Such a long time ago now, I was introduced to the joys of Malaysian Cuisine courtesy of the London Foodie’s London Cooking Club. I love Oriental cuisine, but before that evening I could not have told you what Malaysian food was all about, as I was more familiar with Thai, Chinese or Japanese dishes.
Luiz and his partner graciously open up their home to fellow foodies as part of the London Cooking Club. I was invited to the Malaysian by May themed evening at London Cooking Club, and had to select one of May’s Malaysian dishes to prepare in advance and cook up for the group at Luiz’s place. I can’t tell you how nerve wracking it is to cook a recipe and serve to the person who wrote the recipe. I was petrified!
I thought I’d chosen a simple dish Malaysian Chicken Satay, but I hadn’t checked the ingredient list carefully enough and found myself on a last minute panic running round Soho and later persuading my husband to drive me to Wing Vip (oriental superstore in Cricklewood) to find ingredients totally alien to me like Galangal and Belacan.
The night itself was fantastic with every dish a new taste experience for me, I felt a little guilty at choosing such a simple dish to prepare but have it on good authority other dishes which looked and tasted very impressive like the Ikan Bilis were very straight forward to make.
For me the London Cooking Club isn’t just a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night, the evening has had a lasting impact on my culinary repertoire. Over the past few months, I have tried preparing pretty much all of the dishes at home again, and the Beef Rendang, Pineapple and Prawn Curry, Coconut Rice have become firm favourites at home. In fact, I’m writing this as I’m waiting for my Beef Rendang and before starting to prep my Stir Fried Green Beans in Belacan.
And I have become a frequent flyer at Wing Vip and seem to have a regular store of Malayasian ingredients at home.
Below is a snapshot of some of the ingredients I have come to love which left me baffled at the beginning.
Belacan or Belachan – seriously took me ages to find first time round, it is dried shrimp paste and comes in a range of different formats, granules, block and powder. It is amazingly pungent and does make a difference so don’t be tempted to miss it out, although ventilate your kitchen well when cooking.
Tamarind – This is the fruit, the flesh of which is a dark reddish brown and has a juicy, sour flesh. If you are trying to make tamarind juice, you will need to buy a dark, sticky block of tamarind and break off a chunk to soak in hot water and drain off the juice.
Candlenuts – also called Kemiri nuts Ground candlenut are often used to thicken Malaysian sauces, they are so oily that locals string them together and use them as candles. Candlenuts are highly toxic when raw and must be cooked before eating.
Check out May’s website Malaysian by May for the recipes that have inspired me, including Norman Musa’s Beef Rendang which I’m cooking right now – although I find I need to cook it for several hours not just the one hour stated in order to get that flaky dried texture and amazingly flavoursome beef.
Big thanks to May and Luiz for a fantastic culinary experience.