Thursday, Nov 15th

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Malaysian Food

This rich historical heritage in Malaysia has evidently resulted in it's exotic cuisine. In Malay cuisine fresh aromatic herbs and roots are used, some familiar, such as lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kaffir limes and chilies. Both fresh and dried chilies are used, usually ground into a sambal or chili paste to add hotness to dishes. There are however, less commonly known herbs and roots that are essential in Malay cooking; such as daun kemangi [a type of basil], daun kesum or more commonly called laksa leaf, bunga kantan [wild torch ginger], kunyit basah [turmeric root], lengkuas [galangal] and pandan or pandanus [screwpine leave].

 

Dried spices frequently used in Malay cooking are jintan manis [fennel], jintan putih [cumin] and ketumbar [coriander]; Other dried spices used are cloves, cardamom, star anise, mustard seeds, fenugreek, cinnamon and nutmeg. Both fresh and dried ingredients are frequently used together, usually ground into a rempah ['spice paste]. The rempah is then sautéed in oil to bring out it's flavorful aroma and toasted goodness. Santan [coconut milk] is the basis of Malay lemak dishes. Lemak dishes are typically not hot to taste; it is aromatically spiced and coconut milk is added for a creamy richness [lemak].

Assam Jawa, or tamarind paste is a key element in many Malay assam dishes for adding a sour or tangy taste; especially for fish and seafood dishes. What is tamarind paste? Tamarind paste is the pulp extracted from tamarind pods commonly used as a souring ingredient in Latin America, India, Africa and Asia. While the prime taste is sour, the underlying tang is slightly sweet, reminiscent of dried apricots or dried prunes. The pulp or paste is commonly sold in the form of a semi-dry flat block.