Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cooking Malaysian with Mom


So I finally made it back to New York for a long weekend with the family, and did I eat well!  I had Dominican steak and plantains with my sis and her roommate in Washington Heights, brunch out with sis and mom, and a stroll around Chelsea Market.  I also had dinner at Locanda Verde with Bao, who's written some food pieces for the New York Times City Room blog and suggested a three-course dessert at Chikalicious.  I said, "Twist my arm, why don't you?"  I tried steak tartare for the first time and liked it, along with our fritto misto, pumpkin agnolotti, and halibut saltimbocca.  And it was fun to see the dessert chefs prepare my darjeeling gelee with pear sorbet; warm chocolate tart with pink peppercorn ice cream; and coconut marshmallow, spice cake petit four, and lavender chocolate truffle.

Watching bread bakers at Chelsea Market

Brunch starters

But I did some cooking as well, with my mom.  She showed me how to make some Curry Shrimp and a Shrimp and Roast Pork Mei Fun.  Some mei fun versions are soy sauce-based, and others, like this one, use a curry sauce.  I love to eat both.  Like lots of old-school Chinese cooks, she doesn't measure or time things, write down recipes, or make them the same way every time.  So I estimated measurements and took notes, helping out when asked and snapping photos.  She wasn't used to the last part, but seemed amused by it.  So I've decoded my garbled notes and estimates, and hopefully when I make the dishes on my own I'll have gotten them all right!

Curry Shrimp
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on
½ tsp sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 stalks lemongrass (they're sometimes in your Asian grocery freezer)
1 shallot, minced
5 curry leaves (these taste like curry but are not hot)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs Malaysian curry powder
1 tbs turmeric
¼ cup coconut milk or half-and-half
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

Heat a pan over a medium-high flame with about ½ inch of vegetable oil.  Season the shrimp with ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and ½ tsp sugar. Dredge them in the flour, and shake off excess.  Fry the shrimp just until pink and golden and a bit crispy on the outside, about 1 or 2 minutes on each side.  Set them aside on a plate.  Pour off all but a couple tablespoons of the oil.

Prepped shallot, curry leaves, and lemongrass

The curry paste

Mince about a tablespoon of the lemongrass, then halve the remainder lengthwise and cut into chunks.  Stir together the curry powder and turmeric with a tablespoon of water, making a paste.

Shrimp cooking away

Mom turns the shrimp with chopsticks. My butterfingers require tongs.

Reheating the pan over a medium flame, saute the lemongrass, shallot, curry leaves, and garlic for 2 minutes, then add the curry paste.  Cook about 3 minutes, until fragrant.  The paste will clump to your spoon.  Add the coconut milk or half-and-half and 1 tsp salt, stirring until the paste dissolves into a thick sauce.

Take the pan off the heat and toss the shrimp in it, then serve. 


Shrimp and Roast Pork Mei Fun
12 oz. rice vermicelli
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
½ large onion, sliced
1 tsp Malaysian curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp chicken powder (can substitute with boullion, which is similar but sharper)
1½ cups leftover roast pork, or ham
Vegetable oil

Soak the noodles in a bowl of water for 5 to 10 minutes.  Follow the instructions on the package -- if you don't soak them long enough they stay hard, and they fall apart if you soak them too long.  Heat some water in a teakettle.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat about 1 tsp vegetable oil over medium heat.  Fry half of the egg mixture, swirling the wok to get the egg to the edges and flipping the halfway through.  Set aside on a plate and repeat with the other half of the beaten egg.  The frying is done twice to keep the eggs thin and crepe-like.  When cool enough to handle, cut into thin strips using kitchen shears or a knife.

Heat a few more tablespoons of oil in the wok.  Cook the shrimp over medium-high heat until just pink and golden, 1 or 2 minutes on each side, then set aside on a plate.  Saute the onions and bell pepper with ½ tsp salt for about 2 minutes, until crisp-tender.  Set aside.


Stir together the curry powder and turmeric with a teaspoon of water.  Saute the garlic over medium heat in the wok for a minute, then add the curry paste.  Cook until fragrant, stirring, about 3 minutes.  The paste will clump to your spoon.  Add 1 cup of hot water, stirring for 1 minute until the paste dissolves into a sauce, and adding more if needed.  Stir in the chicken powder and a teaspoon of salt.  Add the noodles and toss for 3 minutes.  Return the bell pepper and onion to the wok.  Top the noodles with the shrimp, egg strips, and roast pork, and serve.


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