My aunt used to make me jars and jars of sambal belacan to bring back to North America with me every time I go home to Malaysia for holiday. I had decided that I should learn to make it myself and luckily with the advent of the Internet, I found many sambal recipes posted online by fellow Malaysians locally and abroad (like me). I had previously posted a version of nasi lemak last year, served with sambal telur instead.
I am posting an adapted version of sambal ikan bilis from Rasa Malaysia, only because I do not use ikan bilis (anchovies) in mine (it’s vegetarian) and I used jarred chopped chillies instead – see picture above (mainly because I was not able to find long thin dried chillies here). I made this version of sambal for a potluck in December and it was a huge hit. I really do think that the secret ingredient to my sambal are tamarind (assam jawa) juice, brown or palm sugar (gula melaka) and sea salt (as opposed to iodised salt) .Also, I do not own a mortar and pestle, I would love to because food does taste different compared to those made with the food processor, but I don’t think my neighbours below me would appreaciate it 😛
- 1 cup of water
- 1.5″ to 2″ ball of tamarind pulp (size of a small ping pong ball)
- 1/2 red onion
- 4 shallots
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 stalk lemongrass thinly sliced (use only the bottom 3 inches of the stalk)
- 10 dried chillies or 1 cup jarred chopped chillies
- 1 teaspoon of vegetarian belacan (prawn paste) powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt or to taste
- 1 tablespoon of brown/palm sugar (gula melaka), or to taste
- Soak the tamarind pulp in warm water for 15 minutes or more. Squeeze the tamarind constantly to extract the flavor into the water. Remove seeds, drain the pulp and save the tamarind juice.
- Slice onions into rings or half rings.
- Pound or grind the prawn paste together with lemon grass, shallots, garlic, and chillies. We will call this the spice paste.
- Heat 1/2 cup of cooking oil in a hot wok. Do not skim on the amount of oil when it come to making sambal or curries. Good curries and sambal has a layer of spiced oil on top of them when they are done. The fat is necessary to bring out the taste of spices.
- Fry the spice paste until fragrant.
- Add tamarind juice, sugar and salt. Some people like their sambal sweet. Use as much sugar as needed.
- Let the paste cook while stirring occasionally. It is ready when oil from the paste floats to the top. This is called ‘pecah minyak’ in Malay. You can choose to ladle off the layer of oil before serving, or if you are keeping them for future use in a jar, keep the layer of oil to preserve the flavour. Like all curries or anything spice based, they get better the day after or even longer, if stored properly.
This is a very much missed dish for those living overseas who originates from/have lived in/been to Kuala Lumpur (KL). It is amazing how the mamak stalls that are a familiar sight at every corner of KL have come up with the creation of the infamous MAGGI GORENG. Maggi is simply a very popular brand of instant noodles in Malaysia, and “goreng” means fried in Malay/Indonesian. By the way, there is not a time of the day whereby Maggi Goreng is inappropriate to be eaten. You can have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea time, or late night supper, and I am not exaggerating.
Maggi noodles were originally a soupy noodle dish that is ready in about 2 mins (as advertised) but by cooking the noodles until al dente in a pot of water and then frying them up in the wok with the accompanying seasoning, an egg and a few shreds of vegetables, you will have a plate of spicy, mouthwatering plate of MAGGI GORENG. Just like pad thai in Thailand, no two mamak stalls make the same Maggi Goreng. They always taste different even though it all starts with a pack of dried noodles and a pack of seasoning.
For my version of Maggi Goreng this time, I sliced some snow peas for the added crunch (you can use beansprouts also), sliced some fried tofu balls (tau foo pok), some sambal belacan paste, and chopped Thai hot chillis (cili padi). In the chaos of things, I had forgotten to add eggs before turning off the stove and Andy was not very happy about that. To him and my little sister Chermaine, Maggi Goreng without eggs is outright blasphemy, LOL!. Anyway, I also added some soy sauce and a sprinkle of sugar to improve the taste of the dish.
