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eG Foodblog: Laksa - Wild man of Borneo


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Looks great, Laksa (and Ms. Laksa).

When either of you have time, could you please go a little bit into the intricacies of Malaysian food? I understand, that like Filipino cuisine, Malaysian cuisine is a bit of a melting pot, with Chinese and Indian influences in addition to its own.

Soba

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Well,  my mum has always taken the heads off too. Before they were available headless (in Malaysia), my sister and I used to gut & snip them every Chinese New Year, whereby Mum would fry them up as treats.

I feel the gut/head is slightly bitter. Does anybody else feel the same?

Hmmm. Until very recently, I always left the snapped-off heads and guts in a pile on the side of my plate before dousing the anchovies in the cane vinegar/crushed garlic/chilies mixture. This is when eating them plain, as opposed to stir-fried with veggies. Like you, I took them off because my Mom did, also believing that the head/gut was a tad bitter... but I was never lucky enough to have them pre-snipped for me! However, due to sheer laziness, I started eating the whole dried fish and found that there was very little actual difference in the taste, particularly when eating the very small, thin ones. Seems to me that the larger the anchovy, the more bitter the head/gut; I will still behead them if they're on the big side.

And here I thought the beheading was just a Filipino idiosyncracy.

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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Team blogging.  I love this. 

Will we get his and hers perspectives?

Doing this together is certainly fun. I have newfound respect for you past bloggers, and certainly draw a lot of inspiration from your postings.

Here's a snippet of our perspectives from behind the scenes:

Me: Don't post the picture of the anchovy being cleaned.

Him: Why not?

Me: It's gross and you don't see pictures of chicken being slaughtered, do you?

Him: It's interesting and people should see this.

Me: Don't post the picture of the peach.

Him: Why not?

Me: It looks obscene and it's not like people haven't seen a peach.

Him: I've gotta post a picture of everything I eat.

Me: It's clutter.

Edited by Ms Congeeniality (log)
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Laksa, those nutty snacks are really good and handy, aren't they? Have you ever had Ak-Am peanut & sesame seed candy? If not, I'm gonna bring some for you and Ms. Congee who, btw, I hope will continue to post on eG after your blog is over. (That was so hard to type because I really don't want to see it end!)

Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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Hmmm. Until very recently, I always left the snapped-off heads and guts in a pile on the side of my plate before dousing the anchovies in the .

Seems to me that the larger the anchovy, the more bitter the head/gut; I will still behead them if they're on the big side.

Thanks for the clarification on the head/gut.

I have never had it with cane vinegar/crushed garlic/chilies mixture and I am definitely going to try it out. Can taste it on my tongue already. Hope our local Asian grocery stores stock the cane vinegar.

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The smell of Tuna Mornay baking in the oven is unbearable when you're hungry. 20 minutes felt like a lifetime. Had to switch to the broiler for the last 5 minutes to brown the top.

We used rotini (spiral pasta) in place of tortiglioni.

Dinner is served with a rather young Australian wine, 2003 Yalumba unwooded chardonnay. I was a little concerned that the only Australian white I have on hand might be too young, but it turned out to be eminently drinkable. With strong peach tones and a hint of honey, it is mouth-wateringly luscious.

i11485.jpg

Edited by Laksa (log)
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Laksa,  those nutty snacks are really good  and handy, aren't they?  Have you ever had Ak-Am peanut & sesame seed candy?  If not, I'm gonna bring some for you and Ms. Congee who,  btw, I hope will continue to post on eG after your blog is over.  (That was so hard to type because I really don't want to see it end!)

Yetty, I've never had Ak-Am candy. Is it good? It sure looks good. I managed to find a webpage with pictures here. Those candy have some pretty wacky names. :biggrin:

Once they are firm, let me know the dates you'll be in NY. Should we organize an eGullet "Elsewhere in Asia/Pacific" posters mini get-together? :raz:

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The bitter gourds pictured here are 100% bitter. I would make a soup out of it, with some pork bones, carrots and onions. My mum tells me it is very "cooling".

The bigger ones that are about 8 inches long and has shallower grooves, and are about 70% bitter and 30% sweet. The deeper the grooves the more bitter the taste. These are wonderful braised with a fatty meat like pork ribs. I also like to slice them thinly, sprinkle with a little salt and then make an omelet with sliced onions. Or cut into rings and stuff with fish paste to form yong-tau-foo.

The seeds of both types are not edible.

Edited by tonkichi (log)
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...so how would you prepare/cook bitter gourd if you WERE going to eat it? The season is in full swing here in Japan!

We usually stir fry it with salted soy bean and garlic.

To prepare it, half the bitter gourd lengthwise, and scoop out the core & seeds with a spoon. Rub generously with salt to make it less bitter. Wash the salt off, and put the flat side down on the chopping board. Slice them about 1/8" thick.

Sautee chopped garlic in heated cooking oil until aromatic. Add sliced bitter gourd. When the bitter gourd appears softer, add few tablespoons of salted soy beans to taste. For 1 bitter gourd that we get here, I would probably put ½-1 tablespoon of soy bean.

