Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What's for dinner? Malaysian flavors

I'll admit, I stole the advice column idea from Design Mom. But I only steal from the best.

Cherie asks:

We have a Malaysian restaurant here which is pretty groovy. I've tried to approximate what they do, and I've come pretty close. The essential spice/ flavor mix seems to be something like peanut sauce, fish sauce, cumin, beans, molasses, and hot pepper flakes (plus a bunch of other spices).

Malaysian cuisine is very similar to Indonesian in its use of spices and aromatics. I blogged about a recent article in Saveur on Indonesian cooking by their new executive editor, James Oseland. What tasted like molasses to you may have been a combination of palm sugar and kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce that's as thick as molasses.

The following are some key "Spice Island" ingredients. You may be able to find these at a local Asian market. You can also order many of them from Kalustyan's, or drive down to New York and get them at Bangkok Center Grocery.

  • fresh tumeric
  • daun pandan leaves (also known as screw pine leaves)
  • galangal (similar to ginger)
  • kaffir lime leaves
  • palm sugar
  • shrimp paste
  • tamarind pulp
  • kecap manis
  • cassia (similar to cinnamon)

Cloves, nutmeg, and chiles also feature prominently.

Of course, you can substitute many of these with easier-to-find ingredients. You can use cinnamon instead of cassia, brown sugar instead of palm sugar. But the closer you get to the authentic ingredients the closer it will taste to the real thing.

On Oseland's website you'll find a Malaysian chicken satay recipe as well. Enjoy!

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