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Everything posted by ecr

  1. I'm a freelance writer based in Kuala Lumpur - at the moment doing some research on Indian snacks. I've just recently found a shop here that does chaat from 4pm onwards. And I've also been investigating Tamil shops that serve snacks like yogurt-soaked vadai (thairu vadai) and kolakkatta. From what I've been able to glean by talking to customers, these palagaram are eaten at any time of the day, breakfast to past dinner, whereas chaat are generally afternoon-to-evening foods. Is this correct? There is lots of info on chaat on the web (and there was that piece in the NYT recently), but not much on palagaram, other than that palagaram were originally festival foods, particular ones associated with particular festivals ... but that now they are considered everyday foods (snacks). Can anyone fill me in on palagaram (and correct any misunderstanding I may have of chaat and the role of chaat in the N Indian daily diet -- I have read the chaat thread, BTW) .... or direct me to a site or set me on the trail of a Tamil foodie who might be able to set me straight? Thanks in advance....
  2. Ondine - I recently posted on buah keluak, with a link to a Singaporean recipe for ayam buah keluak at the bottom. Buah keluak My understanding is that any exported from Indonesia have already been soaked/boiled. Some folks do an extra soaking overnight, just to be sure. I would just scrub your shells and proceed accordingly. Interesting, your memories of the shells being cooked with the dish. I've never heard of that, usually the meat is scraped out and pounded to a paste and the shells discarded. Good luck!
  3. Gabriel - yes, Kasma's piece is probably one of the most informative on the web! I corresponded with her a couple wks ago about Thai palm sugars. I shouldn't have said that 'most' Thai palm sugar is from the coconut palm. It seems half-half coconut and sugar palm. What is confusing is that the term 'sugar palm' is applied to a few varieties of palm In Thailand (and Cambodia and Lao, from what I can tell), it refers to the palmyra palm, the type with the big, fan-shaped leaves. Namtann mapraow is from the coconut palm ('mapraow' = 'coconut' in Thai) and the stuff from the palmyra palm is namtaan bpeep or namtaan buk. Comparing the two, the palmyra/sugar palm sugar is more interesting. At the same time, the sample that I was able to get from the only Thai grocer in Kuala Lumpur had a whiff of gas to it .... it was probably cooked over a gas burner. I would imagine if you can get a hold of some cooked over wood it would be much nicer. What is confusing to me is that gula Melaka, the most common Malaysian palm sugar, is also made from coconut palms. Yet it is much darker in color and much richer in taste than Thai coconut palm sugar. I've watched the process and nothing is added (at least by the maker I observed) except a handful of grated coconut to keep it from boiling over. Considering that a single batch starts with about 25 L of liquid this little bit of coconut doesn't seem to be enough to account for the drastic difference in color and flavor of Thai and Malaysian coconut palm sugar. But as I said -- sometimes bleaching agents are added in Thailand. Obviously we need to get up to Thailand and observe a very small-batch producer firsthand. I also suspect terroir comes into play a bit. Some nipa palm sugar is really rather salty, probably because nypa palms thrive near brackish water. As for other palms used for sugar, most common in SE Asia are Aren palm and nipa palm. The buri palm is 'tapped' on a small Philippine island to make pakaskas, Philippine palm sugar. But only there. To my knowledge palm sugar is not made elsewhere in the Philippines. As for cooking with the sugar - you might try your Indonesian sugar in a Western dessert. I just made blondies with my Malaysian (coconut) gula Melaka, and the result was quite spectacular. Plus the whole house smelled like a caramel bomb while they were in the oven. Today I'll try it with my dark Sumatran aren sugar.
  4. Thanks Tim, for sharing that. I wish I had access to some maple sugar, or even true maple syrup. Have been meaning to experiment with SE Asian palm sugar in Western desserts, but no time yet. Gabriel - yes I think it's true that the best stuff is not exported. Small producers simply don't have access to an export network. Unfortunately I don't have head for business (or a stomach for attempting to do business in Indonesia, certainly), otherwise I'd be out there rounding up suppliers. I'm sure the stuff would sell well in the States, for use well beyond Asian food. Malaysia doesn't export any at all, mass-produced or otherwise, and there is some wonderful stuff here. I haven't tasted the Indonesian stuff available in the US, but it's a pretty major brand you've got there. When I tasted a 'brand' sugar here in Malaysia I was horrified - very chemical-y, without the subtlety of the small batch stuff. Not surprising, I suppose. Hopefully yours is much better. I wonder what kin of palm yours is from. It looks gooey, which makes me want to say nypa. But there is so little sugar produced from nypa palms in Indonesia. (By the way the label on your sugar notes that it has already been cleaned and filtered, so you don't have to do that in the kitchen.) I haven't extended research to Thailand yet. That, and Philippines, is next. A couple of things with Thai palm sugar - it's mostly made from coconut palms. To my taste this results in the least interesting, or complex, sugar. It's also usually a lighter sugar. There is some preference among some Thai consumers for lighter sugar, so sometimes bleaching agents are used. This can't be good for the taste. I haven't observed at the source so haven't tasted with and without lighteners. Id have to say that aren and nypa palm produce the most interesting sugars. You'll get everything from bitterness to sourness to saltiness (and sweet, of course) with these palms. The literature I received from Big Tree Farms (the Bali link I provided) contends that the bit of bitterness found in these palms is not desirable. Well, as I said, I haven't made Western desserts with them, so I don't know how it all shakes out in the cooking. But I do know that SE Asian desserts made with these sugars are fantastic, and when tasting side-by-side they simply blow coconut palm sugar out of the water. But - this is all still work in progress and I've got a lot to learn, that's for sure! Cheers, Robyn
  5. Hi Tim - that's really interesting. How did you get into making your own sugar? Can you briefly describe the process? After tapping, how long do you cook the sap for? Certainly different batches taste a bit different (or do they)? If there's any variation in flavor, what do you attribute it to? I have vivid memories of eating maple sugar pie everyday for 2 wks that we spent at a resort outside Montreal when I was a kid. I've never been able to find a recipe that matches the deliciousness of that pie. It had no, or minimal eggs ... was not a custard -- just rich and intensely maple-y.
