The other savoury and crunchy snack which I LOVED and still do is Murukku. Murukku is the Tamil word for ‘twisted’ which appropriately described the shape of the snack, which is shaped in a spiked surface spiral form.
Making Murukku is not difficult at all if you have the right mould or Murukku or Chakli press. I did not have one until last Summer when I was in Kuching with my family. I made sure I bought all the necessary moulds which could not be found in BE. I did not buy a specific Murukku mould or press but more so, a multi purpose mould, which can be used to make string hoppers or putumayam or idiyappam. The mould can also be used to make cendol. It’s a plastic mould with 8 templates of different patterns. It’s not the best mould, but it’s light weight and easy to assemble and to clean…. and its’cheap. Only RM 14 or 3 Euros!
Chakli or Murukku?
I have not heard of the word Chakli while growing up, since Murukku, which is the Tamil word was popularly used in Kuching or Malaysia and Singapore, for that matter. By the way, there is a slight difference in the ingredients used for making Chakli vs Murukku. Chakli has rice flour and besan or chickpea or gram flour while Murukku has rice flour and urad or mung dhal.
Since I am more familiar with the word Murukku, and that there’s a twist in ingredients between Chakli and Murukku and the fact that I never deep-fry my foods in my kitchen, I christened this recipeas “Baked Twisted Murukku”
And guess what, I pulverised the organic dried chickpeas into chickpea flour in my thermie. That was the first step.
You could also make rice flour from soaked raw rice, but since I had a 1 kg bag of store-bought rice flour in my pantry, I wanted to finish that first.
The idea of baking the Murukku is adapated and improvised from Tarla Dalal’s recipe for Baked Chaklis which I have converted by using the Thermomix. Tarla Dalal used only rice flour, but I added freshly ground chickpea flour to the rice flour. And by the way, I like the idea of adding yoghurt instead of water to the dough mixture.
100 g organic dried chickpeas
100 g rice flour
130 g Greek yoghurt
10 g white sesame seeds
5 g whole jeera (cumin seeds)
5 g lovage seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
5 g chilli powder
Sea salt to taste
1 tsp sunflower (or corn) oil
1 tsp water (or eye-ball)
Pre-heat the oven at 180 deg C.
Place A in TM bowl. Mill 1 min/ sp 10/ MC. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and mill again for 30 sec/ sp 10/ MC. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and the lid.
Add B. Mix for 1 min/ sp 2. Slowly add C and knead for 5 mins. Eye-ball for dough consistency, which should be a semi-soft dough.
Tip the dough onto a clean bowl and knead briefly. Put some dough mixture into a murukku press using the single star nozzle. Press and make swirls of 5 to 6 cm diameter murukku on a pizza crisper tray or a baking tray lined with silicone baking sheet.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 16 to 17 mins. Do not over-bake as the murukku will be charred bitter.
Cool and store the murukku in air-tight container.
I LOVED it! The Murukku were super crispy. The flavours of the seeds – sesame, cumin and lovage transported me back to my childhood days. I felt the warmth in my tummy from the chilli flakes rather than in the mouth. It was a good feeling. The only drawback was, I was the only one eating the Murukku! My boys and hubby are not fans of the seeds. Sesame seeds were okay , but not the other Indian spices. Next time I will tweak the recipe and add ingredients that would appeal to their palates. Erm…. maybe the ingredients that go in making the Belgian Speculoos, without the sugar? Nope, don’t think so. Cinnamon and sugar go well. Cinnamon and salt? Nah!
Oh by the way, the addition of the natural yoghurt gave the Murukku just a bit of that tangy taste, which I actually liked. Tarla Dalal baked her chaklis for more than 30 mins which I thought was way too long. The Murukku came out perfect in my oven at just 15 to 16 mins baked on the pizza crisper and baking tray lined with silicone parchment sheet. I will definitely bake these again, on condition if I have a human helper in the kitchen to press the Murukku from the mould. That was the back-breaking and monotonous parts of the entire process, and the robotic Thermomix was no help at all (most unfortunately) *sigh*
MP just returned from Australia after an extended Christmas and New Year holidays in Singapore late last year until early this year. When she flew back to BE, she wanted to meet up with X and I. It used to be a yearly tradition – Hubs and I, X and hubs and MP and hubs, however, with the demise of MP‘s husband, we decided to meet ~ only us girls ~ without our other halves lately.
For X, weekends are near to impossible as she’s the biggest supporter and fan of her Professional footballer son, DJC. Football matches are usually scheduled on weekends and X has never missed a single match when her son’s playing or not playing. And weekdays are out of the question for X and I as we both work full time. Finally we came to a consensus and chose one Friday evening after work. I carpooled in X‘s car.
We arrived at MP’s apartment and were entertained with tidbits, nuts, vodka and coconut water. Mmm… Pretty weird concoction, but it was okay, meaning we were not tipsy 🙂
MP confessed she’s not much of a cook. What she eats and cooks are instantaneous prepackaged meals.
While the 3 of us were chatting, she suddenly disappeared from the living room and came back with 3 packets of instant noodles! Yay! We’re going to have instant noodles dinner!
