Raita is a Vegetable

Raita is what I make when I need a vege dish to go with my rice, and I don’t want to cook anything else. Yes, I know its a dip not a dish. No, I don’t care. I don’t care because when I have it in restaurants, I eat loads of it by itself with rice… so, I suppose that makes it a vegetable in my world.

Okay, come scold me now for my raita-mangling, I’m prepared for the onslaught!

This goes especially well with something spicy because the yoghurt and cucumber un-spicy-fies everything when your mouth has caught fire. That happens to me a lot, because I get a bit over excited with the chilli powder/dried chilli/chilli flakes/fresh chilli. I also often get it in my eyes, but it doesn’t help much for that. Don’t put raita on your face. Though people do use cucumber and yoghurt in face masks. Hm.

I suspect I’ve completely destroyed this recipe (as I seem to do with Indian recipes.. sorry). But I like it! It tasted good! So here’s the poor recipe I messed with if you want to meddle with Indian recipes too. I think I should probably call all my Indian recipes “Indian inspired” rather than “Indian”.

That’s it from me, I’m not feeling particularly inspired to write today. I suppose this is one of those posts which is more Lea-using-blog-as-recipe-binder rather than Lea-using-blog-as-excuse-to-ramble-weirdly-and-publicly. Everyone has those days right? A slice of cake and a cup of tea, and all will be well (and verbose) again. I’ll have a cup of tea now, actually.

Lea’s Mangled Raita

Taken from Niya’s World and abused. She didn’t have cucumber in it. I think it was meant to be a yoghurt dip. Oops.

1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 a tub of plain yoghurt – that’s about 200ml but a bit more or a bit less is fine
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 of a red onion – also an approximate measure, I had a big onion, if yours is small use a bit more
1/2 a teasp cumin seeds
A pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper
A little chopped fresh coriander to garnish, if you have it (I didn’t)

  1. Chop the garlic and fry it in a little oil. Cheat like me and blitz it in the microwave (on high, in a mug or a ramekin) in a little oil for about 30 seconds. If you use a mug, you had better designate a garlic-mug, because it makes the mug smell like garlic :). Leave it sizzling on the countertop, it’ll go a nice golden brown after a minute or two.
  2. Fry the cumin seeds in a little oil, until they dance and start to smell nice. No cheating with this one, because you need to watch that they don’t burn. Sorry team lazy. If I figure out how long this takes in the microwave, and at what setting, you’ll be the first to know.
  3. Chop the cucumber into little chunks. Also chop the onion.
  4. Mix the yoghurt, onion, garlic (which has cooled a bit by now), cumin seeds, salt, pepper, and coriander (if you have it). Then, pour in the cucumbers and mix some more. Tadaa! Easy veg.

The Pinnacle that is Nasi Lemak (and why you can’t climb it first time)

Moral of the story is: don’t expect to get it right the first time. Nasi lemak is HARD.

All the aunties of Malaysia, I’m sure that they’re laughing away at me for thinking I could get this iconic dish to work on my first attempt. Well, I guess I didn’t really expect it to work, I was just being optimistic. Like how, when someone asks me at 9pm how many hours of work I have left, I say 2, and I truly believe that’s the reality of the situation (it’s usually 4 hours, I generally underestimate by 2 hours).

Real proper nasi lemak makciks (aunties) train their whole lives to make nasi lemak. There are little nasi lemak schools in the kampungs (villages) where the little makciks start training at 4 years old, and a gnarly old makcik shouts at them over a loudspeaker: “Pound! Pound! Cepat cepat! (faster faster!)” That’s how a true nasi lemak is born, in the depths of a pestle and mortar. The sweet smiles of the nasi lemak makciks belie their biceps of steel. *

I used my faithful chopper, of course. Did you really expect otherwise?

Though I was at least pleased that this was recognisable as nasi lemak. Because on seeing it, people go: cucumbers, ikan bilis, red/brown stuff….Ohhh! It’s nasi lemak! Don’t ask why I went for this, I think I was bored, and also cold. Good enough reasons? Cold makes people do odd things. Yes, in my next post, I promise I won’t talk about the cold anymore. Agreed?

Advice to myself next time includes: don’t scrimp on the shallots (I was being cheap and didn’t want to buy a whole bag for 3 shallots), and add more sugar. Don’t forget the single garlic clove to be chopped into the sambal. Yes self, I know you think that one clove of garlic doesn’t really impart any garlic flavour because there isn’t enough of it, but I’m sure there is a reason behind its addition. Also don’t forget the peanuts. They’re an integral part of nasi lemak. Not clever.

More advice: try to get pandan leaves instead of giving up on the hunt so easily. Add a quarter of a chopped onion (raw, roughly chopped) into the rice before cooking. Also some whole peppercorns.

I intentionally left out the hard boiled eggs, because I don’t like them. Too bad, egg lovers of the world!

