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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Attempting to copy Mrs. Yeti’s Kichidi

I first learnt of kichidi while eating at Mrs Y.’s table. I can’t believe I never knew of this before!

Funny isn’t it, comfort food takes similar forms and evokes similar feelings despite which cuisine it originates from. I think an ill version of me would be just as happy eating kichidi as Chinese porridge. Well maybe say, 80% as happy. That’s still pretty close. A healthy me would also be happy because both taste pretty good. I happily ate mine with accompanying dishes while at Mrs Y’s, when I recreated this at home I was too hungry and ate it straight from the pot. Shh.

As much as I’d like to say this is Mrs Y’s original recipe, it isn’t. This is because she appears to make it very fast and when I tried to watch her one time I lost track.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Kichidi

Adapted from Padhu’s Kitchen, changing a few ingredients and the rice:dhal ratio. 

I’ve also made this recipe with loads of ingredients missing and it still tasted pretty nice – I’ve marked those that I’ve tried it without. I’d suggest you don’t try making it so bare bones that all of the stuff is left out at the same time though

1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup dhal – I used the orange dhal
2 cups water – I used 1:2 for each of the rice and dhal so check what your rice and dhal packet says 

1 teasp mustard seeds – without is okay
1 teasp cumin seeds
1/4 teasp whole black pepper (or just black pepper if you don’t have it whole)
A few curry leaves – without is okay
A pinch of hing (asafoetida) – without is okay

1 onion, chopped
2 dried chillies – technically you should use one green chilli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 a thumb of ginger, chopped
1 tomato, chopped – original recipe doesn’t have this, but it is a nice option if you want it

1/4 teasp turmeric powder – without is okay
1 teasp chilli powder
1/2 teasp coriander powder – without is okay
1/4 teasp garam masala

Other utensils: pressure cooker or a lot of patience.

  1. Fry the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little oil over medium heat, until they start to dance. Then, add in the black pepper, curry leaves, and hing (if using). Give it a bit of a stir until it smells nice.
  2. Add the onion, cook until it goes a bit transparant and soft.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, and dry/fresh chilli. Fry until fragrant. Add tomato and cook until soft if using.
  4. Add all the powders, give it a quick stir for a couple of seconds.
  5. Add the rice and dhal, and fry it until coated with oil. Add some salt to taste.
  6. Add the water, and close the lid on the pressure cooker. Cook on high for 9 minutes.  If you don’t a pressure cooker, close the lid on your pot and be prepared to wait around 20 minutes. Taste and salt as needed.

After that you can garnish with fried onions, or coriander, or a top-up garnish (see the original author’s link). I didn’t do any of these because I was already happy with the taste 🙂

More Indian food that I have destroyed: Baingan Bharta (and corrupted BB pasta)

I love Indian food (the authentic spicy type). Lets get that out there and make it clear.

But for some reason I don’t seem to have the same level of horror when I corrupt Indian food versus when I corrupt Chinese food. I seem perfectly happy to make “Indian pasta” but if feel like a total weirdo if someone tells me that a certain dish is “Chinese / Thai inspired” but is actually western. No, I don’t have an explanation. Yes, I am really very sorry.

With that in mind I was debating whether or not to post this recipe.

See, I have found that authentic baingan bharta tastes really good over pasta with a shake of parmesan cheese. This was a discovery made when trying to figure out what to do with my leftovers.

Please don’t judge me. The below is a recipe for a proper baingan bharta. If you want to corrupt it by putting it over pasta, at least do it with the leftovers rather than the fresh food. That way my conscience will remain clear.

Baingain BhartaCorrupted pasta version

Baingan Bharta (Roasted eggplant ..curry? Not really curry)

Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe

2 medium sized eggplants
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1 teasp  ginger, chopped
1 teasp cumin seeds
1/2 teasp garam masala
1/2 teasp chilli powder
Salt to taste

Note: I’m really lazy and didn’t skin my eggplants, if you are a proper maker of Indian food and not-lazy then you should remove the skin of your eggplant before mashing it into the tomato mixture in the pan.

  1. Turn your oven (200-220 degrees C) or grill. Prick the eggplants all over and rub with a little oil, then leave them roasting for half an hour to 40 minutes. You might need to turn them halfway.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan. Over medium heat, fry the cumin seeds until they dance a little. Add the onion, and fry until the onion goes soft. Then add the ginger and green chilli, and fry for a bit longer until that’s cooked too.
  3. Add the tomato and continue frying until the tomato softens.
  4. Chop up the eggplant (I don’t bother skinning it), and throw the whole thing in the pan. Stir and mash until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Add the garam masala, chilli powder, and salt to taste. Cook a little longer so spices incorporate, then you’re done!