  6. Palm sugar from Bali. Haven't sampled it, but looks interesting.
  7. Crabmeat empanada are a specialty of Pampanga (don't know if it's just one town or all of Pampanga). The wrapper is very light and thin, made with rice flour, and the filling includes achiote. I know this because of the orange oil that ran down my arm as I ate one.
  8. I'm late to this thread, which I came across when I googled 'palm sugar'. I'm a food writer based in Malaysia - my husband, a photographer, and I have been researching palm sugar here in the region off and on for about 6 months. We've observed the small-batch process in villages on Sumatra, on Bali, and here in Malaysia. What amazes me is how much the flavor of palm sugar can vary from batch to batch. Some of this variation is due to the palm the sap comes from (aren, sugar, and coconut palms are common), some to processing methods (cooked over wood or gas; natural ingredients might be added to deepen the color - darker sugars are prized on Sumatra); whether or not the sugar is aged after processing; and other, as-yet-undefined (by ourselves) factors. I'm also amazed that Indonesian palm sugar is not more widely known in N America. I think most fans of SE Asian foods are familiar with Thai palm sugar by now. But to my tastebuds Indonesian (and Malaysian) palm sugars evince a much more complex - and interesting - flavor profile. Smoky, yes, but there's also a hint of bitterness, sometimes even a teeny bit of sourness. I think there is only one brand of Indonesian palm sugar available in the States right now (correct me if I'm wrong) - can't remember the brand. But it is produced on a fairly large scale and just can't compare to the product of small-batch producers. A note - when buying Indonesian palm sugar look for the word 'asli' on the label - it denotes a palm sugar un-'tainted' by can sugar ('asli' means 'pure' or 'original' in Indonesian/Malaysian. BTW, if any of you sugar lovers out there are in Chicago, we'll be giving a presentation on palm sugar to the Culinary Historians in April, focusing on Malaysian/Indonesian sugars. And, border control willing, we'll be doing a 'tasting' of sugars we've picked up on our research trips. Cheers, Robyn (haven't gotten around to changing my egullet 'handle' from ecr)
  9. Ah, a forum member after my own heart. We have a stash of gula that we've collected from Sumatra and Bali and around Malaysia (friends and associates know of our gula obsession and we now receive containers of gula from here and there as gifts ) and that's often how we eat it - piece by piece, like candy. You can still find gula melaka with the smoky taste, but it's more likely to be the gula you buy at a pasar or directly from a small producer than the stuff you can pick up in the grocery store. Malaysian gula melaka is wonderful, but you really must go to a market on Sumatra (perhaps elsewhere in Indonesia as well) to experience gula heaven ... imagine 15 or more kinds on display, all from different villages, with different flavors and slightly different textures.
  10. bvmisa, thanks for the addtl info. I am awaiting the imminent arrival of Delgado's Philippine Markets, which is sure to provide even more info. PCL - yes, we spent a good deal of time at the KK seafood market on a trip last April. Even more interesting is the market behind the fish processing facility that takes place when they unload the boats around 4-6am. Lots of activity. I hear the seafood market in Sandakan, Sabah, is even better, and bigger. We may swing through Sabah on our way to the Phil in December. The more markets the merrier!
  11. Easy enough to make tamarind juice from the blocks - break off a piece, say about 2 in X 2 in, put in a bowl, and cover with 1 cup very hot water. Use a fork to break it up and leave to soak for 1/2 hour or more. Then pour through a fine sieve, using fork or the back of a spoon to push the seeds against the sieve and extract as much pulp as possible. Keeps in the fridge for a couple of months. Use in your recipe a bit at a time and taste to adjust sourness.
  12. Ai ya! Folks, I didn't take offense. Just pointing up the diffs - perhaps it's NE Asia to SE Asia. Apologies if MY post caused offense.
  13. Some pretty in-depth coverage of the WGF at Singapore food blog (or website -- seems more a site than a blog these days) Chubby Hubby.
