Taken from Malaysian Food by Norman Musa
The exciting thing about Malaysian cooking is all the ingredients and their flavours and aromas.
However, some of the ingredients used are less well-known to many people in the UK. So I thought I would illustrate them – and also recommend a few brands that, in my opinion, are superior.
In most British cities like Manchester and London you can pick up the ingredients in specialist oriental and South Asian grocery stores, and increasingly in the ‘world foods’ aisles of major supermarkets. In Malaysia, of course, you can find these ingredients much more easily.
You might wonder why I blend many of the more familiar ingredients like garlic, ginger and onion. This is because the blended ingredients mix well with the sauces, resulting in a richer flavour. For cooking oil, I use vegetable oil, but you can also use corn or sunflower. The strong flavour of olive oil, however, is not suitable as it will be overpowering.
My food is for any occasion – not just at dinner parties. So most of the recipes are designed for serving two people. Simply adjust proportionately to suit your occasion. And if you like your food very spicy, just add more chillies.
This herb is of the same family as ginger. The aroma and flavour is very pungent and citrusy. You only need to use a bit in a recipe otherwise the dish will turn slightly bitter. 100g of fresh galangal peeled and blended with 100ml of water can produce up to 10 tablespoons paste. In the UK you find it in the chiller cabinet of oriental grocery stores.
Dried Chilli Paste
Dried chillies are used a lot in Malaysian cooking. The colour is a rich, gorgeous crimson compared to using fresh chillies, and the flavour sweeter and more intense than sharp. 2o dried chillies (the bigger the better) with 150ml of water can give up to 10 tablespoons of chilli paste. To prepare, bring to the boil 1 litre of water and boil the dried chillies for 10 minutes. Remove the chilli stalk beforehand if there is any. Drain the water and blend the chillies with 150ml cold water in a blender. You can always soak the chillies overnight to soften the chillies first.
This is one of my favourite herbs. The refreshing fragrance makes recipes smell so fresh and aromatic. 4 stalks of lemongrass blended with 150ml water can give up to 10 tablespoons paste. Having cut off the tip, use the bottom half of a lemongrass stalk, chopping it into small pieces before blending it with the water. When frying it, it is best to extract the juice from the pulp so the oil will not spit.
Curry leaves originate from India, and consequently are a typical ingredient in Indian style Malaysian dishes. Buying fresh ones is best. In the UK you can normally buy them in Asian grocery stores and markets. In Manchester, we have a so-called Curry Mile where you can pick them up. If you cannot get hold of them, you can use dried ones but soak them first in boiling water to soften them.
Kari Ayam dan Daging
Meat Curry Powder
The brand I use is Adabi, which is produced and widely available in Malaysia. However, in the UK this curry powder is only available in specialist oriental grocery stores. It comprises a mixture of ground herbs like cumin, coriander, fennel and chilli powder, among others. It is good quality, saving a lot of time with the pestle and mortar.
The authentic way of making this is by frying desiccated coconut until brown and then blending it until the coconut turns into a paste. However, thanks to my best friend Yosrie, he taught me to do it a quicker way by putting the coconut block (creamed coconut) in a microwave oven for 3 minutes. Stir it immediately and microwave for a further minute to make it darker. Like magic, it turns to roasted coconut of the same quality as if it was done authentically. One block of creamed coconut block can produce up to 8 tablespoons of kerisik. I get so proud telling my students how they will save time preparing it this way.
Fish Curry Powder
Similar to the meat version, this is another type of Adabi brand but designed for fish curries. I also use this in Murtabak. It is less spicy compared to the meat curry powder.
Malaysians use a lot of tamarind juice in cooking, as an alternative to lime or lemon juice. It gives the same effect. Tamarind is like a sour plum, of which the pulp is edible (when ripened). Soak the tamarind pulp in boiled water for 5 minutes before using it. If the recipe only requires a few tablespoons of the juice, just soak a couple of pinches of tamarind pulp. The remaining can be kept for months in the fridge.
Malaysia Kitchen Secretariat,
12th Floor, East Wing, Menara MATRADE,
Jalan Khidmat Usaha, Off Jalan Duta,
50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel : +603-6207-7273 / 7272 / 7266
Fax : +603-6203-7024
Malaysia Kitchen for the World is a global initiative of the Malaysian government that aims to educate and inform consumers about Malaysian cuisine and Malaysian restaurants throughout the world.