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.