Thursday, May 6, 2010
I ♥ Malaysian food
I recently met with and interviewed Norman Musa, a self-taught Malaysian chef who has opened a restaurant in Manchester. Ning is the name of Norman's restaurant and the menu comprises some of Norman's favourite Malaysian classics, most of which he learnt from his mum. You can read more about him in my upcoming article in StarTwo on Monday (May 10). (Will post the link up on Monday).
The focus of my meeting with the Penang-born cook was his debut cookbook, called Malaysian Food. The book is slightly pricey (it retails at £19.95 which translates to about RM90++) and I wish there were more recipes to try but those that he included are fool proof, even if you're a sometimes cook.
Flipping through the book, I wanted to try almost all the recipes. Although only a handful of the recipes were vegetarian, I adapted most of the others (even the Rendang Daging or beef rendang) to make them vegetarian. In the case of the beef rendang, I used mushroom stalks instead of beef. Those fungi stalks taste pretty meaty and if you marinade them, they retain flavour really well. Yummm.
The first of his recipes I tried was my all-time favourite: Kuah Kacang (peanut sauce) usually a dipping sauce for satay. I don't know if you agree but I find really tasty peanut sauce hard to come by. Especially kuah kacang that does not have belacan (soooo not a vege-friendly option) in it. Norman's recipe is purely vegetarian. And so, I decided to try his recipe for Kuah Kacang before attempting any of his other recipes: if his Kuah Kacang rocked, chances were high that his other recipes would too.
Guess what? It rocked. It was nutty (the portion of nuts indicated in his recipe was generous), not too oily (as most store bought sauces are) and had a good sweet-hot balance -- although, being the chilli addict that I am, I added a little more chilli paste. I liked that he used palm sugar, many recipes now opt for white sugar, or worse, peanut butter. How not authentic is that??? Inspired by the success of the peanut sauce (yay, now i can make it anytime I have a craving for it) I decided to explore further. I made the Bayam, Tofu & Cendawan Goreng (Mushroom and spinach stir fry) next which took all of ten minutes (and another fifteen mins prep). Unlike many vegetable side dishes which incorporate dried shrimp, fish sauce or even tiny chicken pieces or beef in it, Norman's vegetable dishes are purely vegetarian. He uses mushroom sauce in place of oyster sauce and there are no meat add-ons. It's a simple vegetable dish which tastes good. You can get the recipes for this on Monday's article.
Next, I tried the recipe for onde onde. If you have never eaten/tried making this delicious dessert, try Norman's recipe cos it works and its not complicated. Glutinous rice balls with cubes of palm sugar in them is what onde onde is. The balls are plonked into boiling water and when they rise to the surface, they're done! Thats all. The trick is making the dough just right and putting just enough sugar into the balls (so they aren't too doughy) . Once out of the water, coat the balls with fresh coconut or dessicated coconut+ a pinch salt.
There are many more recipes I want to try: the Pajeri Nenas is next on my list as is the Rendang Ayam Pedas which I will attempt for my strictly non veg partner. If they turn out like the ones I've tried so far, I'll be one happy camper. Thanks, Norman Musa. Now here's the recipe.
Buah Melaka @ Onde Onde
300 g glutinous rice flour
225 ml water
1/2 tsp salt
200g gula melaka
2 litres water (to boil)
200g fine dessicated coconut
1/2 tsp salt
4 pandan lea♥es
150 ml water
1. Male extract: Cut pandan leaves into small pieces and put them in the blender with the water. Blend till ground, squeeze the extract out with a sieve or strainer. Set aside.
2. Cut the gula melaka into small cubes. Doesn't need to be identical in size. Set aside.
3. Mix dough, 225 ml water, salt and extract into a dough. You know the consistency is right when the dough doesn't stick to your fingers.
4. Form the dough into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Press the middle of these small dough balls with your thumb. fill the depression with a cube or two of the gula melaka. Seal the ball well and reshape them into perfect balls. Note: if you dont seal them well, the sugar will seep out and your dessert will lose some sweetness and wont look as pretty.
5. Put the water to boil. Once it comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat a little and start gently dropping the small dough balls in. The onde onde is ready when the balls darken in colour and rise to the top.
6. Spoon them out with a perforated ladle and let them drain. Then roll them in the coconut+ salt mixture. Set them aside to cool before serving them.