Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sambal Telur

There's a very high chance that this is not your first time coming across sambal telur or egg sambal in blogs by Malaysians, or sambal of any kind for that matter. If you're a fellow Malaysian, blogger or not, there's an extremely low probability that you have not cooked sambal before in your very own kitchen, arrrggchoo-ing continuously as you saute that fiery red chili paste in your wok.

The popular base sauce known as 'sambal' has chili as its main ingredient, blended to a smooth paste alongside other condiments like onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, candlenut and of course, the infamously fragrant Asian shrimp paste or 'belacan'. Different types of sambal may call for the use of different condiments.

Sambal has its roots in Malay cuisine but sambal telur has, over centuries-long of cultural assimilation, become a regular dish in Peranakan or BabaNyonya households.

By its generic name, sambal brings a meaningful form of commonality between the cuisines of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. On the other hand, through its varied forms and adaptations, sambal brings uniqueness and identity to each of the said cuisine.

The types of chilies used are usually dried chilies, although there are some recipes that may call for a mixture of dried and fresh chilies, or just fresh chilies alone. Substituting a small amount of the fresh chilies with the bird's eye variety will up the ante for those who have frequently trained and toughened tongue sensory. For the uninitiated, let's just stick to using the less spicy variety of dried or fresh chilies, whichever the recipe calls for.

Once you get a good sambal base, you can switch the eggs with poultry or red meat or seafood, like dried anchovies (ikan bilis), prawns, squids, cockles etc. Sambal is synonymous with nasi lemak (coconut milk rice), one of Malaysia's many signature meals but is also often served as a dish to go with plain rice.

Here's my regular egg sambal recipe the way I've been taught to cook it by my late Mom, who never left my heart nor my thoughts.

Egg Sambal (Serves 3-4)

4 hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup cooking oil
15-20 strips of dried chilies (add more for spicier sambal)
8-10 shallots
3 candlenuts
1.5 tsp belacan (Asian shrimp paste)
1 tbsp tamarind paste, rub/mix in 3/4 cup water
4-5 kaffir leaves
2 large onions, halved then sliced
2 tomatoes, quartered (optional)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp or enough salt for taste

Use a kitchen scissors to cut the dried chilies and remove the seeds inside. Boil in a small pot of water for 5 minutes, then discard the water. Blend the chilies, shallots, candlenuts and shrimp paste. Add 1/4 cup water to ease blending. Heat the cooking oil in a wok/large pan. Saute the blended paste and kaffir leaves together for about 10 -12 minutes over medium heat until the paste is fragrant and is somewhat drier. Add in the tamarind juice, but discard the pulp and seeds. Add in the sliced onions, tomatoes, eggs, sugar and salt . Stir well and let it simmer for a few minutes. It should have a slight hint of sweetness but slightly more sourness. Add enough salt according to personal preference but do note that without enough salt, the sambal will not taste as good. Dish up and serve with rice.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best Banana Muffin With Apricots And Choc Chips

If you love bananas and muffins, this is a recipe you simply must try! It's easy and quick to make, and the taste is totally uncompromised!

By any measure, this is one of the best muffins I've ever made! But then again, I haven't really made THAT many muffins. Whatever it is, seriously, this is a good muffin recipe to share and many people have testified to that. It did not only survive the unforgiving critique of many home cooks but also received glowing reviews from those who tried it. I found this recipe on CatCanCook. The recipe is also included below for a quicker reference.

This is the 2nd time I made this. This time, I gave it a little twist by adding chopped dried apricots and chocolate chips for extra 'dimension'. The base recipe is so good - soft, moist, springy and delicious. What more could you ask for in a muffin?! With a hot cup of coffee or tea, this muffin will just perk up anyone's sulky day.

Recipe (makes 12 delightful muffins)
3-4 large ripe bananas (around 470g)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt

Optional: 100g chopped dried apricot and 50g chocolate chips (the combination of dried apricot, chocolate chip and banana go really well together).

Remove the banana skin and mash them. Mix in the sugar, melted butter and egg together with the mashed banana and stir well. Combine in the sifted flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda, salt, dried apricots and choc chips and mix until just combined. The trick with muffins is to NOT over mix. The batter is supposed to be lumpy and not thoroughly combined like a cake batter. Pour 3/4 full into paper cups placed in muffin pan. Bake at 150 deg C till done.