Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And Fire Made It Good

Beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce (with a dollop of extra hot chili paste in the center), red onion slices, cucumber slices and cubes of compressed rice.

One of the most popular Malaysian dishes is Satay which is skewered grilled meat served with a peanut sauce (or kuah kacang in the Malay language), cucumber slices and red onion slices. Cubes of compressed rice or “nasi impit” is also usually served as it goes well with the peanut sauce. Other Asian countries have a similar style of cooking and I have had both the Indonesian and Thai versions, but I have to say that although the meat may have tasted alright, nothing compared to the Malaysian peanut sauce.

I made some chicken satay for our Christmas lunch at my cousin's place. Due to a miscommunication (understandable given that we were doing what Malaysians like to do which is to talk about all the food that we were going to have for that weekend) we didn't have quite enough skewers and so we ended up cutting the chicken and beef into slightly bigger pieces and threading about 7 pieces of meat on each skewer. I wouldn't recommend that because authentic Malaysian satay is thinly sliced meat and just 5 - 6 per skewer. Oh but don't get me wrong, it was delicious all the same!!

The next time we visit Malaysia I think I’ll actually get a proper satay grill to bring back, just hope the US Customs don’t stop me from bringing it in!

Makes 50 skewers and 8 cups sauce

4 pounds chicken thighs, cut into ¾” pieces
2 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp fennel
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp galangal powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 big red onion
2“ ginger
5 pips garlic
2 stalks lemongrass
2 tbsp peanut oil
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt

  • Toast coriander, cumin and fennel separately in a pan until fragrant. Leave to cool then grind finely in spice/coffee grinder.
  • Grind the onion, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass with the oil and about 1/4 cup of water.
  • Marinade chicken in spice mixture, ground ingredients, sugar and salt for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • Soak about 50 bamboo skewers for 15 minutes.
  • Thread about 6 - 7 pieces of chicken on each skewer.
  • Brush on some oil while grilling. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes on each side until golden brown and meat develops a few char spots.

Peanut Sauce
Makes 8 cups

2 onions } grind finely with ¼ cup water
5 pips garlic }
2 stalks lemongrass }
1 tbsp chili powder }
2 cups skinned peanuts
1 tbsp tamarind soaked in ½ cup warm water (or 2 tbsp tamarind puree)
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 cup oil

  • Toast peanuts in dry hot wok for about 10 minutes, leave to cool then coarsely grind in a spice/coffee grinder
  • Heat oil, sauté ground ingredients for about 30 minutes until the oil rises to the top, add 1 cup water.
  • When boiling add in the tamarind juice, sugar, salt and ground peanuts. Add more water if necessary (sauce will thicken when cool). Adjust seasoning
  • Serve chicken satay with peanut sauce, cucumber slices, red onion pieces and nasi impit

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

From top left: braised duck, steamed garlic prawns, stir fried sugar peas and sambal petai prawns

Steamed Garlic Prawns cooked in the microwave

I have always made a point to celebrate Chinese New Year, partly to celebrate the Chinese half of my heritage and I like the festivity, the food and the camaraderie shared with family and friends. Unfortunately Keith was going to be away at a convention that weekend and I was feeling kind of sad that it would be just Little Miss M and me.

But then a few days before Chinese New Year our friends Ivan and Gary called an invited us for lunch! Ivan is a good cook and I gladly accepted his invitation. For our meal he made: Teochew braised duck, sambal petai prawns, stir fried snap peas and steamed garlic prawns. The duck recipe he got off a Malaysian blog and the sampal petai prawns were cooked from prepared sambal mix from Malaysia, but the steamed garlic prawns which are cooked in the microwave was his own concoction. Everything was absolutely delicious and we had a really great start to the Chinese New Year.


12 large prawns
4 - 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped
  • Clean the prawns by using a scissors to cut the head where the 'horn' begins (about half-way of the head) or remove them completely if you like.
  • Slit the prawns lengthwise from the head to the tail, devein.
  • Place in a microwave safe plate and stuff with the minced garlic.
  • Sprinkle the wine, soy sauce and sesame oil evenly over the prawns, cover with plastic wrap (eg. Saran or Glad wrap) and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Leave aside for a minute and then sprinkle the chopped spring onions and serve.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Minced Pork with Edamame

Little Miss M's favorite 'baby', MoMo the mouse loves this dish too!

Although the grocery store is just 1 1/2 miles away from our house there are days when we're out of fresh food and I'm just too busy to make a trip to get groceries. Something I always turn to when this happens or when I'm too lazy to think of what to cook is the following dish. I am not ashamed to say that our freezer has NEVER not had bacon! I also stock up on edamame (shelled or whole in the pod) and at least a pound of minced pork.

You can also add fresh or reconstituted dried Shiitake mushrooms to the dish which I would if Keith didn't hate mushrooms so much. The minced pork is very good on noodles with some blanched bean sprouts and 'choy sum' (Chinese mustard greens). Both Keith and Little Miss M like this dish very much and served with brown rice and a green vegetable I think it provides a balanced meal.

Serves 4

2 cloves garlic finely minced, or use 2 stalks of green onions, thinly sliced
1 pound minced pork
2 rashes bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
½ tbsp oyster sauce
½ tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tsp sesame seed oil
a dash of white pepper
½ cup water (or more, for more sauce)
½ cup shelled edamame beans
1 cup sliced fresh or reconstituted dried Shiitake mushrooms (optional)
  • Cook the bacon until crispy, set aside.
  • Remove all but ½ tbsp bacon fat, fry the garlic or scallions for 1 minute.
  • Add in the minced pork and fry until browned, breaking up the meat into small pieces. Add all the other ingredients except the edamame. If you are using mushrooms, add in now.
  • Cover and cook for about 10 minutes then check the seasoning.
  • Add in the edamame and cook for 3 minutes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Saucy Seduction

A very popular dish in the States, or maybe just where we live is Orange Chicken which is battered deep fried pieces of chicken coated in an orange sauce. You can even buy packaged orange chicken in the freezer aisle or just the bottled sauce which I admit I sometimes use (although I do freshen mine with freshly squeezed orange juice and some finely shredded orange rind).

Orange Chicken is ubiquitous not only to Chinese restaurants here, but apparently has even found it's way to my niece's school cafeteria! This information came up while we were having dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in LA where one of the dishes we ordered was, yes, Orange Chicken. In Malaysia Lemon Chicken is the common dish where typically a whole thigh and drumstick would be deboned, coated in seasoned batter and deep fried. The cut up chicken is then served on the sauce which keeps the chicken crispy.

There are two ways to prepare the chicken for orange chicken. The first is to marinate it, mix in one egg, then to coat with corn starch and deep fry. The second method which is healthier, and is the recipe here, is to marinate it and then pan fry the chicken. I have to admit the deep frying gives the chicken a delicious crunchy texture and is the method that orange chicken is usually made in the restaurants. So if you're thinking of indulging that would be the way to go.

Serves 4

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp sesame oil
Dash of white and black pepper

Orange Sauce
Makes 1/2 cup sauce

1 (6-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

  • Cut the chicken into 1" cubes. Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the chicken, mix well. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
    Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, fry the chicken until cooked and evenly browned. Pour over 1/4 cup sauce, mix well.
  • To make the sauce, place the orange juice concentrate, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes into a small saucepan, stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the mixture to about 1/2 cup, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool at least 5 minutes.