Continue cooking for a while, probably 5 minutes or more, so that the soy bean breaks apart and imparts its saltiness to the bitter gourd. (If soy bean is undercooked here, it will be too salty while the vege will not be salty enough when served.)

Here's a picture of salted soy bean. You can sometimes find it in a can. I have a craving for this dish once in a while... like right about now.

i11491.jpg

Edited to reflect ½-1 tablespoon of soy bean per bitter gourd.

Thanks & Regards,

Doreen Tan

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That is one pornographic peach.

You read my mind! :blush:

thank god...

I thought it was just me... :shock:

A photo of a banana or a matsutake mushroom could be a perfect match. :laugh:

Seriously, it's good to know that such varieties as 'freestone' and 'clingstone' existed.

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When either of you have time, could you please go a little bit into the intricacies of Malaysian food?  I understand, that like Filipino cuisine, Malaysian cuisine is a bit of a melting pot, with Chinese and Indian influences in addition to its own.

Oh boy, where do I begin? You're right of course, Malaysian food on a whole is a conglomeration of the three major ethnic groups of the country: Malay, Chinese, and Indian.

An important category of Malaysian food is Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine. The Peranakan culture is essentially the result of the cross-cultivation of Chinese and Malay traditions that began in the 17th century, maybe earlier by some accounts, when Chinese traders settled in Penang, Melaka and Singapore and started families by marrying the local Malays. These families retained Chinese traditions but at the same time adopted an extensive set of local customs and practices.

The use of both Chinese and Malay ingredients in combination typifies Nyonya cuisine. For example, Chinese rice noodles are cooked in spicy fish or shrimp paste soups to make Laksa. The recipe for Babi Chin calls for pork -- the default Chinese meat, but forbidden (non-halal) to Muslims -- to be cooked with coriander, a spice that's foreign to Chinese cuisine but a key ingredient in Malay kari.

The peranakan are unique examples of a cultural commingling that is rarer among the recent immigrants of the 19th and 20th century.

Even though the second and third generation Chinese and Indians hold more closely to their traditions, their diets have been very much open to local influences. The current generation of Chinese Malaysians are as comfortable eating kangkong belachan (ong choy/water convulvus stir-fried with shrimp paste) as they are eating Chinese roast pork. Roti canai, a light fluffy tossed and toasted bread served with curry, and Nasi Lemak, a dish of rice cooked in coconut milk with sambal belachan (spicy sauce made from chilli and shrimp paste, again) are just two examples of distinctive ethnic dishes -- Indian and Malay, respectively -- that have universal appeal among all of Malaysia's ethnic groups.

Classic Malay cookery drew its early influences, in the 15th century or thereabouts, from traders from India, China and the Middle East. It makes use use of spices like tumeric, chillies, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass, in addition to the old stalwarts of cumin and coriander. The spice list is by no means comprehensive, but it is representative.

Coconut milk also makes a frequent appearance in recipes, used in place of water sometimes, as in nasi lemak, or in stews much like one might use cream in Western cuisine to add richness and to "lengthen" the flavor.

Rice is the usual staple, and chicken, beef and fish are popular sources of protein.

While it might be tempting to generalize about Malaysian food, not all of it is fusion cuisine. The recent immigrants continue to prepare dishes that remain ethnically distinct. Should you venture into a kitchen in a Chinese home in Malaysia, don't be surprised to find food that one might see in Guangzhou or Fujian.

We're planning to have dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in NYC tonight and hope to show examples of some typical Malaysian dishes, as well as "hawker" food that is ubiquitous in many parts of Malaysia and Singapore.

Hawker food are so-called because they are sold by hawkers from mobile street stalls, but are now more often found in small informal restaurants, commonly called "coffee shops", or in hawker centers, which are like food courts, but on a larger scale. Examples of hawker food include Char Kway Teow, a stir-fried flat rice noodle dish, and Hae Mee, shrimp and wheat noodles in a spicy broth.

In the next couple of days, expect to see my own attempt at Malaysian chicken curry, and we'll probably make Laksa tomorrow.

Umai is a regional oddity, a Dayak raw fish salad that is unique to Sarawak. Ms Congee hopes to illustrate two slightly different versions of Umai for lunch today.

Edited by Laksa (log)
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...so how would you prepare/cook bitter gourd if you WERE going to eat it? The season is in full swing here in Japan!

I add reconstituted dried oysters with my soup.

Or, I would hollow out the seeds, stuff the gourds with ground pork, cut it into one inch slices, then braised with a black bean garlic sauce, or if my daughter insistes, an oyster sauce.

Bitter melon is considered a cooling element.

Really enjoying the combined efforts in your blog, Laksa and Ms Congee! :smile:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Life imitating foodblogs. . . I'm making congee in my rice cooker right now, because I just couldn't resist the idea.

I must say, this will turn out to be a richer congee than the ones I've had in restaurants, as it has more meat than the few tiny, leftover slivers of pork you get in most dim sum places. All the versions I've had before this seemed so bland that I was never inspired to want to make it at home.

