Archive | December, 2010

Keropok Lekor: Malay Fish Sausage

14 Dec

One of my favorite aspects of Malaysian culture is how there’s literally someone on every corner waiting to sell you something tasty. For example, a couple of weeks ago a guy set up a shave ice stand outside my apartment complex. (I keep meaning to stop by, but his hours are unpredictable.) The local supermarket is no exception; in addition to a subterranean indoor food court, Pizza Hut, and KFC, there’s an open-air food market. I was feeling a bit peckish, and noticed a new vendor selling something snacky and fried.

I wasn’t sure what it was, but it must be tasty if it’s fried, right? Anyway, it turned out to be keropok lekor, a kind of fish sausage made of Indian mackerel, sago flour, and pandan leaves. It comes freshly fried (these food vendors usually have a propane tank for cooking on the spot) and doused in sweet chili sauce. The texture was unexpected: the outside is crisp, but the inside is spongy, like savory styrofoam. It was also chewier than your average fried snack (though not in an unpleasant way). Very different from Japanese or Korean fish sausage, which tends to be more like a hot dog made of fish paste. I think I prefer the chip form, though.


Roast Pig, Bali

10 Dec

Bali isn’t really known for its food, delicious and unique though it is, but more for its culture and/or fabulous beaches. (Note that Elizabeth Gilbert did her eating in Italy and her loving in Bali.) Despite the thriving tourist industry, Balinese culture remains, at its core, family and community oriented, and most Balinese don’t seem to eat out, unlike in Kuala Lumpur, where people don’t seem to do anything but. As a result, the majority of restaurants cater to tourists and other visitors, and it’s difficult to find Balinese food amidst all the Indonesian and Western staples. (Though I will say: I had a surprisingly satisfying calzone, made all the better by the fact that I was eating it on a tropical beach.)

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Strange Fruit

8 Dec

My love for strange tropical fruits is welldocumented on this blog. The alien ovum-looking thing above is called a “custard apple,” or buah nona (which literally translates to “lady fruit,” according to Google). The English moniker, at least, much more descriptive than, say jackfruit, since it’s about the size and shape of an apple and has a creamy texture.

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Kopi Tiam

6 Dec

Kopi tiam refers to the little Chinese coffee shops that dot the Malaysian and Singaporean urban landscape. Kopi, of course, means coffee, and tiam is “time,” so literally, “coffee time.” (Try saying it with a thick Mandarin accent for the full effect.) They’re like diners in America: family-owned businesses full of old men reading newspapers and crabby ladies serving comfort food, though in Malaysia that’s more likely to mean noodles than pancakes. And, like the true diners in the US, the old-guard kopi tiams are increasingly getting pushed out by chains like Old Town White Coffee and Pappa Rich, which trade on the nostalgia of Malaysians who want to have their air conditioning and eat their roti bakar, too.

The unchanged facade of Kedai Makanan Yut Kee

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SOK Goes To School

1 Dec

One of the things I’d really wanted to do since moving to KL was to take a cooking class. I’m generally pretty comfortable experimenting with new ingredients and trying to recreate dishes in on my own, but Southeast Asian cuisine is so far outside my sphere of knowledge that I knew I needed some professional help. (Like, what do you do with a ginger flower? Or a banana blossom?) Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of the cooking classes here are geared towards locals who want to learn how to cook “exotic” cuisines like French and Italian, because Malaysian home cooking is something that you learn at, well, home. (Or that your maid cooks for you.)

Luckily, I found Bayan Indah, which came highly recommended and had a whole slew of classes that sounded intriguing, including one called Home-Style Malay. (They’ll even teach your maid to cook, in case her skills aren’t up to par.) The menu — chicken braised in soy sauce, cassava greens in coconut milk, banana-leaf grilled fish with chili dip, and a Nyonya-style cake — sounded perfect. (Click here to go straight to the recipes.) Plus it was only 10 minutes from my house.

The idyllic setting for Bayan Indah's classes

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