Cendol

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Another roadside vendor dish; it reminded me of Falooda. The five star luxury of Hotel Istana was great and the hospitality was superb, but being a typical Bongolander I found the roadside hawkers preparing satay, noodles, cendol, smiling and inviting “Selamat Datang” (welcome) more fascinating. The sights, sounds and smells were definitely more zestful and aromatic.

Ingredients:
400ml cold water
7-8 medium pandan leaves
50g Hoen Kwe (green bean) flour. This is a pre-mixed flour made from moong dal.
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 pandan paste
1/4 tsp alkaline water
1 cup coconut milk
Crushed ice (as needed)
Palm sugar syrup (Take some jaggery or gur and dissolve in a cup of water to make a brown syrup – you can add regular sugar to make it sweeter).

Directions:
Blend the pandan leaves with water and strain to get the pandan juice. Add pandan paste and blend well. Put the flour and salt in to a pan. Add the pandan juice in (1) and alkaline water. Use a hand whisk to stir well while adding cold water. Make sure the flour is dissolved into a smooth batter. Cook the mixture over a low fire. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes transparent and thick and remove from the fire.

Prepare a bowl of cold water. Then you can use a colander or a strainer with large holes and pour some of the mixture onto it. Push the Cendol mixture with a spoon so it drop into the water (if you’ve seen how they make ganthiya or sev at City Hotel or Purnima – you’ll know what I am talking about). Repeat until all green bean mixture finishes.

Serve the Cendol in a dessert bowl or tall glass with crushed ice and rich coconut milk and palm sugar syrup.

Nasi Lemak

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The unofficial “National Dish of Malaysia”. Nasi Lemak is served anytime, breakfast, lunch, dinner, even as a snack. It’s cooked in coconut milk, with pandan leaves, a few cloves, ginger and a stalk of lemon grass. The coconut milk makes the rice texture creamy and fluffy. It is similar to “Wali wa Nazi” but a little more fragrant because of the herbs and spices.

Nasi Lemak is available on almost every street vendor and in almost every Malaysian food restaurant. It can be served with everything – from vegetable curry to fish. A perfect companion for the Malaysian Chicken Curry.

Ingredients:
1 cup rice (preferably Basmati)
1 tbsp olive oil (vegetable or canola oil is fine too)
3 screwpine (or pandan) leaves
1 stalk lemon grass
1 inch pc ginger root (peeled and shredded)
3-4 cloves
salt to taste
2 cups coconut milk

Directions:
Wash the rice several times and drain. Add 2 cups of thick coconut milk with screwpine leaves,ginger and lemongrass to the rice. Put some salt (maybe like ¼ teaspoon or less), the oil, and the cloves and cook the rice like you normally do – I leave mine to boil until the coconut milk is almost gone then stir it up, cover it and put it on lowest setting for a few minutes. Usually served with some accompaniments; spicy red hot sauce (sambal), sliced hard-boiled egg and slices of cucumber.

Malaysian Chicken Curry

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This dish is the Malaysian version of Kuku Paka. Tender pieces of chicken delicately simmered in a flavorful coconut gravy. Great with Nasi Lemak or Roti Canai.

Ingredients:
2 Onions, ( 1 chopped and 1 sliced)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1-inch piece ginger, crushed
1 chicken skinless cut in small pieces (Original recipe calls for on the bone – but I make it boneless)
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 teasp ground cinnamon
3 cloves
3 cardamoms
1 star anise pod
4 teasp curry powder (mix with a little water to form a paste)
2 cups coconut milk (For a healthier version I substitute yogurt instead)
1 lemon (just the juice)
cold water

Directions:
Place the chopped onion in a food processor together with ginger and garlic and process until smooth. Rub chicken with onion paste and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the remaining sliced onion, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and star anise and fry over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the curry paste and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken and seal on all sides. Add the coconut milk and enough water to cover the chicken by about a couple of inches, bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes, add lemon juice, checking the liquid level throughout the cooking time and adding more water or coconut milk if necessary. I prefer the gravy a slightly thicker consistency.

You can garnish the dish with some coriander and green or red pepper cut in strips.

Mee Goreng

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Mee Goreng is noodle dish popular in Malaysia and Singapore. It was probably invented by some desi muhindi who was hungry and decided the Chinese style noodles were too bland for his/her taste buds or was missing some ingredients and so added some curry powder, garlic and chilli (ebu lete pili pili hapa) and the rest is history. Street vendors (mama ntilie) usually make this the best.

