Monday, October 3, 2011

Nasi Lemak Part 2 : Sambal Chili

This is my Part 2 of my Nasi Lemak recipe series. You can find the first recipe of Coconut Rice in my last posting.

In Part 2, I will be sharing the recipe for Sambal Chili. This is another critical component in Nasi Lemak. A good nasi lemak need a great sambal. Essentially sambal is the chili based sauce used typically as a condiment to accompany the rice. Infact, you can prepare the sambal paste and literally use it in any vegetables or meat that you want to spice up.

There are so many recipes for sambal, it is hard to decide which is the best. I am sharing my very own, tried and tested recipe which probably changes every time I cook it. So folks, just ball park ok or like how we like to say in Malaysia - "agak-agak" (which means "instincts" or "use your own judgement/feel"). Therefore is someone ask you, how much salt should I put?, the easy answer is to say "agak-agak".

Simple Ingredients :
1. 6 - 8 pcs Red Chilies or you can use 2 cups of dried chilies - soaked and drained
2. 10pcs of shallots - coarsely chopped
3. 1 clove of garlic
4. 1 large red onion - chopped fine.
5. 2 TBSP of brown sugar
6 1 TBSP of belacan (shrimp paste) - photo below

7. 1 tsp salt
8. 1/2 cup of oil
9. 15g Tamarind pulp mixed with 1 Cup of Water, discard the solids

Simple Steps :

1. Put the red chilies, shallots and garlic in the food processor and blend well till it becomes paste-like.

2. In a hot pan, dry fry the belacan (shrimp paste)in low heat. You will soon smell the strong pungent aroma enveloping your kitchen.

3. Heat pan with 1/2 cup of oil. Add the paste in and in low heat, stir continuously till fragrant.

4. As the paste dries up, add in the chopped onions and stir well. Add in the Tamarind juice and salt to taste. Stir in low heat till the onions are soft and the paste is a bit dry.

5. The Sambal is ready.

The sambal paste is very versatile. You can add some fried anchovies and you will get Sambal Ikan Bilis (dried anchovies). If you cook with some squids, you will get Sambal Sotong (squids). Add in some prawns and you will get Sambal Udang (prawns). Ohhhh....the possibilities are endless. Infact, I like to put some sambal when I stirfry my vegetables - brinjals, lady fingers, long beans which will soak up the spice really well.

For the example below, I just added more sliced onions and it works just as well too.

So, that's it, the simple sambal chili recipe which goes well with nasi lemak and other dishes too. Now that's just the two main components of nasi lemak.

Is that enough?? No!! There's more. My next recipe which is a must to add to a delicious nasi lemak is Spiced Fried Chicken. Stay tuned for Part 3. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nasi Lemak Part 1 - Coconut Rice

I've been missing. I seem to take a hiatus from food blogging too often. But even though I don't blog, I continue to take all the photos of my cooking. So I end up with loads of food photographs but what's missing is just blogging about it.

Nevertheless, I am really excited to share my latest food adventure. Nasi Lemak.

Nasi Lemak literally translates to Coconut Rice but the rice is not the only feature. It is the sambal, the egg, the peanuts, the fried ikan bilis (anchovies), the fried chicken and down to the cucumber which makes this a truly delicious and must try Malaysian dish. Back home in Malaysia, we eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even supper so anytime of the day if you are craving for nasi lemak, you can definitely find a stall, restaurant, or even just by the roadside, someone will be selling it.

For the Nasi Lemak recipe, I am doing a 4 part series. Wow!! You must think it is extremely difficult to make. It's actually NOT but there are just so many components to make a great nasi lemak and I want to make sure that I share what I think are the critical recipes. Therefore my 4 part series will consist of :

Part 1. Coconut Rice
Part 2. Sambal Chili
Part 3. Spiced Fried Chicken
Part 4. The Finale - How traditionally it all comes together!! Nasi Lemak Bungkus (Wrapped Coconut Rice)

Coconut Rice Ingredients :
1. Jasmine Rice - 3 cups
2. Pandan Leaves (Screwpine) - 2-3 sprigs
3. Ginger - 4-5 big slices
4. Coconut Milk - 1 can (about 400ml)
5. 1 tsp salt

Simple Steps :
1. Wash the Jasmine rice and rinse at least 2-3 times. Discard the water

2. Tie the pandan leaves in a loose knot and place it in the rice. For those who are not familiar with pandan leaves it is called "Screwpine Pandanus" and typically grown in Asia. Pandan leaves have a sweet, unique flavor that is commmonly used in Southeast-Asian countries to enhance both desserts and savory dishes. In US, I usually find them at the frozen section of the Asian grocery stores.

Add in the sliced ginger too.

3. Pour in the coconut milk. I like to use a strainer to strain the coconut milk before I put it in just to make sure there are no clumps of coconut milk floating about.

4. Add another 1 cup of water in the rice. You can add more or less water depending on how much rice you are boiling. Stir the rice with the coconut milk and water so that it is well mixed. Oh yes...don't forget to sprinkle a dash of salt. It will really help to bring all the flavors out.

I use a rice cooker, it's fast and easy and frankly it is the only way I cook my rice. Whoever invented the rice cooker is a pure genius :)
Just turn on your rice cooker and let it boil till cooked. You will have a the smell of fragrant coconut rice fill your kitchen. Yums!

This is just the first step to making Nasi Lemak. Can't wait to share the rest of recipes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stir Fry Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish

This is such a simple and "cheap" dish, I wonder why I often pay at minimum $8.00 to eat this outside. This dish takes less than 5 minutes to be prepared and served and at most would cost about $1.00 if you cook it at home.

