Sorry for the break from blogging but as you may know it is now Eid across the world, a time to embrace after Ramadan and in Malaysia, we have massive food comas around this time of year. Actually, during Ramadan you can find food bazaars from afternoon to evening in many different neighborhoods and spots with so much variety that you can choose from to break your fast. Even the non-Muslims often look forward to buying food for dinner which is also pretty awesome!
One of the major things I love about Malaysian food is how we have such diversity. From the nasi lemak (coconut rice) to the char kway teow to the roti canai and banana leaf to nyonya cuisine, there really is something for everyone. We have the other varieties such as Korean, Japanese, Italian, Arab and so forth, but if you ever were to stop by Malaysia, you really should try our local cuisine. There’s no need to be shy haha.
Although I have recently gotten a penchant for trying different and new recipes, I have always been a bit hesitant to cook certain Malaysian dishes such as curries and certain meat and chicken dishes (especially rendang, which is a staple during our Eid holidays). It is because my past attempts never turned out as well as I wanted them to. I suppose I was not familiar (at all) as to which spice provides which taste for the respective dishes so I decided to get a cookbook!
That was when I stumbled upon this gem: Amazing Malaysian by Norman Musa.
His recipes are really much simpler than a lot of recipes I have found online and I could never really absorb everything that old and experienced ladies used to tell me about cooking these dishes. The way he writes makes it easy to follow and I love how he describes some of the herbs and pantry items too in his book. There are the basic recipes, like fried rice/noodles to the more complicated rendang recipes.
I also like how there are different recipes from every culture (Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya) and he lays the background for some of these recipes for your own knowledge. An added plus for me was that this cookbook was all in English. I have an alright command of the Malay language, but I sometimes do not understand everything in some of the malay recipes I have come across.
So far, I have tried about 6 recipes in his book but my favourite turnouts have been the following:
Gulai udang (Prawns in coconut curry): This was my first every successful curry! It has a bit of a tang to it and the fact that it used prawns add a nice sweetness to the curry that is also laced with the spiciness of the chilli. The gravy is a bit thin compared to some indian curries, too good!
Rendang Ayam: A spicy chicken dish. The thing is sometimes when you hear the word spicy, your thoughts automatically float to chilli and probably having to reach for glasses of water, but this dish is different. It uses many different spices aside from just chilli, like lemongrass, ginger and tamarind but there is also a sweetness you often get from the dish so it is not just the chilli that you taste. You let it simmer and kind of thicken and dry up a bit for about an hour when cooking, but the end result is well worth it!
I made a big portion of this dish (3 whole chickens, to be exact) but the taste was not compromised even in big batches. I was especially happy about the rendang because it turned out much better than I could have hoped for and it was an easy process. Just the blending of ingredients, adding of coconut milk and a lot of stirring and ta-da! You can adjust the spiciness with the number of dried chillis you use so if it is not too spicy, you could share it with some kids.
So, really if you come across this book and are curious about Malaysian cooking, I suggest you snatch it up. Snatch it up quickly!
Even if you are abroad, he provides alternatives for some herbs/spices that may not be so readily available yet the dishes would still be as tasty. I know because I did run out of some ingredients in my Eid/Raya cooking frenzy, but there was none the wiser to the replacement of those ingredients.