Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

When I was in Hong Kong back in 2005, one of my first meals was a Dim Sum lunch washed down with warm jasmine tea (check my “Oriental” post).

Eating dim sum is known in Cantonese as “yum cha” (drinking tea 美味) as jasmine tea is traditionally drunk with this snack.

Able (Rick’s fiancée) ordered dim sum for us. She chose those which were sure to cater to our Western palates.

7 years later and my chance to experience dim sum returned whilst on holiday in Malaysia. We went to Pappa Rich for “Malaysian Treats” and lo and behold there was dim sum on the menu!!

Back at home – holidays over – I rediscovered my Asian Kitchen.

How difficult could it really be to create dim sum? A pastry case filled with a small amount of filling; steamed.

Admittedly the only reason why I was able to create these at home was thanks to the Mecca for Asian ingredients that is Ramsons!! I hit the jackpot when I found packets of frozen wonton wrappers in their freezer section.

Pork and Prawn Dim Sum

1st: Add the minced pork, shelled and uncooked prawns, spring onions, garlic, ginger, flour and soy sauce into a food processor and blitz until you form a smooth paste.

2nd: Line up the wonton squares on your work surface and using a pastry brush (my fingers did the job fine!) moisten the edges.

3rd: Place a teaspoonful of the pork and prawn mixture onto the centre of the square. Do not try and overfill as this will cause your dim sum to spill over in cooking.

4th: Pick all four corners of the wonton square and gently squeeze out any air still in the dim sum. The shape you choose to create is totally up to you.  I read somewhere that in Asian culture each shape has a different meaning or is created for a particular filling or occasion. I however am neither Asian nor deft at creating pastry shapes, hence my army of pork-prawn hobo sacks!

5th: Place the dim sum into a bamboo steamer for a few minutes.  I however, did not have a bamboo steamer so therefore chose to cook my dim sum gyoza-style.  I placed the dim sum into a frying pan with a little oil and fried the gyoza until the base was browned.  Then poured a glass of water into the pan to create steam and covered the pan for 3 mins.

I served my dim sum with sesame prawn toast and washed it down with warm, fragrant jasmine tea.

Delicious 美味

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I now understand why everyone, and I literally mean everyone, mentions food as one of the top 10 tourist attractions to see and do in Malaysia! The Lonely Planet guide ranks Malaysia’s food culture as 9th in its list of things to do and see. To quote The Lonely Planet website:

“The atmosphere is electric and the many types of food available will leave the first-time visitor in a daze!”

This enthusiastically caught my attention but dare I say it, 9th is pathetically low – it should be ranked much higher.  There is plenty of touristy stuff to do but apart from the eclectic mix of cultures, it was the food that really stood out for me.  From the street food in Jalan Alor to the exquisite cakes at the KL Tower, everything was delicious (except the evil durian fruit that should not be considered a food!)

When I originally thought about Malaysian food, I immediately assumed Asian cuisine; veering towards Chinese, who wouldn’t? But this was an ignorant assumption! Malaysian cuisine is spicier and hotter than I thought it was going to be. I was also unaware of the strong Muslim influence in everything Malaysian. As our taxi driver jovially told us,

“50% of Malaysia is Muslim, the other 50% is made up of the rest of us!”

Culinarily though, this meant that the vast spread of cultures and subsequently dietary requirements has impacted on the variety of foods at stalls and restaurants throughout KL (I’ll tell you about the Arabic restaurant I went into on another occasion).  There was always a vast selection of foods to choose from: Malaysian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Australian, Italian, Mediterranean, Iranian, Moroccan, etc.  Sadly there  was also a KFC and the omnipresent McDonalds.

Jalan Alor

We asked the concierge at our hotel, The Royale Bintang, where they could recommend for us to go for dinner.  They were very quick to mention several western style restaurants but on exclaiming the words, “We want to eat local.”  They chorused, “Jalan Alor!”
On a parallel street to us was the infamous Jalan Alor. A cacophony of scent and sound, where plastic furniture is laid out in a continuous line on either side of a busy street.  Pedestrian and vehicle weave their way through a throng of diners out for delicious food at ridiculous prices!

As total first-timers in KL and more specifically, Jalan Alor, we decided to play it safe and opted for a Chinese-Malaysian eatery.

Here we dined on soy marinated peanuts, mouthwatering squid rings, buttered prawns, aromatic pork ribs and sweet and sour pork.

Everything was delicious!  The soy marinated peanuts were slightly slimy at first but once the initial hesitation subsides they were actually very moreish.  I’ve tried to recreate these at home; unsuccessfully.

However, the pièce de résistance was the relatively modern malaysian dish: buttered prawns.  This dish combines Malay, Chinese, Indian and western ingredients.  A knockout dish which revealed layer upon layer of complex flavours–buttery, salty, sweet, spicy, and garlicky working off one another seamlessly and perfectly.  It was packed with such amazing flavour that you were not even bothered about peeling the prawns at times so that you could suck the tantalising coating covering them!!

Throughout KL, different restaurants claim to serve the best buttered prawns!

Sadly, as simple as recipes suggest their re-creation ability is, the quality of the ingredients we can buy here is not the same.  Oh well, another trip to Malaysia is going to have to be a must to satisfy my buttered prawns cravings.  

The original finger licking good!

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