Archive for the ‘Cucumber’ Category

* Acar

Posted on July 21st, 2011 by Linda. Filed under Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chili Peppers, Cucumber, Eggplant, Entree, Malaysian, Nyonya, Salads, Sides, Stir Fry, Vegan, Vegetarian.


Ah Ma, my father’s mother, made the most delicious acar.  She learned from her nyonya mother-in-law, Ah Chor, the lady we thought looked like the little old lady in the 1960’s sitcom, Beverly Hillbillies, in a kebaya!  Ah Ma’s acar is so well pickled, it could have lasted for months if we didn’t devour it all in a week!  Her trick was to wring the blanched vegetables real dry.  I never really appreciated the nyonya heritage in my dad’s family until much later when I got interested in cooking and realized that my grandmother was probably one of the best nyonya cooks around.  Since then, it’s been an endless effort to recreate many of her recipes from the memory of taste.  This is one of them.

Chef’s tip: Use a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible from the blanched vegetables.  Pack acar tightly in a glass jar and keep refrigerated.  Like kimchi, it will keep for several weeks.

Spice Paste:
10 dried long Asian chilies, rehydrated in water or fresh Fresno chilies, seeded
2 stalks lemongrass, sliced thinly
2 slices galangal
1 piece fresh turmeric, about 1 Tablespoon, sliced
8 shallots
3 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon roasted belachan
4 candlenuts

2 carrots peeled
¼ head cauliflower
1 Japanese Eggplant
½ small savoy cabbage
12 Chinese long yard beans
1 English Cucumber, seeded

½ cup canola oil
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup of sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

1. In a food processor or blender, grind chilies, lemongrass and galangal till fine. Add remaining spice paste ingredients and process till smooth. Add a little water if needed. Set aside.
2. Cut all vegetables into 1 inch juliennes. Cut cauliflower into small florets.
3. Blanch vegetables. Blanched carrots, cauliflower and eggplant till tender, about 3 minutes, and cabbage and long beans two minutes. Spin and squeeze vegetables very dry. Add in cucumber.
4. Heat oil on medium high. Fry spice paste till fragrant, red and oil has separated, about 7-10 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar and salt. Fry till fragrant about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Remove from heat.
5. Mix in vegetables and toss to mix. Add peanuts and sesame seeds and mix to combine.  Let it sit for at last 30 mins for flavors to come together.  Can be prepared in advance.  Serve room temperature or chilled.

Serves: 6

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* Assam Laksa

Posted on March 13th, 2009 by Linda. Filed under Cucumber, Cuisine, Entree, Fish, Hei ko Prawn Paste, Lemongrass, Lime, Mint, Noodles, Pineapple, Rau Ram, Soup, Street Foods.

I read in this month’s Saveur that Penang is having its international food festival this week where the celebration is Penang’s foodways.  First of all, in food-obssessed Penang, every day is a celebration of food.  In the same blurb, it described the local specialty, Assam Laksa, as aromatic, tamarind-based fish noodle soup.  Hard to imagine with such a description what the dish really is – except for those in the know.  My mouth starts to water at the thought of the tang, sour, saltiness and spicyness of the beloved noodle dish.

Chef’s tip: You can find fresh tamarind in the pods at Asian, Indian, Latin markets and Whole Foods.  To prepare tamarind, peel off the tough outer skin of the tamarind pod.  Place the flesh, seeds and veins in a bowl and add some warm water.  Using your hands, gently massage the tamarind to dissolve it.  Sieve.  You can also find tamarind in the block at Asian markets, which is essentially the peeled version.  Tamraind concentrate in the bottle is a lot more sour than fresh tamarind, so start with half the amount.