Uh-uh! MP was not going to cook. She was showing X and I and boasted how good the instant noodles were. The best, she said. I could not concur as I have not eaten instant noodles in a long time.
By the way, I later googled that the 3 packets of instant ramens MP were showing us ranked Top 10 in the world, 2 of which ranked numbers 1 and 2 based on Ramen Rater’s Top Ten instant noodles for year 2013! Wow! I wasn’t even aware instant noodles were taken so seriously.
Nope! We did not meet to eat instant noodles – sorry to disappoint you 😉 It was a special evening and we adjourned to a Thai restaurant in the vicinity.
Kuching Laksa with a Twist
Three weeks after the 3 of us met, I stumbled upon the instant ramens at an Asian store in the city centre.
By the way, I have stopped buying or eating instant noodles but this one was different. I was enthralled by the word on the package. Laksa!
I bought 3 packets, priced at Eur 2.45/ pkt, which were not cheap at all, however considering the size of the packet, I hoped it was a home run buy.
Introducing Singapore Laksa La Mian. It’s a huge packet with a net weight of 185 g, thus making it a main meal, and most importantly, No MSG added!
Each packet consists of 2 sachets, (A) Laksa paste and (B) Laksa premix. The noodles or La Mian or ramen were pre-steamed and air dried. The “premix” is actually coconut milk powder (santan).
I did not follow the instruction labelled at the back of the packet, instead I did it my way, which I was familiar with. I transformed the Singapore Laksa La Mian to Kuching Laksa*big smile*
First, I made the prawn broth and the chicken broth; and then I cooked an omelette, blanched some bean sprouts briefly in hot water. I then cut a lime in wedges and finally there were fresh coriander leaves for garnishing.
I cooked 3 packets of the La Mian, but used only 1 sachet of coconut milk powder (Laksa Premix). It tasted rather odd if I used all 3 sachets. 1 sachet was plenty.
And here were the results!
With different lighting and camera angle, the colour of the laksa broth was creamier.
Verdict : In 2013, the Singapore Laksa La Mian ranked no 1 in the world and has been on the Top Ten on the Ramen Rater’s List ever since. With such elite ranking, the laksa must be good, right? Frankly speaking, I did not cook the laksa as it was, hence I could not judge the taste in its original recipe. I have modified the broth with prawns and chicken. That could be the reason why the laksa tasted very homemade, however, the Laksa paste had a strong shrimpy flavour (hey bee). I’m absolutely okay with the extra umami flavour, however, the coconut milk powder was not my favourite ingredient. A little goes a long way. For 3 packets, I used only 1 sachet and added half a chicken stock cube and course sea salt to taste with 500 ml * 3 water proportion. All the condiments used to garnish my bowl of SingaporeLaksa La Mian were revamped to that of KuchingLaksa. The la mian (ramen) was undoubtedly the best. I loved the al dente and chewy texture of the noodles. It was top notch. That’s what made the Laksa La Mian very satisfying. Will I buy this instant noodle again? Yes, why not? It was a good instant noodle. I’m just not sure if it was the best. I missed the sour component of the laksa. I had to squeeze a few wedges of lime to balance the flavours – spicy, salty, sweet, umami and sour. THAT made my meal complete!
With quite a bit of broth leftover, I blanched some vermicelli and made a bento box of Kuching Laksa for me to bring to work the next day. It was THE most satisfying and appetising lunchbox ever!
My heartbeat frolicked with excitement when the 4 of us boarded the amazing B787 Dreamliner from Brussels to Doha en route our final destination, Kuching! Did I just say, Kuching??!! Yesssss!!! Finally! After 7 long years!
Our last trip to Kuching was time stamped “August 2008”, ANDexactly 7 years later on 7th August 2015, we journeyed back to the city I grew up, schooled and have worked briefly before moving permanently to Belgium. Kuching is also the city where my younger son was born 14 years ago, hence, the city re-breathed new life to my dog-tired 7 years.
Kuching means Cat in the Malay language; not that there are countless felines roaming the city, but you can definitely tell you are in Kuching by the sight of the glorious cats’ statues adorning the city centre.
Kuching’s Signature Dish
If there’s one dish I can name and recommend a first timer to Kuching, it’s gonna be the Kuching Laksa! It didn’t take me more than a sec to come up with that dish’s name. Kuching Laksa just stands out and hits a home run anytime 🙂
So my dear folks, with only 2 weeks and a bit in Kuching, I went liberal with one of my favourite dishes! I have had 7 bowls of Kuching Laksa at different stops on different days in less than 3 weeks! That’s a lot of laksa’s considering the fact that there are zillion other dishes to try out. LOL!
Before the tastes and looks of the laksa’s faded in oblivion in my memory bank, I wanted to put everything down in writing. All comments and verdicts are completely mine, by the way.
Now join me in my quest of binging Kuchingites’ most loved brekkie 🙂
Ready, Steady… Go!
My first bowl of laksa was actually consumed in the least spoken location, in the outskirts of Kuching! It was a Sunday and our entourage of 10 people in 2 vehicles were heading for the popular weekend border market at Serikin. Serikin is a little village bordering Sarawak and Kalimantan (Indonesia). We left before 9 am to beat the humid hot weather and the crowd. The 90-minute drive from Kuching to Kampung Serikin Jagoi, Bau was surprisingly easy with good roads.
