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.