Saturday 14 March 2015

Malaysian cuisine

Yesterday, Jane and I joined forces to produce a Malaysian meal. Its preparation was far from simple and involved lots of stages, but we had all day available, and we actually enjoy cooking so it was no penance for us. As an aside though, let me say that I'm glad we have a dishwasher: I think we ran it 3 times yesterday!

Many readers will know that I was born in Malaysia. My family lived in Ipoh. One of our regular destinations for holidays was the island of Penang, which I loved so much that when I married and had children I took my own family back there  - and they loved it just as much. Penang is a real melting-pot of cultures and gives you easy access to a very wide spectrum of different food styles, ranging from Malay to Chinese, through Indian and Nonya, and even Orang Asli! Our interest in Malaysian cuisine was recently re-invigorated by watching Rachel Khoo's episode of "A Cook Abroad", in which she went back to the country to re-visit her roots. We found it very inspiring.

One of things I really wanted to try making was Roti Canai, a sort of half bread / half pastry flatbread affair, typically served with a rich dipping sauce or gravy. Although we have eaten it once or twice in restaurants we had never made it before. Anyway, as often happens, the internet came to our rescue and we found a very easy and profusely-illustrated recipe for it. If you feel like giving it a go yourself, HERE's a link.

We were too busy following the recipe to take many pictures, but here's one of some roti cooking. You cook it in a frying-pan greased with butter:

Since it is rolled, stretched and folded over, the roti comes out very much like puff pastry - layers of crispy deliciousness, from which you tear off chunks and dip them in your sauce.

I concocted the sauce myself, without a recipe. I fried some onions in oil, mixed in some of Jane's special Hot Curry Powder, added some powdered turmeric, coriander and 5-Spice, some ground black pepper, a couple of chillis from the freezer (de-seeded), some crushed garlic, some grated fresh ginger, a spoonful of "All-Purpose Seasoning" (to give it a savoury saltiness), about 250ml of water and a small tin of coconut milk. After cooking it for a few minutes I blended the mixture in the food-processor to a smooth consistency and allowed it to cool before decanting it into a covered container to let the flavours develop. At dinner-time the sauce/gravy was reheated in a saucepan and served in individual bowls.

We both agreed that it tasted very Malaysian! Beautifully rich, spicy and savoury.

Meanwhile... You will have seen the picture of the chicken satay at the top of this post. The meat for this of course had to be cut into chunks and marinated in a spice mix for a few hours before threading onto bamboo skewers. Our marinade included groundnut (peanut) oil, soy sauce, turmeric (mainly for the colour), curry powder and a small splash of sesame oil. I deliberately cut the meat into quite big chunks, because this means they don't dry out when being grilled. Another useful tip is to soak the bamboo skewers in water for a while before threading them, which helps to stop them burning.

The vegetable element of our meal came in the form of Gado Gado. This is really an Indonesian dish, but in our household it would be unthinkable to serve satay without Gado Gado. The dish consists of a variety of lightly-cooked vegetables (we use green beans, carrots, beansprouts and Chinese cabbage), mixed in with raw cucumber and watercress and then topped with sliced boiled eggs. Fried tofu is another common addition. It is typically served with a thick peanut sauce - the same one which goes so nicely with satay. Jane uses a well-practised and very effective recipe for peanut sauce, which she has described on her blog Onions and Paper.

The final embellishment was some prawn crackers. In this next photo I have put some on top of the Gado Gado just for artistic effect. By the way, prawn crackers are ideal for scooping up the peanut sauce. Cooking prawn crackers is a joy in itself. It's fascinating to see them puff up in the hot oil, transforming from a dull shiny plastic-like disc into a fluffy white crisp in about 5 seconds flat!

In the photo above you can just see a corner of our dessert - fresh pineapple. Preparing a fresh pineapple is an art too, but eminently worthwhile. Good value at present as well - ours was just 85p, and that provides enough for 4 servings.

Anyway, that's it, our own take on Malaysian cuisine. Not a quick weekday meal by any stretch of the imagination, but SO good!


  1. We have the same TV programme here in Croatia. This Rachel Khoo series has just finished a week ago. I love spicy cuisine but never tried some Malaysian dish. It usually requires the ingredients that I cannot buy here so, I give up at the very start. What a pity, I know I would like it.

