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I always get nervous about cooking something that someone likes, there is unexpected pressure to meet up expectations.

My girlfriend’s mother has been cooking Malaysian food forever, she makes wonderful Malaysian food.

As I understand it, Malaysian food is a fusion of various cultures as it is a mult-ethnic society and therefore there is a lot of diversity within its’ influences. Malay food is influenced by the Ancient Spice Route and I guess there’s is no way to describe it other than to say that its heavily influenced by Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, Sumatran, Thai, Singaporean.  Although influenced, it has its own flavours and becomes its own.

As a result of its various influences, Malay Cuisine is broken down into various subsets like Malay-Chinese, Malay-Indian, Nyonya, Malay (which is more of an Indo/Thai influence)

Often if you go to a Chinese Malay place, they will have adapted a traditional Indian dish to blend with their own spices and cultural flavours and vice versa.   So the subsets of cuisine are particularly important, and yet fused together.

So with all of that in mind and an ever-growing library of Malaysian cookbooks (i think we have about 32) I selected a few which I thought might inspire me.

I settled on a curry because I thought this was something that would work with a novice.  An overwhelming sense of dread filled me as they all the curries had potato and rice.   I am not really keen on rice, i think of it as some pointless starch whose only real purpose is to absorb curry sauce (perhaps not so pointless) but to me, no real flavour. I am also not a fan of anything particularly hot.. another sense of dread filled me as i poured over the books ’10 whole chilis/ 20 dried chilis’.. and belecan. Belecan is a dried shrimp paste which stinks it is an overwhelming and it gets into everything. Every recipe I looked at had excessive amounts of it. I knew this was just something I would have to suck up though.  Potatoes – I just … well essentially no. I am not eating them, I am not putting them in a curry and I was reasonably sure there was no real need for them flavourwise.

I know from eating Malaysian curries that potato is almost as essential as chilli.

Anyway, I settled on a recipe for which I thought I could adapt slightly to cover my loathing of potatoes, the fact i had no fresh galangal and was flavourful so i could reduce the chilies;


Adapted from “Southern and Northern Malaysian Nyonya Cuisine”

(the book is written in Malay and translated to English)

(A) (B) (C)
4  x chicken thighs 6 x french shallots 3 x tbsp of tomato paste
2 x chicken breasts 4 tsp of belecan 1 x tbsp of curry powder
½ cup of oil 10 x dried chillies 1 ½  x tbsp of sugar or substitute
½ head of cauliflower 5 x cloves of garlic 1 x tbsp of vinegar
5 curry leaves 2 x lemongrass stalks 1 x tbsp of turmeric powder
2 x stalks of coriander 1 x tsp of salt
1 x tbspn of ground coriander 1 x cup of water
1 x cup of coconut milk

Pound or blitz all of (B) together.  I processed it and then fried it all off. You have to fry it off very slowly to make sure all the ingredients have fragranted themselves. This should take awhile, doesn’t need to be really high heat and its probably best if its at a medium heat and if it starts to stick provided you have fried for a bit, you can add a little water, it will absorb or evaporate

Then add the chicken and brown it

Blend (C) together and add to the pot once the chicken is browned. Then let it simmer for an hour        or so, stirring occasionally. I simmered mine for about 1 ½ hours.

Then I steamed the cauliflower for 10 minutes with curry leaf.

Having watched people cook Malaysian curries and talking with them, i knew a few essential things to take on board;

1. Under no circumstances cook with olive oil, use vegetable oil

2. Be patient… seriously patient.

I took it all on board, loosely followed the recipe and all in all it turned our fabulously – although it did take me about 3 1/2 hours as i slow cooked my chicken – and also made curry leave kai-lan, sambal serai prawns, chili sambal and pandan coconut pannacotta.

Instead of rice i steamed some grated cauliflower with curry leaf and we didn’t have potato, which potentially could have made the sauce thicker and milder.  Despite reducing the dried chili amount it was still too hot for my liking.  but the big compliment was that my girlfriend said not only was it better than her mothers * but it was the best curry she had ever had (although she said it would have been better with potatoes)


TWITTER: @thefussyfoodies

Jesse won’t eat:

Raw tomatoes
Blue cheese

Megan won’t eat:

Raw fish
anything with a head/tailbones/skin i cant eat
fancy lettuce
fancy mushrooms
Beans Baked, white, kidney