1 lb bluefish (Traditionally mackerel, otherwise, any oily flaky fish)

Spice Paste:
6 dried Japanese chilies or 3 fresh red jalapeno
2 pieces of lemongrass
5 shallots
1 tablespoon roasted belachan
¼ cup of canola oil for frying

1/2 cup tamarind pulp (including seeds) + 1 cup warm water
6 cups water or fish stock (use fish bouillon if necessary)
5 pieces of dried tamarind slices
4 stalks laksa leaves
Salt to taste (at least a few pinchfuls of salt)
2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup of shredded English cucumber
1 red jalapeno
½ red onion
1 cup of fresh pineapples
1 cup of mint leaves, whole
2 tablespoons laksa leaves, finely minced

12 oz thick fresh rice noodles (lai fun) or 6 oz dried rice vermicelli

1 lime, preferably calamansi
2 Tablespoon haeko

Preparing the fish
1.    Steam the fish until opaque and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Reserve fish stock.
2.    When cooled, remove bones and skin, coarsely flake the fish with a fork.
Preparing the spice paste
3.    Grind together spice paste ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Set aside.
Preparing the laksa soup base
4.    Peel tamarind.  Mash tamarind flesh in 1 cup of warm water.  Remove solids, reserve juice.
5.    Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat until just hot.  Stir in spice paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until the red oil separates from the spice paste about 8 to 10 minutes.
6.    Lower the heat, slowly add tamarind paste, water, fish stock, tamarind slices and laksa leaves and bring to a slow simmer, stirring constantly.  Simmer for at 20-30 minutes.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  Remove tamarind slices and laksa leaves. Just before serving, add the flaked fish.
Preparing the vegetables
7.    Finely julienne cucumber, jalapeno, slice the red onion and cut pineapples into small wedges.
8.    Mince the laksa leaves.
Preparing the noodles
9.    Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add salt and oil.  Blanch rice vermicelli quickly – a few seconds.
10.    In a small bowl, mix hae-ko shrimp paste with 2 tablespoon warm water
11.    Place a serving of noodles and vegetables in bowls and ladle laksa broth over.
12.    Serve with halved limes and a dollop of hae-ko.

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* Rojak

Posted on October 30th, 2008 by Linda. Filed under Appetizer, Belachan, Cucumber, Cuisine, Hei ko Prawn Paste, Jicama, Malaysian, Mango, Mung bean sprouts, Peanuts, Pineapple, Salads, Singaporean.

This is a Chinese Malaysian version of the Rojak, a popular Malaysian street food.  It has a sweet, sour and savory sauce with some crunch from both the juicy fruits and the added “croutons”.  Some folks use a shrimp cracker “kerupuk”, I like the crucnh and chewiness of a Chinese doughnut aka “Yow Char Kwai”.  If you can’t find either, add a handful of cornflakes.  Rojak essentially means a mixed of vegetables and fruits, although the word has evolved to mean a random mix of stuff.

Chef’s tip: To peel a whole pineapple, chop off the crown, about an inch from the base of the crown, and also an inch off the base.  Now you have a cylindrycal part of the fruit.  Letting it stand on its base, with a sharp knife, cut off the skin with top to bottom motions.  Next, lay it on its side, and made diagonal slits around both sides of a diagonal row of eyes.  Remove the eyes.  Continue till you have removed all the eyes.  Cut the fruit into two lenghtwise, then cut each half into 6 pieces lengthwise.  If you wish, nip off the center core.

3 Tablespoons prawn paste (hei ko)
1 Tablespoon roasted belachan
6 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sri Racha sauce, to taste
9 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons tamarind concentrate

1 small jicama
1 English cucumber
2 Granny Smith apple
1 green mango
1 star fruit / carambola (optional)
1/2 pineapple
1 cup mung bean sprouts
2 Chinese donut (deep fried dough) or 1/2 cup cornflakes

½ cup sesame seeds, roasted
1 ½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts, crushed, reserve 2 Tablespoons

To prepare the vegetables:
1.    Roll cut jicama, cucumber, apple, mango and star fruit into irregular shapes – slice diagonally, then rotate the fruit before slicing again for an uneven shape.  Place all cut fruits and vegetables in a large salad bowl.
2.    Slice the pineapples into wedges.  Add to the salad bowl.
3.    Slice the Chinese doughnut into ½ inch slices.  Add to the salad bowl.
4.    Mung beans sprouts are left raw.  Remove roots if applicable. .  Add to the salad bowl.
To make the dressing:
5.    In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients, reserving 2 Tablespoons peanuts.
Assembling the salad:
6.    Pour the dressing into the salad bowl, toss to mix.   If using cornflakes, add now.  Sprinkle with reserve peanuts.

Serves: 8

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