  2. Quite a feast I too have a dishwasher it is called Martyn

  3. I love trying out cuisines of different countries. Though I've had satay as Thai is popular around here. I've never been a fan. Peanut butter as a flavoring never went over well for me and now that I can't eat it, I have a good excuse. Weirdly I've always been good with eating it in a sandwich, just not in other food.

  4. Interesting roti - think I shall have to try those (the other bread recipes in the link also look tasty).

  5. How lovely that you enjoy cooking together, the meal looks delicious. My dad did his national service in Malaysia but he obviously didn't take to their food, he likes typically British dishes.

  6. This looks fab, hungry all over again :) I enjoy cooking all sorts of different cuisines, so many different dishes to discover

  7. Everything looks so delicious! I love Malaysian flavours. We are yet to see this show on Indian television but I have enjoyed Rachel's "My Paris Kitchen".

  8. So nice to reap the rewards of time spent in the kitchen with our loved one(s). This looks delicious!

  9. I've never eaten Malaysian food before, but everything there looks delicious. The Roti looks especially nice, as I have never met a flatbread I didn't like!

  10. Hi Mark,

    I didn't know you were born in Malaysia. Perhaps I missed the post as I have just found your blog about a year ago. I'm from the east side of Malaysia, in a fishing-town-turned-tourism-spot called Terengganu. I had a lot of memories with sate. My mom used to sell tens of thousands of sticks of it during Eid season. Nowadays she doesn't make sate anymore but it's easy to get around here. I like roti canai, but my favorite Indian food is chapatti. Like you said, gado-gado is Indonesian food so I'm not a big fan. Although, there is another version of gado-gado called "pecal" which the peanut sauce is a bit more watery and a tad spicier. That one I like.

    To make good tasting sate, the most important is the peanut sauce. My mother's secret ingredient is coconut milk. Maybe you can try that the next time you make peanut sauce.

    Anyways, the food looks great! I like your blog. There's always culinary adventure which is fun to read. Have a wonderful day ahead. Take care.


    1. Hi Noor,

      It's is my fist time heard that using the coconut milk for tastier peanut sauce. I ingat udang kering dan serai yang buat ia wangi haha. Thanks for the tips!

    2. Thanks for the tips! Coconut milk is used a lot in our house - it is the "magic ingredient" in many dishes! I shall be researching pecal too...

  11. Hi Mark!

    Oh my... you cooked kuah kacang (peanut sauce) , roti canai and also satay?? I am proud of you beacuse you did better than us. And I am proud to be a Malaysian thou. Wish that you will come over again to Malaysia to reunite with family or friends.



  12. Hi Mark!

    Me again. If you don't mind, please allow me to share a very fragrant satay recipe.


    500-600 gm chicken meat (cut into chunks)
    5 shallots (thinly sliced) *
    3-4 stalks of lemongrass (thinly sliced) *
    1 thumb size ginger (thinly sliced) *
    1 tbsp tumeric powder
    2 tbsp brown sugar
    Salt to taste
    2 tbsp olive oil


    Place * ingredients in food processor and grind it until it turn to the paste. In a large bowl, mix the chicken meat with all the ingredients including the paste. Mix them well and marinate for at least two hours. (Preferably half day). Threading onto bamboo skewers and grill it until golden brown.

    1. That sounds good - though I'm unsure whether olive oil would be the best one to use. My wife is diabetic so she would have trouble with the brown sugar!

  13. Your Malaysian meal looks delicious and well worth all the effort and dish washing that resulted from the preparation! Do you have any German dishes too that you cook? I did answer you on my blog but in case you haven't popped back again I will reply here too! We were based in Lübbecke, Bielefeld and Gütersloh. One of my parent's closest friends lived in Fallingbostel, so we spent some weekends up there and have been to Celle too. Sarah x

  14. Your Malaysian meal looks delicious and well worth all the effort and dish washing that resulted from the preparation! Do you have any German dishes too that you cook? I did answer you on my blog but in case you haven't popped back again I will reply here too! We were based in Lübbecke, Bielefeld and Gütersloh. One of my parent's closest friends lived in Fallingbostel, so we spent some weekends up there and have been to Celle too. Sarah x


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