Monday, July 21, 2014

Singapore Galore - Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak
Continuing on my Singapore Galore series is another one of my many favourite dishes I grew up loving, the hawker centre's darling, Nasi Lemak.
Did you know: Hawker Centres are open-air food courts in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong with passionate vendors selling local inexpensive street food where patrons can eat al fresco. Hawker Centres are conveniently located near transportation hubs.
An iconic national dish from Malaysian, Nasi Lemak is relatively simple to make but involves a few key ingredients to ensure the presence of its authentic flavours. The main components include creamy rice steeped in coconut milk and knotted pandan leaves, crispy fried anchovies, rich eggs, refreshing cucumber slices, roasted peanuts and spicy chilli sauce.

Pandan Leaves
Pandan leaves are indigenous to Southeast Asian cuisine and embodies a complex flavour profile that I find hard to describe. The tropical plants' long green leaves can be pounded into a paste, steeped in coconut milk or used as a wrapper to transfer its unique floral and nutty aromatic flavours to dishes.
Coconut pandan rice
Did you know: Nasi Lemak means rich or creamy in Malay to represent the cooking process where the rice is steeped in coconut cream and steamed.
Like many national dishes, Nasi Lemak has been adopted and flavours improvised to suit taste buds from the Chinese adding more sweetness to the chilli paste to reduce the heat to Filipinos replacing the fried anchovies with crispy chicken.

There are so many reason why I love this dish, mainly for its tropical flavours that remind me of my childhood in Singapore and how easily I can replicate it at home! For those who haven't tried it, it's so simple and easy to whip up while its presentation is still impressive in all its delicious glory served up in a fragrant banana leaf!

Banana Leaves
Did you know: Use banana leaves, easily found frozen in Asian grocery stores, to serve or even package your Nasi Lemak like how it's traditionally done. The leaves' oils impart a wonderful aromatic fragrance marrying all the yummy flavours while being an eco-friendly serving ware!
Nasi Lemak
Serves 2

- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 (1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- salt to taste
- 2 pandan (or screw pine) leaves, knotted
- 1/2 cup long grain rice, rinsed and drained

- 2 eggs, fried
- 2" cucumber, peeled & sliced
- 1/4 cup oil for frying
- 1 (4 ounce) package white anchovies, washed
- 1/2 cup raw peanuts
- 2 banana leaves, used as plates

Chilli Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoon chilli paste
- 1 (4 ounce) package white anchovies, washed
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice

1) In a saucepan over medium heat stir in coconut milk, water, ginger, salt, pandan leaves and rice. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until rice has absorbed milk and is fluffy. Remove the pandan leaves before serving.
Roasted peanuts
2) In a large wok, heat 1 tbsp of sunflower oil over medium-high heat and stir in peanuts and cook briefly, until lightly browned, season with salt. Remove peanuts with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to soak up excess grease. 
3) Heat 1/4 cup of oil, add one package anchovies; cook briefly, turning, until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Discard oil. Wipe out skillet.
4) Heat 1 tbsp of oil in skillet and fry eggs. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place lid on top of skillet to cook eggs, 2 min.
Chilli Sauce
5) Heat 2 tbsp oil in the skillet. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 or 2 minutes. Mix in the chilli paste, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, sugar, and lemon; simmer until sauce is thick, about 2 minutes.
6) Serve the warm rice on a banana leaf top with peanuts, fried anchovies, cucumbers and eggs with the chilli sauce on the side. So good, la! (Singlish) 
So good la!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Singapore Galore - Curry Puff

Malaysian Curry Puff
It's been over 20 years since we've moved from Singapore so I'm challenging myself to recreate the authentic delicious food I grew up eating. Starting my Singapore Galore food series is the heavenly golden Malaysian curry puff! 

Did you know: The origins of the Malaysian curry puff are said to be influenced by the British Cornish pasty, the Portuguese empanada and the Indian samosa. Wherever it came from, thank goodness because they're delish!!
My memories of growing up in Singapore during the 80's take me back to a time when leaving cash at the nook of our front gate meant it was for the bread man and no one thought twice of taking it. Every week my Mom would leave just enough for bread and the delivery man who would in turn carefully place  a loaf of delicious white bread in our gate. If we were lucky, my Mom left just a little extra for a half dozen freshly handmade curry puffs! 

Oh, how I miss having crispy curry puffs! These half-moon shaped pastries are a meal by itself, little purses carrying golden tender spicy chicken that would stain my fingers yellow because of they were packed full of yummy curry goodness. 

Curry Ingredients
Makes 24 curry puffs

2 cups boneless chicken breast or thighs 
1/2 large onion
1/2 large potato 
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp water
2 curry leaves
2 tbsp sambal oelek 
1tsp sugar
1tsp salt
1tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup sliced green onions
3 hard boiled eggs
  1. Dice the large onions.
  2. Cut chicken into small pieces/ cubes.
  3. Add curry powder into the water and mix into a paste.
  4. Peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes of about 0.25" squares and bake in 350 oven for 20 min.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp of sunflower oil. Saute onions until translucent. Then mix in sambal olek and curry paste.
  6. Add curry paste, salt, sugar, chicken & curry leaves. Fry for another 10 minutes. Towards the end, add the potatoes and stir/mix. The filling is done. 
  7. Hard boil the eggs and cut into segments.

Curry Puff Butter Crust

Outside pastry
1 cup all purpose flour 
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cups cold water

  1. Mix, knead flour. Add the water bit by bit as you knead.
  2. Separate into 2 balls 
Inside pastry
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter

  1. Mix, knead flour
  2. Separate into 2 balls 
Making the pastries
  1. Flatten outside pastry, just wide enough to wrap around one ball of inside pastry ball.
  2. Wrap around inside pastry ball.
  3. Flatten both then roll up tightly and flatten about 3 - 4 times.
  4. Once flattened then roll dough into long tube.
  5. Cut roll into 1/2" width pieces.
  6. Flatten individual pastry pieces into rounds to place curry and one sliced egg in the middle.
  7. Close pastry over ingredients and crimp the sides by folding over to seal puff.
  8. Lightly flour cookie sheet and place completed curry puffs until ready for frying.

To Fry
Heat clean frying oil like canola or peanut oil to 375 degrees F in a large pot until gentle bubbling. Then slowly insert curry puffs into oil without overcrowding. 
Frying fresh curry puffs take 2-3 min until light golden brown.
Frying frozen curry puffs take 3-6 min to ensure warmed through all the way.

Let cool for 5 minutes and these little golden curry pockets are ready to eat!

Did you know: These puffs are suitable for freezing. Place puffs freezer ziplocks and place in freezer, to be fried (no need to defrost) just before serving.