Well, it turned out very well, I must say. Again, Andy downed 3 glasses of milk while polishing up his plate and accusing me of murdering him with my cooking.
Oops, I did it again! Andy said that sometimes I make delicious food for him, and then sometimes I make him food that murders him. Yes, he accuses me of murdering him with my cooking. Although, last night, my beehoon kerabu was actually quite hot, even for my tastebuds.
I simply made this version of beehoon kerabu using my own recipe from last year. I did not have any large vegetarian shrimps, so I sliced some fried tofu balls (taufoo pok) and pan fried them until a little charred and crispy with a little bit of oil on a non-stick wok. I also added julienned snow peas for the added crunch in this dish. You can always use fresh beansprouts for the crunch factor.
I think that the heat of this dish came from the super deliciously red thai hot chillis (cili padi) that came from the Vietnamese store. I sliced a handful of them thinly and tossed them into the mixing bowl, seeds included. They seemed so harmless when I was chopping them, but looks can be deceiving 😛
For my yummy version of vegetarian beehoon kerabu, check it out here.
I have every intention to make some vegetarian assam laksa one of these days, but I realized that I had forgotten to buy some vegetarian hae koh (shrimp paste) when I went home to Malaysia for Chinese New Year not too long ago. I was ecstatic to find the recipe for homemade vegetarian shrimp paste on the Internet tonight, and the goal of making assam laksa is can almost be materialized. I just have to find assam keping around here or in Toronto. Below is the recipe from Amy Beh of Kuali.com.
- 1 tbsp Marmite vegetarian yeast extract
- 1 1/2 castor sugar
- 4 tbsp maltose (mak nga tong) – found this is Vietnamese store
- 1 tbsp thick soy sauce — I brought some from home since I cannot find thick soy sauce here that are not Indonesian
- 2 tsp vegetarian belacan powder
- 120ml water
- Thickening: Combine 1 tbsp corn flour + 2 tbsp water
Combine all ingredients in a non-stick saucepan and cook over low heat until it comes to a simmering boil for 1-2 minutes. Stir in thickening to mix.
I made this well-known Nyonya dessert to be shared with my fellow Malaysians at the Malaysian Association of Michigan (MAM) members this morning. This was made last night and it was a lot better. I made the mistake of refrigerating it overnight but I nuked it in the microwave for 45 second and it was fine.Remember to let it sit in room temperature for a few minutes before consuming after nuking it or else you will burn your tongue with boiling gula melaka oozing out from them.
I found many recipes only but I chose this one because I did not have to boil, peel and mash sweet potatoes. I also found that the tapioca starch in this recipe also gave it the gumminess it require. Also, I have to call this Malaysian onde-onde because I found several versions from Indonesia that contains kacang hijau (mung bean) instead of gula melaka (palm sugar). Back when I was just a kid, I knew this as buah melaka.
This recipe was not difficult, but it was just time consuming kneading it to the right consistency. I also added 2 tbsp of water while kneading it because it was too dry, but I suppose it’s just the season and temperature right now. I also did not have pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) but I did have some pandan coloring and emultion. It was close enough, I’m not gonna complain. The next time I make this I will try to make them smaller, the dough thinner but not puncture the dough with the sharp edges of the chopped gula melaka 😛
Original recipe source: Lily’s Wai Sek Hong
- 270 g glutinous rice flour
- 55 g tapioca flour
- Pinch of salt
- 200 ml water
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/2 tsp pandan paste
- A few drops green colouring (if desired)
- 1/2 grated coconut, mixed with a pinch of salt, or
- 150g of fine unsweetened coconut flakes (dessicated is fine too)
- 100g gula Melaka or palm sugar
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- Boil together the tapioca flour, oil and 200 ml water over low heat. Keep stirring till only 3/4 cooked. Allow mixture to turn transparent.
- Pour the tapioca mixture immediately into the glutinous rice flour in a large bowl. Stir till well absorbed and gradually add in the pandan paste, salt and green food coloring.
- Stir well and knead to form a firm smooth dough. If dough is too soft , add a little glutinous flour. I had to add a bit of water to knead all the flour in successfully.
