Posts Tagged ‘Nyonya’

* Fish Otak-Otak

Posted on February 16th, 2014 by Linda. Filed under Appetizer, Cooking Method, Course, Cuisine, Fish, Grill, Kaffir lime leaves, Malaysian, Nyonya, Snack, Steam, Street Foods, Tumeric.

I got this recipe from my grandmother, whom I only recently found out is part Indonesian.   That’s the grandmother who made curry powder as a trade.  My grandfather’s mother, Ah Chor, used to wear sarong kebayas, and cooked great curries.  I don’t have ancestry proof for sure, but I can swear my family is probably part Nyonya.  My grandmother’s recipe was from the 1970’s and it was written in the economies of those days.  Instead of oz ad grams, it was 10 cents of this, 5 cents of that.

Chef’s tip: Daun Kadok (wild betelnut leaves) grows wild in Malaysia.  It is getting harder and harder to find them.  When we were growing up, we would stop the car mid traffic if we spotted a bunch of daun kadok and jump out of the car to pick them.  I guess that’s what you call “foraging”? It gives a minty, distinctively otak-otak flavor to the dish.


6 pieces banana leaves, spine removed, blanched, 5 X 8 inches, long edge along the grain
Sharp toothpicks or staple

Spice paste:

3 dried long Asian chilies, rehydrated in water or fresh Fresno chilies, seeded
1 stalk lemon grass, white parts only, sliced thinly
3 slices fresh galangal, peeled
4 medium shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 piece fresh turmeric, about 1 Tablespoon
3 candlenuts
1 Tablespoon belachan


1/4 cup coconut milk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons rice flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar

1 lb white fish fillet (turbot, mackerel, cod..)
3 pieces of kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade

2 cups wild betel leaves (daun kadok, la lot), optional


Prepare the banana leaves: Bring a big pot of water to boil, with steamer rack.  Removed spine of banana leaves.  Blanched leaves in hot water.  Pat dry.  Set aside.

In a food processor or blender, grind chilies, lemongrass and galangal till fine.  Add remaining spice paste ingredients and process till smooth.   Next add custard ingredients and pulse to mix.

Filet fish and give it a few rough chops to cut into small pieces, transfer to a bowl.  Pour in the spice mix, kaffir and betelnut leaves and toss to combine.  On a work surface, place a sheet of banana leaf.   Place 3 Tablespoons of the fish mixture along the middle part of the leave, leaving about 1.5 inch on the left and right edge.  Fold the two long edge of the leave over the fish mixture and secure edge with a toothpick.

Heat a grill pan and grill for 15 mins, or place in 450F oven and  bake 10-12  mins.  You can also steam 10 minutes over medium boiling water.

Serves: 8

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* 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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* Braised Pork Belly in Dark Soy Sauce

Posted on February 18th, 2011 by Linda. Filed under Braise, Cuisine, Entree, Malaysian, Nyonya, Pork.

Hello Rich.  Here’s what Janet and I think is the recreation of our grandma’s recipe for dark soy sauce pork.  I am not exactly sure whether this is a Hokkien or a baba dish.  “Ah Ma” is Hokkien, but her mother-in-law, our great grandmother “Ah Chor”, was Nyonya.  As I understand it, Ah Ma picked up a lot of her cooking skills from Ah Chor.  We used to go to my dad’s parents place for lunch every Sunday and every Sunday, there will be this dark soy sauce pork.  I vividly remember how she would stuff a special little clay pot, in which she only makes this dish with, with the pork and then braise it under a super low flame.  The pork literally melts in your mouth.  It tastes even better the next day.  We used to even eat this for breakfast, soaking up the sauce with some nice white and fluffy “wonder” bread.

Janet thinks there is some soy sauce added, I think otherwise.  If you’d like it saltier and saucier, just add a splash or two of soy sauce.  Enjoy!

Chef’s tip:
3 key things.  1.  It’s essential to use a fatty cut of pork.  The preferred cut is the “5 flower” cut, the creme de la creme of pork belly meat.   It’s the same cut of meat they make bacon with.  It literally has 5 alternating layers of fat and lean meat.  It would be great to leave the skin on, too.    2. Low heat.  You want to gently cook the fat, not sear it away.  High heat will melt the fat prematurely (i.e., in the pot, not in your mouth)    3. The Malaysian dark caramel sauce aka dark soy sauce (the really thick, black and sweet kind).  The best brand to get is the “Cheong Chan” brand.

2 lbs pork belly meat, skin-on, cut into 1 inch cubes, pat dry
6-8 cloves garlic, whole, skin-on, very lightly smashed
1/2 cup dark (caramel) soy sauce – enough to coat the pork liberally
1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
Soy sauce, optional

1. Place all ingredients in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, preferably a clay pot.  The meat should fit snugly together.   Liberally coat the pork with the dark soy sauce.
2.  Cover and braised on LOW heat for at least two hours, till desired doneness.  Stir occasionally.  The pork will cook in its own juices and fat.  May add a little water if it gets too dry too soon but try not to.

Serves: 6

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