Monday, 29 March 2010

Kuih Kodok/ Jemput-Jemput Pisang (Malaysian Mashed Banana Fritters)

SAM TAN'S KITCHEN HAS MOVED! Please visit the new website/online store at You can also follow Sam on InstagramFacebook and Twitter. Thank you!

Also known as cengkodok, jemput-jemput or cucur pisang and commonly sold freshly fried as a snack from Malaysia's ubiquitous roadside stalls, the delectable kuih kodok or "toad cake" is so-named apparently due to the fritter's uneven knobbly appearance. The taste however could not be further from its ugly moniker- soft and moist on the inside with a crisp golden brown exterior, it is one of my favourite ways to use overripe bananas (there are only so many banana breads you can make before your tastebuds cry out for variety).

Some versions I've seen of kuih kodok resemble great big stodgy balls of dough more than little squishy fritters- I prefer mine like this, bite-size, packed full of fresh banana and with only a touch of flour to make it puff and crisp. Multiply or modify the recipe below as desired- it takes almost no time or effort whatsoever.

Kuih Kodok/ Jemput-Jemput Pisang (Malaysian Mashed Banana Fritters)
*Makes 5-6 pieces (serves 1)

Combine in a small bowl to form a thick batter:

1 overripe banana, mashed
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp rice flour (for crispness)
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (if you feel like it)

*Some non-purists chuck in some dessicated coconut or cinnamon into the mix too- it's not authentic, but I bet it tastes good :)

Heat some oil in the smallest pot you have (so you don't have to waste too much covering a large surface area) over medium heat until hot. Using two teaspoons, slowly drop small balls of the batter in carefully and deep fry quickly for about a minute until golden, flipping frequently to make sure it browns evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some paper towels.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Malaysian Chicken Curry with Potatoes (Kari Ayam)

To call this "Malaysian" curry is probably a bit misleading, seeing that a million different variations exist in the multi-racial country each with its own ethnic take, no version more or less Malaysian than the other.

If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say my recipe here is a sort of cross-breed between a traditional Malay interpretation (with the lemongrass and galangal) and a mamak (Indian-Muslim) variety using ground chillies. But then again what do I know- lots of Malay recipes I've found online use fresh, dried or powdered chillies as a key ingredient too, whilst some mamak recipes omit them altogether choosing instead to emphasise lemongrass. Malaysian-Chinese/ Kapitan/ Nyonya versions meanwhile seem totally identical both in the ingredients and methods to the versions above, save for the addition of belacan (dried shrimp paste) in some adaptations.

Still others list fresh tomatoes, all manners of additional seeds/spices, yoghurt and even pandan (screwpine) leaves as essential, whilst quite a few advocate the technique of stirring in an extra dollop of thick coconut cream right at the end to make it authentically rich.

The conclusion I've come to is so long as your curry contains the holy trinity of onions, garlic and ginger combined with a good curry powder, coconut milk and chunky potatoes somewhere in the mix, you can pretty much add, decrease, remove or substitute any of the ingredients below and still have the right to call your curry Malaysian, albeit one with a bit of an identity crisis.

Ah well. Who cares about the specifics anyway? What is Malaysia after all if not a big fat mind-boggling melting pot of cultures and flavours? Perhaps, just like in real life, there should not exist a desire to differentiate- we are after all one and the same at the end of the day, none superior to the other and each merely unique in our own ways.

Hmm perhaps "Malaysian" Chicken Curry is the most accurate name after all :)

Malaysian Chicken Curry with Potatoes (Kari Ayam)
*serves 4-6
* like all curries, the flavour improves if made one or several days in advance, or even months if you freeze it

Grind to a paste:
6 dried chillies, soaked and deseeded
1 red onion or 6 shallots
4 cloves garlic
1" ginger
Optional: 1" galangal, 1" turmeric root or 1 tsp turmeric powder, a few candlenuts

Fry over medium-high heat in oil until the oil separates (by this, I mean until the paste thickens and visible trace amounts of oil seep from the sides and "separates" from the bulk):
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Prepared spice paste
2 tbsp meat curry powder (Baba's is a reliable brand)
A sprig of curry leaves
Some cloves, star anise, cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick (known in Malay as rempah empat beradik or "The Four Siblings")
Optional: A stick of smashed lemongrass, some cut tomatoes

Stir in and let cook for 10 mins:
1 kg chicken pieces
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Optional: 2 pieces asam gelugor/keping (tamarind peel-substitute with 2 tsp tamarind juice if desired)

Add, cover and simmer until meat is cooked, potatoes are tender and sauce is thickened:
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sugar (palm or dark brown sugar if available)
2 1/2 cups coconut milk

*If desired, stir in a bit of thick coconut cream right at the last minute to increase richness

Leave curry to sit for a few hours or overnight before serving (I find it tastes much better not piping hot). Perfect with rice, roti jala, roti canai or pretty much any roti you can think of.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Horlicks Ice Cream

All together now: mmmmmmalt.

