From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Malaysian Fusion



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Daniel, one of my fans/followers, asked me if I had any good Penang Curry Mee recipes that I could suggest, and while it surprised me that I have one that may pass the American taste buds, it made me wonder – When was the last time I had cooked or even tasted any Penang food? 

I can tell you that my exposure to the wonderful world of Malaysian foods and recipes has been limited due to the unavailability of many of the standard ingredients that typically go in Malaysian recipes, as well as the resistance I know I would meet from the rest of the family if I were to offer them something that utilized pig blood, cockles, or cuttlefish as a primary ingredient.  Cooking Malaysian food requires the freshest ingredients, including fish still battling the elements, prawns that are still jumping, vegetables and more.  Much Malaysian food, including Penang and Nyonya recipes call for a wide variety of seasonings and spices.  Stocking up on them is not the only element to remember; getting the correct combinations together to create the dish is of great importance.

While I have never developed the skill for cooking it, I LOVE Penang food, as the friends that used to cook it for me always cooked with a passion for eating. 

The city of Penang has been described as one of Southeast Asia’s finest destinations, with a distinctive Chinese influence reflected in the architecture, street life and shops.  The Penang cuisine is a blending of the many different cultures of Penang, Malaysia, with much of the taste profile coming from the Chinese.  Early Chinese migrants worked in the tin mining industry, and many of them branched off to open small businesses or artisan shops.  With the skills and culture that the Chinese brought to Malaysia came the many provincial styles of Chinese cuisine.  In Malaysia, the full array of Cantonese, Szechuan, and Peking cuisines are available. 

If you were to walk down the road through the streets of Penang, you would be assaulted by the sights, sounds and smells of hawkers cooking and selling their foods at a road side stall.  Such food offerings also have the added benefit of being a high energy food with minimal cost.  I have had wonderful recipes such as Char Koay Teow (Stir Fried Rice Noodles,) Curry Mee and Hokkien Mee (a prawn based soup, served with noodles and topped with fried onions and spinach,) dishes that originated in Penang.  (I have been told, however, that the versions of the foods that I have eaten differ greatly from the original Penang version.)

A traditional Malaysian food that is well known here in the States is Satay – the ever-present meat on a stick.  The skewered meat is usually chicken, lamb or beef.  Penang food includes flake pancakes (Apom,) a tasty peanut pancake (Ban Chien Koay,) a rice porridge for dessert (Bee Koy Moy,) and one of my favorites, a steamed flat rice noodle roll with a shrimp and chili sauce(Chee Cheong Fun.)  A favorite dessert of mine, that sadly, I am no longer able to enjoy, due to a food allergy, is Goreng Pisang, or simply, deep-fried banana fritters. (They even offer their local version of a burger, called the Tari Burger, which is very different from the mainstream burger offered here in the U.S.)
For a simple recipe, Chicken Rice is always a winner.  It is a meal of Hainanese origin, simply rice cooked in chicken stock and served with roasted or steamed chicken, on a bed of cucumbers, with beansprouts, spring onions and parsley as an accompanying side.

I remember the Curry Mee that I tasted being a spicy soup of egg and rice noodles, cooked with prawns, cockles, beansprouts, pig’s blood cubes, tofu, cuttlefish and lemongrass.  It was a spicy soup that definitely presented a new flavor experience to me.

An excellent cook with demanding tastebuds may tell you that my recipe, which I consider to be good, (because it doesn’t freak my kids out) may only be marginal at best.  All things considered, Penang and Nyonya recipes offer many tasty options for fast, fresh and healthy Asian Cuisine.   That which I have described is just a small sampling of the variety of Malaysian cuisine that exists.  As we continue to explore the wide world of Asian cuisine, I am sure that we can include some of the wonderful flavors that the Penang and Nyonya cuisines have to offer.
Penang Curry Mee

1) Curry Mee Chili

2 T Shallots
2 T Dried Prawns, rehydrated in water
1 stalk of Lemongrass
¼ cup Chili paste
1 tsp Salt
3 T Curry Powder

Blend the shallots, prawns and lemongrass together, then sauté using vegetable oil until just smoking. Add chili paste, salt and curry powder. Stir on low heat until fragrant.

2) Soup
 6 quarts water
1 Whole Chicken Roaster 
½ cup coconut milk
2 stalks Lemongrass, cut into strips and pressed
Salt to taste
2 table spoon of curry mee chili made earlier
12 oz large Prawns
Tofu 10pcs, cut in half

Cut the tofu blocks in half, then the smaller blocks into strips about ¼ inches thick.  Fry in 350 degree vegetable oil until golden brown (about 2 minutes) then remove from oil and set aside on paper towel.  Make the soup stock using water, chicken and lemongrass. After chicken is cooked fully, add 2 tablespoons of curry mee chili and coconut milk. Add in prawns just before serving, to not overcook.  Add salt to taste. (Make sure the soup is salty enough so that the curry mee will taste better when you add it to the noodles). Add fried tofu before serving.

3) Mee, bihun and taugeh
10 oz. Yellow Mee, (egg noodle) blanched in boiling water and drained
1 packet Rice vermicelli soaked in water until soft, then drained
10 oz Beansprout blanched with boiling water and drained

16 oz Fish Cakes cooked & quartered
16 oz Fish Balls Cooked & quartered
¼ cup Green Beans Beans, cut into 1" length, blanched in boiling water and drained
Eggs, hard boiled and cut into quarters

Put mee and vermicelli in bowl and garnish, then add soup and chili
Remember to add more curry mee chili in your curry mee before serving!

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