Descent into auntie-food (like lotus stir-fry)

Lotus root as a bit of a bad rep sometimes as being very traditional, and boring, and possibly not-food (I know some people who refuse to eat the lotus in soups as it is considered not-food and therefore not-edible).

Yes, I did get funny looks when I very excitedly found an ugly  potato-root-looking thing in the market. Yes, it was an effort to persuade Bigfoot that I did in fact want to buy this rather expensive thing that looked a bit like a petrified hotdog bun. But it was worth it in the end.

I didn’t think it was ugly at all. Or even auntie-ish. In the end, you can’t beat simple, tasty, and most importantly quick food  after a long day.

I swear it tastes good

Lotus Stir-Fry

Adapted from Just Bento’s version.

1 lotus root, peeled and sliced
2-3 cm ginger, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic (depending on size), chopped
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped into approx 1cm lengths

chilli flakes or whole red chilli, to taste – I used around 1/2 teasp red chilli flakes
1 teasp brown suger
1 teasp rice / balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablesp sesame seeds
1.5 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sesame oil
white pepper to taste

  1. Slice lotus root and leave it in some slightly vinegared water while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Fry ginger and garlic in oil until fragrant, over medium heat. Drain the lotus slices and add to the pain in a single layer, flipping as needed.
  3. Add chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, pepper, soya sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook until slightly caramelised.

On the Clash of Cuisines

Bigfoot and I have this problem, in that he says all Chinese food is bland and I strongly, vehemently, and occasionally violently disagree with him. And I continue to politely suggest that his taste buds have been corrupted by a lifetime of curry powder and exposure to poor quality pork-free cantonese  food.

There is a whole world (of Chinese food) out there. And I will win this personal crusade. Bit by bit, fighting tooth and nail each step of the way.

After this meal, the score stood at 5,001:0 (me being the victor. Of course, I’m also the only one keeping score, but whatever).

Preconceptions vanquished

Szechuan Eggplant with Spicy Tauchu 

Adapted from Smokywok.

2 medium sized eggplants – cut into sticks
1 cm knob salted fish – chopped
5 (small) cloves garlic – chopped
Thumb sized knob of ginger – sliced
3 stalks spring onions – chopped into 1-2 inch lengths
2 red chilli – chopped
1 teasp szechuan peppers

2 tablesp spicy tauchu (bean paste)
2 tablesp soya sauce
1.5 tablesp sugar
2 tablesp chinese black vinegar
1/4 cup water

  1. Pre-cook the eggplant – either fry it for a couple of minutes in a wok, or toast it in the toaster oven for 5 minutes. I toasted mine.
  2. In a claypot (or a pot with a lid), fry with a little oil: salted fish, garlic, ginger, spring onions, chilli, and szechuan peppers.
  3. Throw in all the sauces and the pre-cooked eggplant. Stir it up and wait for the sauce to boil.
  4. Once the sauce boils, lower the heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the eggplant is cooked and the sauce is absorbed.

Lea’s Favourite Lala

Lala, I have missed you. Pipis (as they appear to be named here in Melbourne) are pretty similar. I do love my clammie types.

I was so excited that I didn’t take process shots. Oops. The process is pretty simple though.

Food like this needs no further introduction, though pretty pictures would probably endear it to more people. Without further delay, I present one of my favourite foods:

Oh lala I have missed you

Ginger & Spring Onion Lala (or Pipis)

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s ginger & spring onion crab.

600g lala / pipis
Thumb size knob of ginger
8 stalks spring onion
1 red chilli

1.5 tablesp oyster sauce
1/2 tablesp sesame oil
1/2 tablesp fish sauce
1/2 teasp sugar
1/2 teasp white pepper
1/4 cup water
1/2 teasp corn flour

  1. Clean your lala / pipis, if they aren’t already clean.
  2. Slice ginger into sticks. Chop the red chilli too. Finally, chop spring onion into 1-2 inch lengths, separating the white hard bits and the green bits.
  3. In a little oil, fry the ginger, chilli, and white parts of the spring onion until fragrant.
  4. Throw in everything else – sauce components, cornflour, green bits of the spring onion, and lala / pipis.
  5. Cover for 5-8 minutes with the heat on medium-high, until all the lala / pipis have opened.

More Easy Vegetables: Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Easy vegetable recipes are pretty much my staple, with a throw-everything-in-and-fry omelette and rice.

Here is yet another one. Sometimes, dinner is for watching Masterchef Professional after a long day on Excel, rather than actually cooking.

