Friday, December 30, 2011

Back home in Malaysia!! Yum yum!

I'm back in the homeland.   It goes without saying that there's been a lot of eating,  looking at food and talking about food.  The whole family is super-psyched about Auria's Malaysian Kitchen and folks are literally throwing ideas and recipes at me.  I'm overwhelmed and touched with how eager everyone is to share their experience and knowledge with all the various types of food available here.  I hear "I KNOW where the best char kuey teow is in Penang",  to "this is the best and ONLY way to make a devil curry!",  to "so-and-so makes the best dry mutton curry and we should ask him how it's done".   My dad insists that we make a list of all the Malaysian delights that we want to eat lest we forget something  - oh! what a tragedy that would be!

I've spent a couple of days in the kitchen with my mum - what an honor and a blessing. On Tuesday,  we went to the Seremban wet market  - what is a wet market?  It's a primarily Asian phenomenon - you'll have to roll up your trouser cuffs and tread with care so you don't step into a puddle of dirty, fishy water.  As a child,  I would go with mum to the wet market most Friday afternoons after school to do the food shopping for the week - I rarely escaped without a yucky wet foot.  Over time,  I learned to maneuver very carefully and figure out where to put a foot and where to definitely NOT put a foot.  With fish and meat being butchered on location,  the floors are constantly washed to keep them "clean" ;o)  There are a few main areas  - produce,  meats,  fish,  and the dry goods area which is filled with rice, spices,  dried noodles and the like.  On the second floor,  there are egg and fruit sellers,  florists and the yummiest "food court" you'll ever come across.  The range of food items that are available in the wet market is astounding.  The experience of shopping at one is colorful,  complex and incredibly smelly with each section proudly boasting its very own range of smells.

I have loads of video of our trip to the market - but I'll leave you with just this as I'm too busy gathering new recipes and ideas to share with all of you when I get back to Brooklyn!  When I get home,  I'll see if the rest of it looks good enough to edit together and post.  Here's a short little video of mum walking through one of the many little alleys in the market to the onion and garlic man.  Mum has been buying her onions,  garlic,  ginger and potatoes from this man for over thirty years.  He speaks to me in Malay - he says "Hello,  how are you?" and when he notices that I'm shooting,  he poses with mum and then says "But my shirt is dirty!"  I tease mum and call him her market beau!  Scandalous!

Happy New Year to each and every one of the two of you who read this :o)  May 2012 bring us all much love,  laughter,  friendship and lots and lots of good eating!!


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Monday, October 24, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric, Fenugreek & Mustard Seeds

Here's an incredibly tasty and gorgeous cauliflower dish that was part of our dinner last night.  It's not typically Asian in that the cauliflower is roasted.  We don't usually roast veggies in the East - we usually cook them to within an inch of their lives (except for Chinese-style veggies which always maintain the freshness of the produce).  This dish combines the flavors of Indian cooking with the technique of roasting vegetables that I learned here in NY - the resulting dish is a side that is tasty,  aromatic, tender and slightly crunchy on the outside!  This is a wonderful accompaniment to most any main dish. 

1 large cauliflower cut into florets 
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
3 tablespoons water
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 scallions - sliced for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Blanch the cauliflower for 2-3 minutes - remove from boiling water promptly so as not to overcook and transfer to a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, combine the olive oil,  turmeric, mustard seeds,  fenugreek,  water, and salt.   Slowly pour this mixture over the blanched cauliflower.  Toss to coat the cauliflower as evenly as possible.  Transfer this to a large roasting pan and spread the cauliflower out so it is in a single layer.  Make sure it's not crowded in the pan - give it enough space and you'll be rewarded with beautifully crunchy, caramelized tender roasted awesomeness.  
Cook,  uncovered, until fork tender and slightly browned - about 25 minutes.   As you can see from my picture,  only some of the pieces were nicely browned which tells you how wonderfully uneven my old oven is!   Garnish with sliced scallions and freshly ground black pepper.   Servc and enjoy!

Serves 4 - 5
 (The following is copied from my previous blog post featuring the same dish)
FYI,  turmeric has been used in India for over 500 years and is known for its health benefits.  It is a natural liver de-toxifier,  powerful natural anti-inflammatory, aids in fat metabolism and weight management and has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.  Wow,  sounds too good to be true,  doesn't it?  And I even left out the more far-out claims about the benefits of this so-called "wonder spice".  All I know is it makes things taste good and I love the color it adds to various dishes.
- Auria

PS  If you cook this dish or even enjoy reading the recipe,  please leave a comment - I would love to know who (if anybody) is reading these! xo

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Mum's Famous Indian Mashed Potatoes

Indian mashed potatoes
Here's an easy yet incredibly delicious take on mashed potatoes.  My mum has been making this ever since before I can remember.  They are always a big hit and equally easy to whip up for a simple dinner or for a big family gathering.  Everyone always asks for it and these days,  after having cooked for us all these years  she only asks that we cook,  peel and mash the potatoes so all she has to do is the really fun part.  Interestingly enough,  I've never encountered this dish anywhere else in the world,  aside from mum's kitchen and mine.  They're a wonderful accompaniment to any meal and add the subtly nuanced flavors of mustard,  fenugreek and ghee to an otherwise traditionally plain side dish.  

