Do not assume all Malaysians love their spicy food. Many do not. For example, Mrs Perchong is the only one among her 6 siblings who has a penchant for spicy food. Her working with many Malay colleagues is the main factor that contributed to her liking of cooking with spices and chilli. I was hooked to spicy food from a young age because of her.
She has learnt a good number of Malay dishes from her work mates and her Minangkabau style chicken rendang that she cooks every Chinese New Year is legendary.
One of the Malay dishes that she used to cook when we were young was this masak lodeh (coconut stew). It can be a vegetarian dish (Sayur lodeh) or made with prawns although she often cooked it with fish. It's traditionally served with lontong, a compressed rice wrapped and cooked in banana leaf. However, you can also pair it with nasi impit (Malaysian compressed rice cake) or simply with steamed rice.
I planned to make lontong but banana leaves are notoriously hard to find and expensive in the area I live in. I would have to get down to Chinatown to get them. Hence, I made nasi impit to go with it.
Masak lodeh is a coconut stew that is mainly flavoured by turmeric and lemongrass. Saffron is optional and gives a luxury touch to this humble dish. The vegetables used in this stew are cabbage, snake / long beans and eggplant. Tempeh (fermented soy bean cake) is a must, but for those who don't like the texture and taste of tempeh, you can replace it with fried tofu.
Masak Lodeh (Malaysian Prawn and Vegetable Coconut Stew) RecipeServe 4
8 Asian shallots
2 cloves garlic
1 piece thumb size galangal or ginger, bashed
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
A pinch of saffron
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
200 g cabbage, sliced
100 g snake / long beans or green beans, cut into 5cm length
2 Japanese eggplants, halved and cut into 5cm length
2 pieces tempeh (fermented soy bean cake) or fried tofu, cut into bite-size pieces
400 ml coconut milk
600 ml water
500 g prawns
Salt to taste
- Use a food processor or mortal and pestle to pound the shallots and garlic into a paste.
- Heat 4 tbsp oil in a medium size pot on medium heat.
- Add shallot & garlic paste and fry until slightly brown and fragrant.
- Add lemongrass, galangal (or ginger), saffron, turmeric powder and chilli powder and continue to fry for a further minute.
- Add the vegetables (cabbage, beans and eggplants) and soy bean cake (or tofu) and stir until well coated with the spice paste.
- Add coconut milk and water. Bring to a boil and lower down the heat to a slow gentle simmer until vegetables are almost cooked. Add prawns and cook a further 2-3 minutes until prawns are just cooked.
- Add salt to taste.
- Remove the lemongrass and galangal / ginger. Serve immediately with lontong, nasi impit or steamed rice.
Ingredients2 cups medium-grain rice
Pinch of salt
- Wash and cook the rice using rice cooker. Add a pinch of salt in the water that is used to cook the rice.
- Layer a cling wrap in a rectangular or square tray.
- Once the rice is cooked, remove from the rice cooker when it is still hot and spread it on the tray.
4. Press the rice tightly with hand and cover the top with another layer of cling wrap.
5. Weight down the rice with canned food / drinks or heavy books.
6. Leave it compress for a few hours until it's cool to room temperature.
7. Remove the weights and slice into small squares with a knife. Wet the knife regularly for easy slicing.
8. Nasi impit is usually served at room temperature. It's a common condiment served with masak lodeh, rendang or satay in peanut sauce.