- Divide dough into small pieces and form 1 inch size balls. Flatten each piece, put half a teaspoon of filling in the centre and roll into onde-onde balls.
- Drop the onde-onde into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium. When the balls are cooked they will float. Continue to cook for another 2 mins to dissolve the sugar and make it syrupy.
- Scoop up the onde-onde with a perforated ladle, dab ladle over dry cloth and then toss onde onde in grated coconut or coconut flakes.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough, or make them all ahead and then cook them all in a few batches. Some of the sugar may melt and seep through but it’s ok.
Yet another creation from spur of the moment. Andy loves to eat asparagus, so I have to come up with fresh ideas constantly to cook his favourite food. As I was cooking this dish initially, the aroma reminded me of a stirfry dish back home in Malaysia cooked with ferns/fiddleheads (paku-pakis). I remembered that it was mildly spicy and I think there was belacan in it. So just before I dished this out, I sprinkled a couple tablespoons of vegetarian belacan powder (made with fermented tofu) in it and it came out perfect!
Of course, this dish can also be made without belacan…
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bundle of fresh asparagus, hardy parts removed and cut the rest into 2″ lengths
- 1 thumb of fresg ginger, peeled (use edge of spoon) and sliced
- 1 handful of vegetarian pork belly (or sliced tofu/chicken breast)
- 2 T belacan powder
- 1 T chili powder (if desired)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 2 T of oil in wok. Fry ginger and garlic until fragrant.
- Add sliced pork belly/tofu/chicken.
- Add asparagus and cook until semi-wilted.
- Season with belacan powder, salt, pepper and chili powder if desired.
- Serve with hot rice.
I’ve mentioned that my parents are visiting from Malaysia. Everytime they come to visit, they are tasked to bring my sister and I suitcases full of Malaysian yummies. This time, there were 4 stuffed suitcases that were filled with food-stuff. One of them was sweet red “taucu” sauce, which is known as Hoisin sauce in Malaysia. This Hoisin (seafood) sauce is not the black type that is popular in US/Canada. See here for the American version. I cannot find the red taucu/hoisin sauce in this part of the world for the life of me!
“Taucu” is a fermented soy bean sauce. I suppose this one that I’ve used is red because of the type of bean used? I find it less salty compared to the brown “taucu” sauce that is usually used to cook fishes and pork. Leave it to the Chinese to come up with a gazillion of soy bean sauces, eh?
This is the ultimate healthy snack for me. It brings back fond memories of my primary school days when we rush out the school compound when the last bell rings to signify that school is out for the day. I believe that right outside each school in Malaysia has several junk food peddlers that tempt every school kid into buying snacks, which drove parents nuts because it would spoil the kid’s appetite for proper meals that are being served at home. Sometimes, there are houses opposite the school that take advantage of school kids too. A few of them had set up tables in front of their houses to sell snacks to children to make a few bucks for the day. I didn’t mind it as a kid, the more choices, the better!
Most of the snacks sold outside the school are wrapped in plastic, but there are some that are not, such as this “sengkuang” snack. It’s not exactly hygenic because the streets are dusty and buses and cars are usually lined up outside of school, waiting for the kids to be released from school. This is probably why the schools stations prefects (school student police, we call ’em bulldogs) outside the school to take down names of students buying “makanan diluar” (outside food). Maybe a few kids of gotten food poisoning from the snacks, but not me 😛 Having prefects guarding the school compounds made it even more exciting for us to “curi-curi” (sneak) buy snacks, LOL!
Oh by the way, sengkuang is called jicama or yambean on this side of the world. My parents told me that it was turnip, they LIED to me for 28 years!
- Jicama, peeled and sliced to about 0.5cm thick
- Taucu manis (sweet red hoisin sauce)
- Ground peanut
- Spread taucu manis on one side of the sliced jicama.
- Sprinkle sugar and ground peanut on top of the taucu merah. Use more ground peanut for added crunch.
- What else, enjoy lah!