Bean Sprouts (available at any Asian supermarkets) cost about 0.59cents per lb. These buggers are so light, if you buy one pound it would feed 4 persons nicely. The other ingredient is salted fish also readily available in any Asian supermarket. Depending on the fish you buy, it will cost between 3.99 to 5.99 per pound. Remember this is salted fish so it is extremely salty and pungent, you don't need a lot to bring out the taste. 100gm of the salted fish cut to small pieces in more than enough. Next - 2 cloves of garlic, few drop of vegetable oil, few drop of fish sauce and salt and that's it. I should cook this at home vs ordering this dish everytime we go out.

I guess the main reason why I don't cook this dish at home that much is because bean sprouts don't keep long even in the fridge. Best to use immediately after buying or keep just for a day in the fridge. If kept longer, you will find that the bean sprouts is soft vs the ideal light crunch texture. I do my grocery shopping mainly during the weekends for the next week and I usually eat out during the weekends and thus I don't buy bean sprouts especially when I don't know if I will cook it in the next one or two days.

But when I weight how cheap and how easy it is to cook this dish (vs how much I pay for someone else to cook it for me)...hmmm either I should plan my grocery shopping a bit better or just not order this dish when I eat out. :)

Simple Ingredients :
1. 1lb of bean sprouts (wash and drain)
2. 100gm of salted fish (cut to small pieces)
3. 2 cloves of garlic (chopped fine)
4. 2 TBSP of oil
5. 1 TBSP of fish sauce
6. 1/4 tsp of salt
7. Chopped scallions for garnishing

Simple Steps :
1. Put the oil in on the saute pan, put in the chopped garlic and salted fish. Saute for 2 minutes till fragrant.

2. Next turn up the heat, put in all the bean sprouts and do a quick toss. Add fish sauce and salt and 2 TBSP of water. Stir fry for another 2 minutes and it is ready to served.

That's it!! Quick and simple. The key is the fire in the Chinese stir frying. The fire need to be at high and the stir fry motion need to be quick to get all the ingredient blended in well together. For even better results, is obviously to use a wok as it is able to retain heat a lot better and the shape makes stir frying a lot easier. But nevertheless you can do this on a pan (I did). Just be a bit careful when stir frying to make sure all your ingredients are not flying out of the cooking pan :)

Hope you like this recipe. Try this simple at home and save the money for dessert :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wonton Dumpling Soup aka "My Wonton Soldiers"

Left, Right, Left, Right, Get in Line, Get in Line, 1, 2, 1, 2, Left, Right, Left, Right....

Fill, Wet, Fold, Press, Wet and Cross the ends; Fill, Wet, Fold, Press, Wet and Cross the ends; Fill, Wet, Fold, Press, Wet and Cross the ends; Go, Go, Go, Go.....

I felt like a soldier marching, disciplined, precise like a machine when I was folding my wonton dumplings. I have made wonton dumplings before but I never learned how to do a perfect wrap. I just use to fold, squeeze together and hope that the filling won't come off. So, one nice day, I decided to do some research on youtube to look into various videos on how to wrap wonton dumplings the right way.

As always, the Internet is simply amazing. There were so many videos, I went back and forth looking at all the different methods till I got slightly confused. Heck, this should be simple enough - Fill, Wet, Fold, Press, Wet and Cross the ends. This is the method I decided to follow. Surprisingly, it turned out really well and before I knew it, I had a tray of nicely wrapped wonton dumplings.

Infact, I realized I can wrap more of these dumplings and just freeze the extras to use whenever needed. I used store bought dumplings wrappers. It is easily available at any Chinese Grocery stores. Too much trouble to make it at home.

Simple Ingredients :

1 Packet of Dumpling Wrappers (Square shaped)

Filling -
1 pound of minced pork
1 big onion - diced small
1 sprig of scallion - diced small
1 egg
Salt, Pepper, Oyster Sauce, Soy Sauce to taste.

If desire a slight crunch in your filling, you can add some diced Waterchest nut.

Simple Steps :

1. Mix well all of the fillings ingredient together. The egg should help to filling to bind together. 2 extra tricks I use when making the filling -
i ) I like to stir fry the onions first with some oil. This allows the onions to be a lot more fragrant when mixed together with the fillings. Be careful not to brown the onions and do let it cool down before mixing together.
ii) Also to make sure that the taste of the filling is just right, after mixing, I will pinch a some of the filling and just microwave it until cook (which usually is less than a minute - depending on how much meat you microwave). At least I get to taste and make sure that it is enough seasonings before I fill up the dumplings.

2. Wrap the dumplings. I made my first little "How To" video. My first attempt so it is very amateurish. No sound, I am too shy but I think it is pretty clear what I am doing. Just repeat until you get it :)

Once you get the rhythm of wrapping the dumplings, you will feel like a soldier machine. Fill, Wet, Fold, Press, Wet and Cross the ends; Fill, Wet, Fold, Press, Wet and Cross the ends..... and behold, you will have a full tray of wonton soldiers gleaming back at you :)

3. Get your soup base ready. You can use any type of soup base you like. I prefer chicken stock. Bring it to a boil and put in the dumplings one by one. Let me come to a boil and when the dumplings float up, they are ready. When sure you don't put too many dumplings in at one time as they may stick together and also stir the dumplings around to avoid them sticking.

Another method I use when I am "not lazy". I will boil a fresh pot of just water and let the dumplings boil in that first. I will drain the dumplings out and then only put into the chicken stock. I do this especially when I am making a lot of dumplings. This is to get rid of some of the flour on the wrappers (which will tend to thicken and cloud my soup) and also quicken the boiling process when in chicken soup.

4. Add any green leafy vegetable you like into the soup or just add chopped scallions. And serve it hot.

There is something comforting about a bowl of wonton dumpling soup. Hmmm, bliss.

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