerance, I would advice getting medium sized chillies so that you can appreciate the great taste of the sambal rather than simply blowing your mouth away.