Be lazy, lik ea bean

Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Learnt it from my uncle, this works with any green / leafy veg

3-4 servings of green beans, chopped
2 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp soya sauce
1 teasp sugar, brown / white
A dash of white pepper

2 thin slices of ginger – for blanching. They don’t even need to be skinned, just clean 🙂

  1. Boil some water in a pan, and drop in the two slices of ginger. Cover with a lid, and bring everything to a rolling boil. 
  2. Blanch the  beans for 30 seconds or so, taste one to check done-ness. If it’s how you like it (I like mine under-done), drain off the water and transfer to a bowl. If not, keep checking until it is cooked enough.
  3. While hot, pour all other ingredients into the bowl, and stir well. Taste. Adapt as you like.

Cure-All for All that Ails

Cure-all of the ancients. Need I say more?


Yum yum sniff croak

 

Fine, I will. This is what I have when I’ve caught a sore throat, flu, or anything else unpleasant (that still allows me to eat). It makes all stomachs happy and even third parties will attest to its healing properties.

It is also very comforting in winter when the world is cold and cruel outside. (Psychological medicine?)

Basic Chinese Porridge (Congee / “Chook”)

I always struggle to remember my basic Chinese porridge recipe just when I need it – when I’m sick and my brain is fuddled. So, when making it as a healthy person, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write everything down (finally!).  

If you’re not sick, serve congee with a couple of sides: for example, sweet soya sauce fried fish, or a stir fried vege. Something with a strong taste can be nice (though not sambal / curry in my view). Today I served with a simple sesame-sugar long bean side.

4 cloves garlic
1.5 cm ginger
1 egg
2 dessert spoons soya sauce
1.5 rice cups of rice
7.5  rice cups water
1 any type of stock cube – or fresh if you have it 🙂

A handful of peanuts – optional, I don’t usually add this, just tried it out today
Any extras – cubed meat / fish, prawns (peeled), or veg

Sesame oil
A dash of white pepper

Yield: about 4 – 6 servings, depending on how much you eat each time.

  1. Mince ginger and garlic, then fry in a pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the rice (unrinsed), water, stock cube, and peanuts if using. Simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes until it thickens. If it remains too thin, simmer with the lid off for a while.
  3. Add soya sauce, stir in.
  4. Crack in the egg, stir in.
  5. Add any extras – fish / meat, vege if using. Cover and simmer until fully cooked. Don’t stir! Add a little extra water if it is getting too thick.
  6. Sprinkle on a little sesame oil and white pepper, garnish and serve. I garnished with fried garlic flakes.
    Garnish options, if you have them on hand: 

    • Spring onion, chopped
    • Fried garlic
    • Fried onions
    • Fried ginger
    • Fish / chicken flosses
    • Fresh coriander
      …the list is endless!

Note: freezes well. Add a little water when you reheat.

As my “extra”, I added a little fish and mussels in a soya sauce-sesame marinade:

Fish and Mussels Soya Sauce-Sesame Marinade (for Chinese Porridge)

Inspired by Smoky Wok.

A handful of mixed fish cubes and mussels
3 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp balsamic vinegar – I didn’t have Chinese vinegar, which would have been better
1/2 teasp sugar
A pinch of flour

  1. Mix everything up and leave it to sit while the rice is cooking. Then add during Step 5 (see above). 

On Asian Adaptations and Silken Tofu

I like silken tofu but I never know what to eat it with except soya sauce, spring onion + friends. Sometimes you need a little more kick than a peaceful meal of steamed silken tofu with soya sauce can provide.

Pre-sauce Post-sauce

Enter Szechuan inspired tofu.

Now, I hate Asian food adaptations as much as the next purist, especially because they are generally bland-ed down versions of the real stuff, but when you have just moved house and possess only half the necessary storecupboad staples, well, there isn’t really much else you can do.

Rest assured that at least this adaptation is far from bland.

A mess of peanuts

(Anyone else hate the words “silken tofu”?? Sounds so unappetising. I didn’t even know it was called that until a year or so ago).

Lunchtime!

Szechuan Inspired Tofu

No real source here – I checked out a couple of page for various other things then threw some stuff together. 

1 block silken tofu
1/4 cup peanuts, unsalted

4 garlic, peeled
1.5cm ginger, peeled
2 red chilli (or one large long red chilli)
1 tablesp kicap manis
3 tablesp light soya sauce
1 teasp white vinegar
1 teasp brown sugar
1/3 cup water
A pinch of flour – flour or cornflour are both okay

  1. Steam tofu!
  2. Meanwhile, put the garlic, ginger, and chilli in a chopper. Blend to a rough paste.
  3. Pour all the sauces into the garlic / ginger / chilli mixture, and let them all sit until the tofu is almost finished cooking.
  4. Toast the peanuts… for no more than 5 minutes! I used a toaster oven and burnt mine.
  5. In a pot, fish out most of the garlic / ginger / chilli and fry in a little oil over medium heat.
  6. When the ginger and garlic turns a little golden and becomes fragrant, add the rest of the sauce and 1/3 cup of water.
  7. Set the heat to high. Let the mixture come to a boil and simmer down until the sauce is black and reduced a little. Then, add the pinch of flour and stir until the sauce thickens.
  8. Pour sauce and peanuts over steamed tofu and serve hot, with rice.

