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.