Yes- pictured above, sitting pretty like a little sticky snowball of deliciousness aching to be eaten, is a luscious scoop of rich smooth cold thick creamy malty caramelly Horlicks ice cream, studded with crushed Maltesers.

It tastes exactly like you would imagine, only a billion times better. Really. I cannot believe how fabulously malt affects the texture and taste of ice cream- not only does the addition of Horlicks give this an addictive almost savoury biscuit flavour, the concoction also takes on a stickier more gooey consistency that makes it all the better to spoon into your mouth.

Like all my other ice cream recipes, no pre-cooking of a custard, churning or fancy ice cream maker machine is needed. Just you, your electric whisk, and the willpower to wait as it freezes.

Horlicks Ice Cream
Makes a 1 litre tub

Heat 1/4 cup milk gently in a pot (or microwave it on high for about 1 minute) until hot but not boiling.
Stir in 8 tbsp Horlicks until a sticky paste is formed. Leave aside to cool.

In a clean dry bowl, whisk 2 egg whites until stiff.
Combine 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp vanilla extract, and fold into egg whites. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together until floppy (be careful not to overbeat until too stiff):
300ml double cream
70 g icing sugar, sifted

Fold in the cooled Horlicks paste until well combined, and then fold in the egg white mix. Roughly pound 2 small (37g) packs of Maltesers (or more, it's up to you) with a pint glass or rolling pin until lightly crushed, and stir into the mixture.

Pour into a 1-litre container and freeze for at least 4 hours or until completely firm.

Scoop. Eat. Mmm in delight :)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Oreo Chunk Cheese Truffles

*Also available under To Order: Celebration Cakes and Baked Goods at $20 for a rectangular silver gift box containing 36 truffles

Thank you God of Amazing Things You Would Never Have Known Existed If It Weren't For the Internet for blessing me with this discovery. Three ingredients, no time at all, ridiculously delicious result. Try. It. Now!
Oreo Chunk Cheese Truffles
*makes about 18 pcs

Crush 1 tube Oreos (154g/14 cookies) into rough crumbs like above,
by pounding in a large bowl with the bottom of a pint glass.

Most recipes I've found use a food processor, but I find manual crushing much better for achieving those gorgeous large chunks that are so delicious to bite into.

Set aside 1 tbsp of crumbs for sprinkling later. Add roughly 2 tbsp full-fat soft cheese (aka cream cheese outside the UK) to the rest of the crumbs. Stir/pound until well-combined and a pliable dark dough is formed.
Roll into little balls and refrigerate/freeze briefly (just to harden for easy dipping).
You can also freeze them to be used another day.

Alternatively, succumb to temptation and eat some right here right now.
You'll end up with less truffles that way, but ah well.
Melt about 200g chocolate of your choice (our personal favourite is white) by microwaving on full heat for 20 second intervals, repeating and stirring in between each interval until melted. Be careful not to blitz for too long, otherwise your chocolate will burn.
Using two small teaspoons, drop each ball into the glossy chocolate and roll them around if necessary to fully coat. Lift it out with the two spoons, letting excess chocolate drip off, and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or baking paper. Use the spoons to make a pretty swirl or patch up exposed bits if necessary. Sprinkle with a touch of Oreo crumb and let cool.
Bite in and savour the goodness.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Rasa Sayang- THE Worst Service Ever Encountered in London

*Update 21 April 2010- Following this review, I am heartened to say that instead of just pacifying me with a gift voucher or something along those lines, I was contacted by the manager Fee Bee Chong with an apology and invited back to dine personally with her and the two proprietors of Rasa Sayang (Ellen Chew from Singapore and Teddy Chen from Malaysia) so they could gain honest feedback face-to-face.

Read a full account of the revisit here.

Rasa Sayang 3 March 2010
5 Macclesfield Street
Tel: 0207 734 1382

First of all, let me categorically state that I rarely return to give restaurants a second chance if I didn't like them the first time round. However, due to a Metro 2-for-1 dining offer currently available under the 2010 Malaysia Kitchen campaign, I thought it may be a good opportunity for me to re-evaluate some of the participating joints on their list (some of which I have never tried, others which haven't really impressed in the past) just in case I happened to catch them on a bad day previously.

