Kuah kacang

Coming from someone who hardly eats or even likes kuah kacang much, the assignment to make kuah kacang for a Raya gathering can be described as a bit of a gamble.

Kuah kacang is not something that I find to be particularly notable. I don’t gravitate towards it on buffet tables. I find it too sweet and sickly, and sticky, and oily. I don’t generally dip my satay in it. I am even less keen on the Indonesian version than the Malaysian version, which is even sweeter.

I’m not selling this very well, am I?

Kacang

Perhaps I have just never had a nice homemade kuah kacang. Actually, that’s not true – I have had Bigfoot’s mother’s kuah kacang, and wasn’t hugely keen on that either, a view which flies in the face of common opinion. Please don’t tell her. I think kuah kacang just doesn’t push my buttons.

But. BUT. I did quite like this. Maybe I adulterated it beyond recognition. Maybe it is not sweet enough to be proper kuah kacang. Or perhaps too spicy, or salty. Obviously, I  don’t think so.  It could be one of those strange things where once you have put effort into it, you trick yourself into liking what you have made. But hey, my peanut sauce, my rules / choice of seasoning.

 It also went down pretty well with the rest of the deprived-of-Malaysian-food-crowd. Yay me! 

Kuah Kacang / Malaysian Peanut Sauce (Satay Sauce)

Based on Anna Qawina’s recipe, tweaked and seasoned differently

5-8 cloves garlic
1 large purple onion, or 2 smaller ones
2 stalks of lemongrass
10-20 dried chillies, washed – adjust depending on how hot you want it
A thumb’s length of ginger
A slice of toasted belacan, around 1/2 cm thick and the length of your thumb – note that I have female-length thumbs, so don’t go too crazy. Toast it gently over a flame or in a toaster oven / dry fry in a pan until the colour changes a little.

1/2 cup water
500-800g blanched peanuts, toasted or fried
1 piece of gula melaka – this is the approximate equivalent of 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar, but start low and work upwards to taste.
1 tablesp asam jawa / tamarind paste in hot water, mushed until the water turns brown
Sugar and salt, to taste

  1. Grind the garlic, onion, lemongrass, chilli, ginger, and belacan in a blender or chopper until you get a paste. Fry this over medium heat until fragrant.
  2. Chop the peanuts roughly in a chopper or blender, then add them to the pan. Add the water so the texture is closer to a sauce.  Add extra water if needed. Lower the heat slightly, and stir so that the peanuts don’t burn.
  3. Add the gula melaka/ brown sugar, and stir until it is all combined.
  4. Season with the sugar, salt, and asam jawa. I obviously added no sugar, some salt, and almost all the asam jawa.

Enjoy with some other raya food. Savour it thoroughly, because I’m only making this once a year! 🙂

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Sambalicious Greens

Random thought: asparagus looks more like fingers than ladies fingers (bhindi), in my opinion. Stubby, weird fingers, but still.

Ladies fingers (bhindi) look like talons that come off some strange and massive creature from a long distant past.

A pile of green

Sambal asparagus (well, sambal-anything really) is one of my favourite vegetables to eat in restaurants, but not to eat at home. Why? It’s more hassle than the garlic-oyster-sauce variety. But well, the result is worth it. And if you make loads of sambal  and store it like Rasa Malaysia suggests, then I suppose a sambal-vegetable should be faster than any other sort.  I’m an inconsistent sambal-eater at home, so I didn’t bother making extra.

Sambal necessities

As you might have guessed by now, you can make sambal-anything and it will still taste good. Mostly green veg will work the best (I think), but it would be nice with eggplant too. Perhaps pumpkin? I’ll have to try that.

I could eat only sambal asparagus for meals on end

Sambal Asparagus

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia. I reduced the sambal amount because I only wanted enough for this dish, so the proportions are just slightly different.

5 dried chillies
2 fresh chillies
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
1 teasp belacan

200g asparagus – use young asparagus, or peel it! I forgot and served unpeeled large asparagus, fellow diners were not amused
A few prawns – with the shell removed is easier to eat
1/4 teasp sugar
1/4 teasp fish sauce

  1. Blend the chillies (dried and fresh), shallots, garlic, and belacan into a thick paste.
  2. Fry the sambal in a wok in a little oil, until you smell the belacan (believe me, you won’t miss it. Open your windows).
  3. Add the prawns and stir them in quickly, then dump in the asparagus.
  4. Add the fish sauce and sugar, and stir in. Taste, and adjust as needed. Keep cooking until the asparagus is done through.

 

Belacan Fried Rice

I made this dish for the sole purpose of feeding 25 people at a BBQ. I was kind of anxious because I hadn’t cooked for so many people in the longest time. What if it tasted like arse? What will I do with the leftovers? Oh, wait, that’s easy: there’re always poor scientists at the lab to give scraps to.

Also, I figured it was relatively easy to cook up. My grandma taught me how to fry rice before I left for university. I didn’t eat a lot of fried rice at university, but I guess it’s useful now! Thanks, Phor!

I didn’t follow any specific recipe just because my granny also doesn’t, but bear in mind these portions are for 25 people at a party who also had other things to eat, so you might want to divide the recipe by 3 if you want to make enough for 2-3 people for a simple lunch or dinner. I was also rather generous with the components of the fried rice. Some people only bother putting in peas and carrots and one prawn. I find that very irritating. I mean, really – eat properly!

Grandma’s Belacan Fried Rice
Serves 20-25 not-so-hungry people, will serve 10 hungry people

3 cups rice from the night before (this is very important as you don’t want mushy fried rice)
700g chicken breast meat, shredded
400g peeled prawns, whole
6 pieces of fish cake, chopped (optional. I added this out of generosity)
3 onions, diced
6 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
6 eggs
Half a packet of sambal belacan paste (I use some local brand I found at NTUC)
2 packets of anchovy fried rice powder
Half a cup corn oil to begin with
As much chilli as you want
Half a pack of frozen vegetables (corn, peas and carrots). Thaw in water before cooking.
5 tbsp soy sauce

Note: if cooking for this many people, you might want to cook in separate batches just so you don’t overwhelm your wok (and yourself).

  1. Grease the wok generously with some corn oil. You won’t want the rice sticking unceremoniously. The wok needs to be hot for a good fry also.
  2. Fry the garlic and onions until golden brown
  3. Fry the chicken, eggs and prawns with the garlic and onion until golden brown
  4. Put in the sambal belacan and stir until it coats the rest of the ingredients evenly
  5. Put the rice in. Grease the rice with some more corn oil as the oil will have been absorbed by the meats at this point.
  6. Mix well!
  7. Once you see the rice beginning to cook with the heat, add the fish cake and some soy sauce according to your tastes. Turn the heat down at this point! I don’t like much soy sauce so I found 5 tbsps for such a large portion was enough.
  8. Add the fried rice powder.
  9. Mix well!
  10. Add the frozen veggies to the mix, allowing it to blend in with the rest. Don’t worry if it’s still cold; it will heat up in the rice.

 

It really is quite easy, but I find that fried rice is largely dependent on the person cooking it, and that it is an accurate reflection of the cook because it’s such a versatile dish and you can add absolutely anything you want. Guests remarked that my fried rice was “quite nice” and “quite spicy” ha ha.

Happy eating!