The rice turned out surprisingly well, fluffy and coconutty. Yay! And the sambal wasn’t half bad at all, considering all the forgotten ingredients 🙂

Nasi Lemak, Take #1

Borrowed and lazied up from Rasa Malaysia.

Rice

1 cup of rice, rinsed
1.5 cups of water, or however much you generally use to cook your rice, then add a little bit more.
1/2 bag of instant coconut milk – the entire packet made 150ml of coconut milk total
A pinch of salt

  1. Rinse the rice as per usual.
  2. Add the water. Drop in half the bag of instant coconut milk and salt, and mix properly to ensure there aren’t any powder clumps.
  3. Cook the rice how you usually would, in a rice cooker. Mine took slightly longer than usual.

Sambal

1 red onion – should’ve used shallots and a quarter of an onion! Oh well. I’ll make a proper attempt someday.
1/2 cup ikan bilis – people say they’re small anchovies, but anchovies taste different. I don’t know.
7 dried chillies – mine were smallish, you can use more. Deseed them or the hotness with overpower everything else
1/2 teasp belacan
1 tablesp asam jawa / tamarind
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tablesp sugar – more to taste
A pinch of salt

  1. Rinse and fry the ikan bilis. Keep a few aside for later.
  2. Dump the belacan, half the onion, and the deseeded dried chillies into the chopper. Grind them down pretty well. If you want to be all proper, use a pestle and mortar. Probably you’re more hardcore than me.
  3. Soak the asam jawa in warm water for about 15 minutes. Mash it up good with a spoon so the water goes murky.
  4. Slice the other half of the red onion into rings.
  5. Fry the belacan paste until fragrant. Make sure to open a window!
  6. Add onion rings. Fry til soft.
  7. Add the ikan bilis (apart from the little bit you set aside). Keep frying.
  8. Add the asam jawa mixture, salt and sugar. Don’t add everything at once, keep tasting until you find a mixture you like. I followed the recipe exactly and thought that the sambal wasn’t sweet enough.
  9. Simmer on low heat until the mixture thickens.

Serve!

Cucumber
Remaining fried ikan bilis
Whole raw peanuts – Don’t forget!!
Egg
Banana leaf – hahah, yea right not in this climate

  1. Slice the cucumber, I like cucumber sticks
  2. Fry the peanuts with some salt. Don’t forget the peanuts!!
  3. Boil the egg. Cut into quarters. Don’t do it if you don’t like egg.
  4. Spread your imaginary banana leaf on a plate. Wipe it off and smooth it down, to remove imaginary dirt.
  5. Put some rice on the place. Surround the rice with a scoop of sambal, some ikan bilis, cucumber stick, and some peanuts. And a quarter of a boiled egg, or not.

* You should know better than to believe me by now. Really, I expected more of you.

Exercises in Bribery and Rojak Pasembur

It’s said that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Let’s just say that someone scored a double hot chocolate and macaroon afternoon tea for this little kitchen adventure. There is really nothing better than food for bribery, apologies, persuasion, and blackmail. Also, it was pretty good – and I don’t even like rojak pasembur (shock! horror!).

If you’re in Malaysia there’s probably no point making this, because you can just take a stroll down to your rojak-man to get one that tastes 5 times better. But for the overseas-and-deprived lot, I hope it makes your day a little spicier 🙂

Rojak Pasembur

Basic sauce recipe adapted from Kuali.com. To be truly authentic you should make the fritters too… I’ll save that for another day, it seems like a lot of work!

Sauce
400g sweet potatoes
3 cups water
1/2 an onion (preferably red)
5-8 dry chillies
3-4 handfuls of peanuts
4 tablesp kicap manis
2cm knob of asam jawa / tamarind, squeezed into 3 tablesp warm water
Sugar and salt to taste

  1. Boil sweet potato until soft. (I boiled the normal potatoes with the sweet potato to save time)
  2. Blend onion and garlic in a chopper until roughly chopped. Stir fry in a wok until fragrant.
  3. Blend sweet potato, then add the sweet potato and water to the wok. Stir and bring to a low boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Add asam jawa liquid and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes.
  5. Dry fry peanuts and pulse in a chopper for about 10 seconds.
  6. Add peanuts and kicap manis. Taste, and add more kicap manis if necessary.
  7. Add sugar and salt to taste (I only needed a pinch of salt, no sugar).

Component Tasty Parts
1 cucumber, grated
2 handfuls, of beansprouts, washed and rinsed with boiling water through a sieve, before being rinsed with cold water
3 small potatoes, boiled and sliced
1 block of pressed tofu, sliced and fried (preferably taukwa)
1 handful, chopped coriander (optional)
2 handfuls, mixed seafood (preferably squid and prawn), fried in batter – I used a box of batter mix, and added a dash of white pepper, curry powder, and chilli powder

  1. To serve, separate out each of the finished components onto separate small bowls / places. Each person can choose what they like, before adding the sauce. Enjoy!