Boy oh boy was that a mistake in this case- whilst my initial visit to Rasa Sayang in March 2009 left me severely underwhelmed (read the full review here), even that feels like a Michelin star experience compared to the lunch from hell we had today, where a waitress with about as much social grace as a fungal infection left us angry, frustrated and united in our conviction never to step foot there again.

Let me break it down for you.

1) As specified on the voucher, I phoned up in advance to book a table, only to have Ms Fungal Infection curtly state that they don't do bookings before hanging up on me. That's right, even before we met she was getting under my skin. Bad sign no doubt, but we proceeded anyway.

2) Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by a smiley lady who asked us how large a table we needed. This smiley lady would eventually be our waitress, thank goodness. I responded and mentioned I had a Metro voucher, to which Ms Fungal Infection, whose voice I recognised and who turns out was stood behind the counter with evidently more seniority than smiley lady, interjected with a loud "I need to see the voucher first", arm outstretched. Bad vibes round 2, but hey ho.

3) I had both a Metro paper cut-out as well as a printout of the online version from the official website on me, and happened to pull out the latter first. This did not impress Ms Fungal Infection, who stated immediately that only newspaper versions would be accepted. I attempted (in vain of course) to question this, clarifying that it was an official voucher downloaded from the official website and not a photocopy, but her repeated response was simply "No. Management policy." to which another staff member close by chipped in "not Rasa Sayang". Hmm. Luckily I had a cut-out anyway, but if I hadn't I'd have been turned away- wonder how the organisers of the 2010 Malaysia Kitchen campaign feel about their efforts being spat on like this.

4) We sat down and were presented with a laminated 2-for-1 menu card, which listed the only seven items included in the offer. Each voucher entitles you to order up to four dishes for the price of two, so we went ahead and chose Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai with Chicken Curry, Mee Goreng and Curry Laksa.

Nasi Lemak- probably the best of all our dishes in my opinion, though personally I
still prefer
Sedap in Old Street and Malaysia Kopitiam round the corner.

Roti Canai with Chicken Curry- or more accurately, frozen store-bought r
oti paratha
that I could
have reheated myself at home. Note the absence of chicken curry,
which would
later give Ms Fungal Infection great cause for a furore.

Mee Goreng- a tad too sweet and ketchupy with an altogether un-mee goreng
colour. Satisfying if you're hungry, but not exactly what I'd call authentic.

Curry Laksa- found this to be much tastier and richer than my last visit,
though for some reason no one else seemed to like it.

As you can see, whilst hit-and-miss the dishes overall were actually more favourable than I remember (though my partner found everything bland and inauthentic), but this temporary interlude of acceptable lunching was erased when- yes, you guessed it, Ms Fungal Infection plonked us with a bill that gave us only one dish free instead of two.

When we attempted to clarify this, we were told that we had only ordered three eligible dishes and not four. Absolutely flabbergasted and by this point irritated beyond belief, we insisted that we did order four, to which Ms Fungal Infection then claimed our Roti Canai did not qualify as it was off the main ala carte menu and not the special 2-for-1 selection! What ensued next was the last straw- when my partner tried to explain that we had only ordered from the laminated card and never even saw the main menu, she proceeded to lecture him condescendingly, saying he was too loud, needed to "cool down" and stop shouting!

Soon after, she realised that the mistake was indeed on their part- our far more polite smiley waitress had mistakenly given us the smaller starter-size Roti Canai from the ala carte menu, which only comes with a tiny bowl of sauce, rather than the larger main-sized Roti Canai with Chicken Curry included in the deal. This essentially meant they owed us an extra bowl of chicken curry in addition to the refund, but by that point we were really beyond caring.

To top it all off, Ms Fungal Infection then refused to print a new bill, choosing instead to tell us verbally the new amount we needed to pay. And then as if to grace us with her trademark etiquette one last time before leaving, she went on to refuse to let me pay by credit card, saying the wrong bill had already been rung through and she was "using her own money to top up" the difference and therefore cash was the only way. Suffice to say we chucked the necessary bills on the table and left as fast as we could, though not before our nicer smiley waitress caught my eye and mustered a quick "sorry about that". Bless her soul.

From reading other online reviews, it is clear that we aren't alone in our fury and frustration at Rasa Sayang's abominable service. How bad this restaurant is is summed up best by Matthew Norman of the Guardian, who in this fabulous review accurately concluded that it is "the planet's most sensationally misnamed restaurant" with nothing to fix "other than service and the cooking".

Rasa Sayang (Feeling of Love)? Far from it!