Ingredients:
1 lb (or 500 gms) “mee” noodles (egg noodles will do but cook them according to the instructions on the packet and drain).
2 cups bean sprouts
4-5 pcs firm tofu, cut into strips and fried.
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red onion diced
1 tomato, wedges
(optional) ½ lb ground chicken (or meat) marinated in some curry powder.
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp red chilli powder (more if you want spicy)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 egg, beaten
1 medium potato, boiled and diced
2 stalks green onions, or ½ cup chopped Chinese chives
Dash of fresh lime juice (optional)
Cooking oil
Salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat the wok (pan or karai – whatever you prefer) and add about 2 tbsp oil. Add the onion, then garlic. Stir fry until onion is golden and then add ground chicken or meat (optional). Stir fry until chicken or meat started getting cooked (brown), add ketchup, soy sauce and chilli powder. Add tofu, stir fry, then the beaten egg in and stir it into the mixture. Add the noodles, tomato, potato, green onions or chives and mix well. Salt & pepper to taste.

Garnish with a lime wedge, the tomato wedges and maybe little coriander.

Satay Peanut Sauce

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Although you can buy this at an Asian grocery store (or even whip something up from peanut butter), it is nothing when compared to making it fresh. There are many different versions of the peanut sauce. This is the Kajang style (Kajang is near Kuala Lumpur – famous for its satay). You can make it hotter or tangier by adding extra chilli or tamarind juice.

Ingredients:
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
1/3 cup canola or peanut oil
2-3 cups water
2 Tbsp sugar
salt to taste
4 Tbsp tamarind paste juice

Spice Paste:
6 – 8 dried chillies, soaked in hot water
6 cloves garlic
6 shallots
3 macadamia nuts (the original recipe calls for Kemiri or candle nuts)
3 lemon grass stalks
1 inch piece of ginger (the original recipe calls for galangal)
2 Tbsp coriander
1 tsp cumin

Directions:
Crush peanuts coarsely. Put aside.

Chop spice paste ingredients and blend until fine.

Heat oil and fry paste with tamarind juice until fragrant on medium high heat. Add water slowly to thin mixture. Add sugar, salt and peanuts and stir frequently for 3-5 minutes. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or longer, stirring every few minutes until oil begins to separate. Taste and don’t be afraid to add any extra ingredients to make it hotter, sweeter, or tangier – they way you prefer.

Serve sauce with sticks of satay and sliced cubes (yes that’s right cubes) of fresh cucumber and red onions.

Roti Canai

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I usually just buy these from the local desi or Asian grocery stores and just fry them at home (also known as Malaysian Paratha). But just in case you’re into making it from scratch:

Ingredients (for about 10-12 rotis)
400g plain flour, sifted (wheat flour is healthier)
1/2 tsp salt
20g sugar
40g margarine
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
Spring onions – about two stalks chopped up (this is optional)
Oil or ghee for greasing and cooking

Directions
Put flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Rub in margarine and mix egg and the rest of the ingredients well to form soft dough. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Divide dough into 10-12 pieces. Roll into balls and rub oil or margarine lightly over each ball. Keep the balls in a container and leave aside (just like you’re making chapati or paratha).

Grease a marble slab. Press and flatten the balls of dough with your palm on the slab. Use a rolling pin (or your fingers if you don’t have one) to make each ball very thin. Twirl the flattened dough until it becomes thin. Fold the sides to the centre. Flatten the dough again (this is to get the flaky effect).

Place on a hot griddle and cook slowly over a low heat. Turn over dough and spread more oil when needed to brown both sides of the roti.

Satay

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Satay is a Malaysian version of Mishkaki served with a peanut sauce. The best place to try this is at the roadside vendors in Kajang which is near Kuala Lumpur (about 20 miles south of KL). Imran told me about this dish and apparently it’s his favorite. I had this in Kajang once and since I was always begging the chefs to make it for me – at the Hotel Istana in KL, they started calling me “Mr. Satay” – they eventually made tons of satay for me.

Ingredients:
1 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 lb (or 454 gms) boneless chicken (You can use lamb or beef) strips in bite-size pieces

Directions:
To a heated skillet add curry powder, ginger, garlic and cumin. Cook over medium heat until curry is slightly browned, about 1 minute. Add this mixture to coconut milk in a bowl. Add lemon peel and chili powder. Add chicken. Marinate for 30-60 minutes (more if you want it tasting better). Put chicken pieces on skewers. (You could skewer onion pieces, green pepper, bamboo shoots or mushroom slices.) Grill in the oven (better over hot coals) for about 4 minutes and keep turning them. Serve with Peanut Sauce for dipping.