The first post of 2011. I do apologize for the long absence, it has been such a crazy year-end last year I had no time to properly craft a post but there has been a lot of eating. My parents and brother were here for Christmas and New Years, if you can imagine all the restaurants I wanted them to try on top of all the sight-seeing.
Now that they’ve gone back home and we’re about 10 days to Chinese New Year, I wanted to start the first post of the year with a lot of “Har”. So, I made Penang Prawn Noodles or Penang Hokkien Mee. “Har” is prawn/shrimp in Cantonese and auspiciously it sounds like “Ha” of “Hahahaha”. I am originally Hokkien and we call prawns/shrimps “Hae“, you could say it sounds like “Heh” of “Hehehehehe” too. And so my point being, eating a lot of “Har/Hae” would induce a lot of happiness, one of the auspicious traits you want in your house during Chinese New Year!
Penang Prawn Noodles is a bowl of happiness in my eyes. Its rich broth is made from simmering pork bones and prawn heads until every ounce of their flavour is extracted. And then a necessary blend of spice paste carefully pounded with dried shrimps, chilies, shallots and garlic, which is then sauteed in peanut oil until fragrant and aromatic is added into the broth. It is an absolute delight to slurped on because the marriage of flavours from the prawns, pork and the slick red oil floating on every bowl dances in your mouth like sex.
The most time consuming part of cooking Penang Prawn Mee is the broth, it’s an element that will either make or break the dish so take the time to clean the pork bones and use the freshes prawns you can get. You need A LOT of prawns/shrimps for this dish. Usually, I would used 1500 grams worth of shrimp shells and 700 grams of pork bones for 1.5 liters of broth. If you cannot get as much shrimp shells, you should get a sachet of Tean’s Gourmet Prawn Noodle Paste from your Asian grocery store for a bit of help in boosting the flavour of your broth. You may use other brands but I won’t be able to guarantee how the flavours will turn out. read more …
There are many kinds of curried chicken in Malaysia and while I am not sure which kind this is, it is the kind that is served in my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchen. If it spanned two generations, I can assure you that this recipe works.
I used to over-think this recipe when I was in my university days because I want, so badly, to replicate the taste from home. And the result is a curry that tastes like it was over-thought, if that made any sense. I put too much curry powder, too much cumin, too much coriander, too much of everything. While it was good, overbearingly spicily good, it was perhaps quite heavy handed. I’ve learned that it is crucial to understand balance when handling spice.
This curry feels, tastes and smells very much like home and it is a keeper. It is like the curry served during Chinese New Year’s reunion dinner along with all the other yummilicious dishes. The spice is just right and it is downright addictive.
Home-style Malaysian Chicken Curry
6 chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs separated.
1 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon stick
1/4 cup of curry powder
1 teaspoon garaam masala (optional)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 large potato, cut into large chunks
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup of coconut milk
250ml of water
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Curry Spice – to be pounded/blended
2 medium sized red onions, chopped into chunks
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon dried whole coriander
1 teaspoon dried whole cumin
4 pods of cardamom seeds, discard pod after extraction
I like to pound my spices with a mortar and pestle but go ahead and use a blender.
This chicken curry tastes better the next day and is great eaten with rice and breads, especially the South Asian kind like Naan bread. The end result of this dish can be rather oily, don’t be alarmed, the red chili oil that surfaces actually helps cook this curry better. You could always scoop the excess away after you’re done cooking or get rid of the chicken skin.
It’s been such a lovely weather lately, hot without much humidity, an excellent reason to crank up the kitchen. *rubs hands together*
Also, on the 31st of August will be Malaysia’s independence day. My fellow foodie blogger from Malaysia, Babe_KL is hosting an open house on her blog collecting family favorite recipes for our 53rd Independence Day. The theme is Food From Our Hearts, an excellent theme for a recipe that’s spanned two generations. 🙂
The spicy custard is key in making this delicious and also a certain kind of leafy herb called Daun Kadok or Piper sarmentosum. The locals in Malaysia sometimes substitute this herb for mint leaves because Daun Kadok has a rather minty profile but by substituting it with mint leaves, the minty profile is pretty much all you get because Daun Kadok also has a lemongrass and a green herbaceous profile that cannot be replicated. But in the event that you could not find this herb, go ahead and use mint. It would still be pretty good.