  14. Let's not generalize to all of Asia. Fruit may also be part of the meal rather than a finisher -- in Isaan (Thailand), somtam ponlamai, a mostly fruit-some veggy version of the green papaya salad. And green papaya salad itself. In Malaysia and Indonesia, rojak buah -- fruits, some veg like cucumber, with a sauce and peanuts sprinkled on top. And fruit sambals, which are taken with rice and curries/gulai etc. Esp known on SW coast of Sumatra but found elsewhere in Indo, and Mlaysia, as well. Avocadoes which are, after all, a fruit, as a blended drink in Indonesia (a snack, really) - with chocolate.
  15. debbster - trip still in planning stages, that's why I seek advice. Will go where the markets are. Yes - I've heard about the markets on Mindanao, really makes me want to go. But I get conflicting opinions re: security. If we went it would only be to Davao, I guess. We want to document markets but not willing to risk life and limb to do so! I've just ordered a book by Karen Delgado called 'Philippine Markets'. It sounds wonderful .... I'm betting will have some ideas for us. Manila we will stop on the way in or out, so markets there are of interest. Always interested in unusual produce/food products specific to a region/locality. Thanks!
  16. Belimbing. In KL you can find it in the Malay section of Chow Kit, at the small market in Sentul (Jalan Sentul), at the Masjid Jamek night market (Saturdays), from one Indian vendor at Pudu market (outside), at Selayang. (Guess you can tell where I spend alot of my time. ) The vendors have all told me to eat it with sambal. It spoils so quickly. Teepee - you're lucky to have a dependable source!!
  17. debbster, thank you! I'm well acquainted with Asian wet markets, so the smells don't bother me. Esp appreciate your recomminding foods to try. Do you know of any great markets in other parts of the Philippines?
  18. I've tried western herbs - thyme, basil, rosemary - with not much luck. It's too humid and rainy in KL. Chilies do nicely though .. need to start a second batch but earlier this year had habanero and jalapeno. Want to give tomatoes a try ... have a bunch of heirloom variety seeds I brought back from the US.
  19. Sorry folks - try as I might I can't locate a recipe for Lao stewed chicken with coconut and dill. Thought it might be in Alan Davidson's Lao food book (he does discuss dill as an important ingredient in Lao cuisine) but no. Couldn't find it online either. But my better half also remembers the dish from our time there in 94 and 95, so I'm not imagining it! My time in the kitchen will be limted for the next couple wks, but if anyone wants to give it a try, I would think a couple of cups of thick coconut milk, simmered till the oil rises would start the dish. Then some fresh galangal, garlic, maybe ginger, white pepper. No lemongrass or lime leaves ... this was not a sour dish. Adding chicken pieces to slowly cook to tender, mixing in lots of chopped dill halfway through, then when chicken is tender and coconut milk sauce thickish (like a thin cream soup), serve with more chopped dill on top. Perhaps some rich chicken stock in there too. The dish was very rich and comforting, not spicy. I also remember a salad special to Luang Prabang - of watercress, with chopped peanuts and dill, lime juice on top and mixed with a raw egg to dress. Perhaps other travellers to Lao have encountered the same?
  20. bvmisa - wonderful, thanks! I mean any type of wet market/food market. Particularly ones that feature unusual regional items, or that are particularly lively, or have an special 'atmosphere' (this will mean something to anyone who is a connoisseur of food markets), or take place in a historical or architecturally interesting building. Can you give me a little more info on the one in TESDA (location, days) - we will be in Manila in December. Thanks again.
  21. Coconut milk is much less used in Isaan and northern Thai cooking simply bec there aren't as many coconuts grown in those parts of Thailand. When I visited a few markets in northern-eastern (more northern than Isaan) Thailand earlier this year I rarely saw coconuts ... one vendor had coconut tree stem for sale, but it was 'imported' from southern Thailand. Dill is pretty common in Lao cuisine, which is just one of a few shared traits of Lao and northeastern Thai food. Curiously, Laos do combine dill with coconut milk (there's a fairly well-known chicken stew with coco milk and lots of dill) ... but all Thais don't seem to, or at least I didn't run into it on that trip. I may have that coconut-dill recipe somewhere. It's quite a tasty dish.
  22. A new book on Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean cuisine just came out: Cradle of Flavor by writer/photographer James Oseland. My copy hasn't arrived yet but I'm betting, based on the articles he's done for American Saveur magazine on Padang food, Melakan Nyonya cooking, and dishes from Indonesia's Spice Islands, that it's gonna be a great one. His recipes work and employ authentic ingredients. Supposedly a third of the book is dedicated to ingredients, markets, and photographs. I believe Oseland has a website with a couple of recipes.
  23. Austin - Well, gin contains quite a few spices (speaking from much experience with the stuff ), so perhaps you need to sit down with a bottle and suss out the source of the ma khwaen similarity, glass by glass. Seriously - juniper is a major gin ingredient. Perhaps that's the flavor you're tasting?
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