Pandan leaves are from the ‘Screwpine Tree’, and are widely used in South East Asian cooking. Their distinctive, slightly nutty aroma adds a delicate scent to rice and added flavour to curries. In Malaysia, their extracted juice is a natural green colouring used for desserts. Tied in a knot, a leaf can also be used to brush oil on a pan.
There are many brands available in the UK, but the best brand in my opinion is Chaokoh, produced in Thailand. It’s very creamy and not watery compared to other brands you might pick up in a British supermarket. In Malaysia you can buy fresh coconut milk, which is even better.
Dark Coconut Block Sugar
This type of sugar comes in blocks or discs, but is different from palm sugar which is widely available in oriental shops in the UK. The sweetness is more intense compared to granulated white sugar. Malaysians use a lot of coconut block sugar for their desserts. I also choose to use it in my beef rendang (page 112 for recipe) as it gives extra darkness to the gravy.
Whole Mixed Herbs
Whole mixed herbs and seeds are available in many South Asian grocery stores here in Manchester. They come in a packet containing a mixture of black mustard seeds, fennel, fenugreek and cumin seeds. I use them in my Kari Ikan (fish curry) recipe on page 84. In Malaysia I love getting these from the specialist spice stall at the local market.
Sos Cili Manis
Sweet Chilli Sauce
The best sweet chilli sauce brand I have come across is the Thai Mae Ploy label. The sauce has less vinegar in it and more garlic. It is nice to have with spring rolls, samosas and also murtabak (page 75 for recipe). In Manchester I get this from oriental stores or the world foods aisle of major supermarkets.
Sweet Soy Sauce
The brand I normally go for is Malaysian Habhal’s Kicap Kipas Udang. There are two types available: sweet, with a red label; and salty, with a green label. Many of my recipes use the sweet type.
Belacan is popular throughout South East Asia, made from fermented ground shrimps which are then sun-dried and formed into slabs like cheese or pâte. These days you can widely buy it in jars. Malaysians use the paste to enhance the flavour, though the smell can really put some Western people off.
Crispy Fried Shallots
You can buy these ready-made in plastic jars or packets. They are widely used in Malaysia to garnish curries – just sprinkle them over. Curiously enough, Scandinavians enjoy them too. You can even buy them in the food shop of a certain well-known Swedish furniture store.
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.