So, the French have their pates and terrines, the Malaysian have their Otak-otak and it is absolutely delicious to eat when spread on toasts, crackers and even with a steamy hot bowl of rice. To make otak-otak, there are basically three steps 1) POUND 2) ASSEMBLE 3) STEAM – and on we go.
Malaysian Steamed Fish Custard (Otak-otak)
makes 8 pouches
To be pounded:
10 shallots3 slices of galangal root
2 inches of turmeric root
5 dried red chilies, de-seeded
5 fresh red chillies, de-seeded
2 cloves of garlic
2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into small manageable pieces
1 tablespoon of fish paste, also known as belachan
1 cup of coconut milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoon of rice flour, can be substituted with cornstarch or regular all-purpose flour
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt to taste
The filling of the custard:
150grams of shrimp, chopped into small chunks
Other options: Any firm fleshed white fish, shredded chicken breast, shredded beef and scallops
16 Daun Kadok or Piper sarmentosum
It’s ready to eat with some rice or with a slice of toasted baguette. Mmmm….
I made otak-otak before 3 years ago but this is definitely the better version. I gather it’s because I put a lot of love into it. 🙂
Vegetarians – you can omit the fish paste in the custard and also substitute shrimp with medium soft tofu. It is equally delicious.
Taro cake has never really been a favorite snack of mine. I didn’t hate it nor was I extremely crazy about it back in Malaysia but recently, I’ve been craving for a plate of diagonally cut taro cakes topped with dried shrimps, fried onions doused in sweet and spicy sauce. It’s like one of those things that’s innately sitting inside the Malaysian side of me and god knows, what else is there? I wasn’t big on durians either back in Malaysia.
So, to satisfy my Malaysian craving of the tuberous kind in the form of a kueh I’ve decided to make some. It’s surprisingly easy to make, you just need to buy some taro root. For those of you in the US, or some parts of Canada, I think you call the taro root yam, which can be confusing because it’s two different root vegetables. In case there are any confusions the picture below will give you a good idea what a taro root looks like.
You can treat this taro cake as an appetizer or even as a meal in itself because it can be quite filling! Here’s a recipe I took from this book Nonya Flavors: The Complete Guide to Straits Chinese Cuisine, which was a gift from my dad. A lot of the recipes in that book is pretty authentic but some are a bit different from what I remember but that’s just because of personal preference from how my late-grandmother made some of the dishes. I highly recommend you get a copy of this recipe book if you ever encounter it, here’s a link to a Malaysian bookshop who will ship it overseas if you order it from them. Other Nyonya cuisine cookbooks.
And on to the recipe!
* Vegetarians: You can easily make this into a vegetarian dish by omitting the dried shrimps. It is just as tasty!
Savory Taro Cake (Orh Kueh)
350g rice flour
1 Tbsp green pea flour
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
2 shallots, peeled and chopped finely
600grams of taro root, skinned and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 Tsp of Chinese five spice powder
2 Tsp of salt, or to taste
1 Tsp white pepper, but black pepper works too
50 grams of dried shrimps, soaked in water for 10 minutes and chopped
Topping: Fried shallots, kecap manis, Sriracha chili sauce, chopped green onions, chopped dried shrimps (soak in water for 10 mins first).
The batter will look like a messy clay but it’s okay just stay with it for a little while.
Eat with a cup of coffee or your milk tea – my favorite combination of all time!
Onde-onde is a sweet rice dumpling that most Malaysians enjoy as a part of their tea time snack. I’m not very sure what its origins were, but onde-onde is a must as part of Malaysian tea time snacks. It is probably my favorite form of sweets and it has been a long time since I’ve had any of these soft, chewy green bursting balls of coconuty goodness. MMm!
I never thought I would miss palm sugar. Making onde-onde at home in Montreal, the land of poutine and Schwartz’s smoked meat, it cannot get any better than this. The sweet pop of palm sugary sweetness from this sweet dumpling was just too much to bear, too nostalgic, too good. And it’s an easy recipe to make too, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing but before I digress –
200grams of glutinous rice flour
100 grams of ruby sweet potatoes, peeled and steamed till soft
1 tablespoon of pandan leaves extract, mixed with 200ml of water to make juice
a pinch of salt
150 grams of palm sugar, chipped into small 1/4 inch pieces – try to get those darker ones but the Thai palm sugar would work just fine too
2 cups of grated unsweetened coconut
Oral explosion experiences may vary from one individual to another depending on how the palm sugar is nestled into the dough. But even without it, onde-onde is still a pleasure to eat.