6 large russet potatoes,  peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2  tablespoons ghee
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
One large red onion,  sliced
3 - 4 dried whole chili peppers (more if you want it spicier)
A handful of fresh curry leaves (frozen if fresh is not available)
plain mashed potatoes
Plain mashed potatoes.  Light & fluffy - yes.  Amazingly delicious - no. 
Salt to taste

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water.  Cover and bring to a boil;  cook for 20 minutes or until very tender.  Remove from saucepan and mash until light and fluffy. 

onions dried chillies mustard fenugreek curry leaves in pan
The aroma of this will bring your neighbors to your house. 
In a large frying pan or wok,  heat the ghee (substitute with butter if you can't find ghee).  Add the fenugreek and mustard seeds.  Fry over medium heat for one minute.  Add the onions,  dried chili peppers and curry leaves (substitute with a couple of bay leaves if you can't find these).  Fry this combination of ingredients until your kitchen smells like either A. Heaven or B. The best Indian restaurant you ever set foot in.

Indian mashed potatoes dried chillies onions mustard seeds fenugreek
Thank you mum  - for these gorgeous mashed potatoes! 
Once you achieve the desired aroma (you'll know when it happens) and the onions are slightly caramelized,  add the mashed potatoes and stir well to combine.  Add salt to taste.  Over medium low heat,  alternate mixing and letting the potatoes sit in the pan and cook.  The best part of this dish is the slightly crisp potatoes at the bottom of the pan.  I like to let this cook and crisp as much as possible.  Make sure the heat is low enough so your gorgeous mashed potatoes don't burn.

Serves 6,  but in my house with only the three of us we hardly have any leftovers.

 Fenugreek -  If you've never experienced this spice,  run out and get some now.  You can find it at any Indian supermarket.  It's called "methi" in Hindi.  The little amber-colored square seeds have a bitter taste and a characteristically strong smell yet when used in cooking,  it imparts a wonderful aroma to a variety of seafood and vegetarian dishes.  In my mum's kitchen,  when I was a little and didn't know the names of the many different spices,  she referred to fenugreek as "the square seeds". 

PS  If anyone has any tips for taking better pictures - please and thank you! Pin It

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Journey So Far.....

In March of this year,  after much prodding and pushing,  my husband convinced me to write to Joshua M. Bernstein,  writer of the NY Press' weekly Gut Instinct food column - not to be confused with Josh Bernstein - American explorer, survival expert and host of one of those TV shows where he is dropped in the desert and shows us how to make it out alive.  Our Joshua pegs himself as a Brooklyn-based beer and food journalist and survives on a diet of everything that Brooklyn has to offer in the culinary sense.

I sent off an email to him on a Friday afternoon,  explaining my background and how I learned to cook in my mother's kitchen back home in Malaysia from a very young age.  I asked if he might like to come eat with us sometime.  It turns out that our food explorer barely survived a much-less-than-awesome meal at a Malaysian restaurant in downtown Manhattan and was inclined to delete my email and hope never to hear from me again!!!

Thankfully,  he squelched his apprehensions and emailed me back - "here's my phone number,  call me and let's figure out what we can do."  We made a plan - I would cook,  he would bring 17 of his most adventurous friends.  Read his review of the meal that was prepared for them here:

This was the menu for the evening:

Ikan Bilis with Peanuts as an appetizer - crunchy and salty ikan bilis with shallots and chillies.
crispy fried ikan bilis peanuts

Spicy Shrimp Sambal  - sautéed in red chillies,  lemongrass and coconut milk.
jumbo shrimp sambal prawn sambal

Yellow Split Peas with Carrots & Potatoeschana dal dhall carrots

Sinhalese-style Cucumber Raita
cucumber raita

Collard Greens - flavored with mustard seeds and fenugreek.
collard greens peanuts

Dessert - Lepat Pisang.  A traditional Malaysian dessert made with bananas,  jaggery and shreddedcoconut, steamed in banana leaves.lepat pisang Malaysian steamed banana pudding

The idea for an underground supper club slowly came together - it was dubbed The Cardamom Club.   A few dinners were organized and executed.  Very quickly it became clear that I needed to hit the reset button and start a-new.   Auria's Malaysian Kitchen is the phoenix that has risen from the ashes of The Cardamom Club.

I'll be sharing a lot of authentic Malaysian recipes and showing you how easy it is to make really delicious,  simple, and healthy meals at home the way my mother cooked for us.   If you've eaten something at a Malaysian restaurant and would like to know how it's made,  write to me at and I'll find an easy,  make-at-home version for you to try.

I hope to see you at Auria's Malaysian Kitchen and share some of the delights of the East with you soon! Pin It