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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Malaysian Beef Curry - Kari Daging

Yesterday morning, nuzzling up to her sleeping mommie, Nabila kissed me and declared, "Mommie, you are soft and warm like beef curry!" I can't help but laugh out loud by her choice of simile. How much closer to the truth can you get when you refer your mommie to your choice of comfort food?

Anytime I ask the 2 of them what would they like to have for dinner it is always Beef Curry. We eat curry 1-2 a week. But their curry of choice is always Kari Daging (Beef Curry) made the Malay way that is thick and rich with coconut cream left to simmer slowly until the meat is soaked with the curry and tender and juicy.

Potatoes and Carrots are often added to thicken the curry further lending creaminess and sweetness to it. It is the typical way of making home made curry . I start by frying the black mustard seeds, curry leaves and tomatoes and then adding my wet rempah and frying them together until they reach the *pecah minyak* stage which you will recognise from the bubbling in your oil. Then I add the beef cubes and stir until every side of the cube is covered in the spices. And then I add water and coconut milk and Let the curry boil for about 5 minutes before turning the fire to low. I leave them to simmer for 1 - 1 and a half hour. Only then do I add the potatos and the carrots and leave them to simmer for another half an hour.

This was how we had iftar last ramaddhan. I made some Roti Canai and served it with Beef Curry (then made with pumpkin, carrots and potatos), mango chutney and Prawn Sambal. This is my favourite way of eating Roti Canai. Curry always tastes better the next day when all the flavours have almagated together.

There is a beautiful word in Malay called *mesra* which means friendly and the Malay cookbooks/magazines always state stir the spices and beef together until they are Mesra. I find this cute!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

sambal belacan

It's cold outside! And the flowers Terry bought me last week are wilting. We have been planning our vacation, checking for flights, discussing vakantie time, wondering if the world cup has anything to do with why flight tickets seem to be more expensive after June 30th.

I just got so homesick.

So what does a girl do when she is home sick? She reaches for her mortar and pestle and start making sambal belacan.

Despite having helps, my Mom has never let the maids make the sambal in our house. She believes sambal, like rice should only be cooked by the lady of the house or the daughter. It has something to do with what the Malays call air tangan (literally translated hand's water). Air tangan is something like a signature or the magic touch to make a dish your own. Some believes that air tangan has hypnotic power! But I think it is because most dishes in Malaysia really rest on balancing all the flavours and taste together that it is actually referring to the palate of the cook.

I believe my mother makes the best sambal belacan. It is so good that not only I almost never eat the ones sold in the stalls or restaurants, I didn't actually attempt to make it on my own until she passed away.

I have made it before but only when she is around to correct the balance. As you can see from the link above, most households make their sambal only with belacan, chillies and seasonings. The way my mom made it is different. The taste of belacan is not prominent but subtle. And it is not too hot that it will burn your mouth. And the colour of the sambal is red from the chillies and my mom insisted that you must pound all the seeds from the chillies until you can't see them.

When I make a lot of sambal, I tend to make them at two levels. First pounding the chillies until everything is crushed. Then I add garlic, shallots and the roasted belacan. And only then if I need to, do I use my hand blender. And even then I don't process it till it is fine. Texture is very important.

And then I season it with salt and sugar - not to sweeten but to heighten the flavour and make them all come together and lime juice.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

tod man

One of the beauties of south east asian cooking is the interchangability. Like this fabulous dish.
You begin by making the rempah - pounding 10 dry chillies, 2 fresh red chillies, garlic, ginger, galangal, zest of kaffir lime and the root of coriander together and then whizz them with your chosen fish or combination of 2 different fishes to make the fish paste. Season and leave it to rest in the fridge for as long as you can.

You can add a bit of prawns to the fish paste and 3 spoons of coconut cream, wrap it around lemon grass stalks and it becomes Balinese Satay Lilit. And add a bit more coconut cream, palm sugar and wrap it in banana leaves - steam it or bake it in the oven or in open fire and it becomes the fabulous Malaysian Otak-otak.
But weekends and the end of Carnavalvakantie called for easy and simple dinner. I made Tod Man (thai fishcake) with some salmon and cod. I was so lucky to chance upon some kaffir lime last week - they add extra kick to the fish cakes. You can eat them with cucumber and pineapple relish or a simple fresh tomato and chilli dip.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

How to eat leftover

More often than not, I cook too much for 2 persons and a 6 year old and they always end up in a container in the fridge or get frozen up. This happens a lot with curry or masak lemak. But because my tummy is in Virgo as in I have a very sensitive and weak stomach, I try to eat these lekker leftovers as soon as I can. I also avoid reheating things that contained mushrooms and seafood.
Last week, I made some Masak Lemak Udang - spicy shrimps and tomatoes cooked in coconut broth with rempah made of fresh chillies, galangal, lemon grass, ginger, garlic, onion and fresh tumeric. It is one of my favourite dish, especially in winter when the dish coat your tongue with sweeter and much later leaves a trail of firework in your mouth and tummy. It was so good, I forgot to take pictures. And since it was made with shrimps, we finished all the seafood and only left the broth with tomatoes.
this was paired with Bergedil Daging - Malaysian beefcakes - made with minced beef, mushrooms, potatoes, onion and parseley and shallow fried. And we had some stirfry zucchini, paprika, carrot and sweetpeas.
The next day, I reheated the Masak Lemak, adding extra tomatoes for kicks, the bergedil, the stirfry and added some fresh spinach to eat with sambal. My daughter and I had a rather heavy lunch and we went for a walk in the park after that.