Triumphant Return, Green Chilli Powered

Can we all agree that green curry from a packet, while nice in isolation, does not by any stretch of imagination taste as good as green curry as eaten in Chiangmai, in a restaurant where no one speaks any English?

Green curry paste part 1 Green curry paste part 2And this is how we determine what went into the paste...because the instructions don't match what the chef did!!

Yes, I thought we could agree on this. If you don’t agree, may I ask if you have actually been to Thailand?

I always find it hard to choose my favourite type of food.  But when I’m in Thailand, Thai food is my favourite food. Don’t ever let them serve you the tempered down (pansy) versions of dishes – you must say “I like it spicy! Like Thai!”

Green curry paste!!! Get ready to stir The first bubbling The second bubbling

Of course, you must not forget to bring a bottle of charcoal tablets. Because as much as you may like it spicy like Thai, your stomach will probably begin to complain after your 5th straight meal of curry / tom yam / yum woon seng / spicy mango salad. Do not let that stop you. Bland meals are for the weak. Do not under any circumstances sell out and request the less-spicy-cos-I’m-a-useless-lame-foreigner version. 2 charcoal tablets after an extra spicy meal allows you to continue eating excessive amounts of chilli and coconut milk at every meal for at least 2 weeks straight.

The bubbling after meat

I’m not obsessed. Not at all.

This not obsessed nature led me to take a cooking class, and bother the chef by requesting that he teach me special dishes that were not on the class list. Well, he seemed more amused than irritated. He was definitely amused when I started taking pictures of the food every 5 seconds. Don’t forget, I’m not very good at remembering / following instructions.

Tadaa!

I also think cooking classes are an excuse for real chefs to dress up amateurs in silly looking clothes and laugh at them. Seriously, even he didn’t wear a chef’s hat – but he wouldn’t let me take it off!! Sighs.

Thai Green Curry

Learnt at a cooking class in Phuket. First rule: STIR ALWAYS!!

Green Curry Paste

3-4 green chilli padi (the small spicy ones!) – use more or less if you like
2 smallish cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 shallots, sliced
1 teasp galangal, sliced thinly
1/2 – 1 teasp ginger, sliced into matchsticks
1 teasp lemon grass, sliced
1.5 teasp kaffir lime zest – can be substituted with lime apparently
1 teasp fresh green peppercorns
1 teasp Thai shrimp paste, otherwise known as kapi / kapee

  1. Basically you just mash all these together with a pestle and mortar until you get a nice green paste which sticks to itself, and looks like pesto (see above pic). Or if you’re lazy you can probably give it a whirl in the chopper.
    The paste keeps for around a month in the fridge, probably longer if you freeze it. 

Green Curry

150 – 200g meat – mine was chicken, but I suspect any meat (beef, lamb, seafood) should be okay. Or you can make it vegetarian! 🙂
80g tiny thai eggplant – the tiny, round ones that look like beads
100g small round eggplant, cut into quarters – these are the size of a golfball
1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk – depends how you like it, I prefer 1/2 cup. Fresh would be the nicest
1-2 tablesp fish sauce – I like it with 1.5 tablesp, but it depends on your fish sauce
1-2 teasp white sugar – again, I used 1.5 teasp
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 tablesp thai/sweet basil leaves
1/2 red chilli, sliced into strips – for garnishing

  1. Stir continuously over medium-low heat, in a high sided saucepan:
    • 6 tablespoons of coconut milk
    • 1-3 tablespoons of green curry paste
  2. Wait until the mixture comes to a boil. Then add the rest of the coconut milk. Keep stirring!
  3. Put the heat up to medium-high. Keep stirring! Wait for the coconut to boil and bubble up.
  4. Add the meat to the bubbly coconut milk. Don’t forget to stir.
  5. Wait for the coconut milk to boil and bubble up again. Then, add the different types of eggplant.
  6. After a while, the coconut milk will boil and bubble up again – then season with the fish sauce and white sugar, as you like it.
  7. Let everything boil up again (are you seeing a trend here?), then add the kaffir lime leaves and basil leaves. You haven’t forgotten to stir, have you?
  8. Pour out into a bowl, garnish with the red chilli strips if you feel fancy.

Surprisingly easier than you thought, wasn’t it? 🙂

P.S. I do apologise for abandoning Happy Bellea for so long. But well, Christmas + wedding + Chinese New Year + moving house in quick succession = far too busy me. But, hello Melbourne!

If you expect more domesticity, prepare to be disappointed. It looks boxes started breeding rapidly then killing each other in my house. Box entrails everywhere.