You learn something new every day. :smile:

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While Ms Congee kept herself busy making Umai, I enjoyed a chilled slice of melon. It's been hot and humid throughout the night and a cold piece of fruit first thing in the morning is particularly welcome.

i11514.jpg

Went into the kitchen to check on her progress, and I thought the least I could do was to take some pictures.

She's slicing up some flounder. I think any white fish with non-fatty flesh is suitable for Umai. The fish slices are then soaked in kalamansi and lime juice for a couple of hours to "cook" them. By this time, the acid would have turned the flesh opaque. The juice is then discarded.

i11509.jpgi11511.jpg

The two slightly different recipes she uses have lots of ingredients in common:

i11510.jpg

From top left going clockwise we have ginger, which will be sliced or julienned very finely, vidalia and red onion, sour mustard - a pickled vegetable, shallots, sour mustard shown sliced, Thai chillies, and finally the brown block is belachan or shrimp paste. Salt and chilli powder are the ingredients not pictured.

The belachan is first toasted in the pan and pounded and made into a paste with kalamansi juice and goes into the light colored Umai shown below. All the other ingredients are finely sliced and tossed in the salad. Although the original recipe doesn't call for it, I like to add a little fish sauce (nam pla) into the red Umai.

Red Umai is made with fish, chillies, chilli powder, ginger, shallots, salt and nam pla.

i11512.jpg

White Umai is made with fish, chillies, ginger, sour mustard, shallots, red and vidalia onion, belachan and salt.

i11513.jpg

Edited by Laksa (log)
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The red Umai looks delicious -- but the white Umai's presentation is beautiful and looks delicious! Thank you both for a great, interesting blog.

Homemade congee is definitely in my future, as well as the Umai. :biggrin:

Edited by lovebenton0 (log)

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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Life imitating foodblogs. . . I'm making congee in my rice cooker right now, because I just couldn't resist the idea.

I must say, this will turn out to be a richer congee than the ones I've had in restaurants, as it has more meat than the few tiny, leftover slivers of pork you get in most dim sum places. All the versions I've had before this seemed so bland that I was never inspired to want to make it at home.

You learn something new every day. :smile:

Do let us know how your congee turn out. There are a lot of suitable ingredients that can be added to make this dish tasty, in addition to meat. It can be prepared vegetarian too, without losing taste.

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Oh, thank you for asking. I really liked it a lot, actually. Cleanup is pretty easy with the rice cooker, but a little rice goo/water bubbled out of the steam hole a couple times. I just went ahead and wrapped a towel around that side of the cooker when I saw it was doing this.

The overall flavor was a little spicier than I expected it to be, with the amount of white pepper I added, plus the pungency of the fresh ginger. I also put a little chili oil on top, but instead of marinated bamboo, I used some thin slivers of pickled Daikon radish, since I had some to use up.

It was very tasty, and you could tell the fat from the pork had bubbled out and then been absorbed by the rice. You could probably make a lower-fat version, if you needed to, by using turkey instead, but as I do whenever making that substitution in any Chinese recipe, I always up the seasoning to make up for the difference.

Thanks for giving me such a great idea! Great blog!

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Hawker food are so-called because they are sold by hawkers from mobile street stalls, but are now more often found in small informal restaurants, commonly called "coffee shops", or in hawker centers, which are like food courts, but on a larger scale.  Examples of hawker food include Char Kway Teow, a stir-fried flat rice noodle dish, and Hae Mee, shrimp and wheat noodles in a spicy broth.

In the next couple of days, expect to see my own attempt at Malaysian chicken curry, and we'll probably make Laksa tomorrow.

Laksa,

Exciting blog! I've made several trips to Singapore and have fond memories of many of the dishes. The best skate I've ever had was at a hawker center near Orchard Road.

Would you mind posting the list of ingredients for Laksa so we could go shopping early and cook along?

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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OT but I just had to ask: jerzymade, would the skate you're referring to be stingray? Barbequed sambal stingray to be precise?

Hey, are you guys psychic or something? I was gonna ask you to guess what I had for dinner at Penang Restaurant on Elizabeth St. tonight, but you already knew! Dang!

Pangan Ikan (stingray smeared thickly with sambal spices and grilled in banana leaf)

i11529.jpg

Let me just post pictures of the dishes for the time being. "Review" to come later.

Roti Canai (Indian style pancake served with curry chicken as dipping sauce)

i11531.jpg

Penang Char Kway Teow (stir fried flat rice noodles with shrimp, squid, bean sprouts, egg, soy sauce and chili paste)

i11532.jpg

Nasi Lemak (coconut rice flavored with cloves and pandan (screwpine leaves) served with chili anchovy, curry chicken, achar, and hard boild egg)

i11533.jpg

Kangkung Belacan (stir-fried ong choy or water convolvulus/water spinach with spicy Malaysian shrimp paste sauce)

i11530.jpg

Ais Kacang (shaved ice with red bean, corn, palm seeds, jelly, red rose syrup and coconut milk).

Whole Ais Kacang. And close up of demolished ais kacang to show ingredients.

i11535.jpgi11536.jpg

Edited to add Ais Kacang. How could I have forgotten?

Edited by Laksa (log)
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