Serikin Weekend Market started in 1992 and since then, has attracted a steady flow of visitors from every nook and cranny of Sarawak, Sabah, West Malaysia, SEA and the rest of the world. The stalls at the Market are mostly operated by Indonesians. Almost every category of items is traded each weekend. I’m afraid there are too many to mention, so here’re some pictures to sum up my list…
After the long stroll under the scorching sun at the Weekend Market, our tummies were rumbling and growling.
By 11.30am we adjourned to a ‘kopitiam’ for some cold drinks before we left Serikin for Bau. It was at Siang Siang Garden Foodcourt, Pekan Bau that I ordered my first bowl of laksa.
My Laksa Bowl #1 ~ In the Middle of Nowhere
Verdict: The moment the red bowl was served to me at my table, I gasped at the sight of the little, teeny weeny bowl. Man, I was hungry! It was laksa à la Bau. Rather diluted, with dry paper thin omelette strips, garnished with fried, crispy shallots and spring onions? Hmmm…. Spoilt the entire taste, if you asked me. But what can I say, with only RM 4 (0.89 Euro cent) and with 2 little prawns, I licked my bowl clean because I was immensely ravenous.
Will I go back to Siang Siang Garden Foodcourt? Surprisingly, yes, but NOT for the laksa, BUT for these!
My Laksa Bowl #2 ~ No Choice
While my hubby and 2 boys checked in at a beach resort in Damai, I stayed back in Kuching spending time with my Mum and sisters.
Oh by the way, you know what? When I left Damai for Kuching, my older son said, “Mama, I know you are going to eat more laksa’s in Kuching without us, right ..”
Gee whizz! What a sneaky sly fox my son was..! But,darn… Son, you absolutely nailed it!
It was at Peach Garden Food Centre at Jalan Song, that I had my 2nd bowl of laksa. Initially, laksa was not on my mind. I had wanted to order a plate of char kway teow, but the stall’s closed for the day. Too bad! I walked around peering the many different hawker stalls trying to get some inspirations of what to eat that evening. Lo and behold, I ended up ordering a bowl of laksa!
Here goes …
Verdict: I almost cried! 2 vital ingredients were missing! Bean sprouts and wansui (equivalent to fresh coriander), and not only that, the prawns were tiny and were not fresh! Aaarrghh!! Funny, the aroma of the laksa gravy reminded me of my schooldays. Yup, cheap students’ laksa, but at RM5!
Will I go back to Peach Garden Food Centre? You bet! But definitely NOT for the laksa, but for the most addictive otak-otak and kelondong sengboi peng (iced-cold amra with dried sour plum juice). And yes, too, for the nostalgic boiled peanuts 😉
My Laksa Bowl #3 ~ The Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth …
While my 3 guys were still enjoying Damai, I made some time to meet up with former classmates. The place and time were totally at M’s discretion. M whatsApp’d me and told me that she’d pick me up at 8.30am. I knew it was going to be a laksa brekkie, but where?
Oh oh, not at the Peach Garden Food Centre again, because M was driving around that area that morning. Then she passed the Food Centre. Phew!
We parked somewhere at Jalan Song and walked to the café, which is a single storey shoplot. It has a canvas roof with ample tables and chairs. The moment I stood under the canvas roof, I smelt glorious smell of Kuching laksa whiffing past my nostrils. I was praying in silence that the laksa would taste as good as it smelt, especially after having 2 disastrous bowls the past days.
M and I found a good spot to sit, while waiting for L. I learnt from M that Li Yuan Café is L’s favourite take on and is one of M’s favourites. Brilliant! 2 favourites so it must be good, or was it?
By the way, I told M I would give my honest feedback on this brekkie 😉
Verdict: M ordered a “Special” for me, meaning more ‘liaw’ (garnishes and condiments), while the size of the bowl remains constant. There were 4 plump and succulent looking prawns, nice strips of not-too-paper thin omelette, reasonable amount of chunky shredded chicken meat, beansprouts and a few fresh coriander leaves (not wansui, though). The colour of the gravy looked almost perfect, ie more red than brown, and most importantly, the laksa gravy imparted a pleasant scent of all the fragrant spices that went in the broth. The bowl of laksa was served with half a calamansi lime and sambal belacan
Now the taste… Before even picking up the clusters of vermicelli and the garnishes between my pair of chopsticks into my mouth, I ducked the Chinese spoon in my bowl and scooped some broth to have a taste first. That’s how you know if the laksa is good or bad. The broth is the main actor, while the rests play supporting roles. Frankly speaking, I detest anyone who eats only the garnishes, which includes the vermicelli, prawns, chicken and omelette strips, beansprouts and the fresh coriander while leaving the pool of gravy in the bowl! People, that’s THE BEST bit! The broth! One invests a huge amount of time in making the best tasting laksa broth, so please appreciate your bowl of laksa and finish everything, including the broth!
Well, to be honest, I liked Li Yuan’s laksa, BUT…..it was a wee bit salty! Why oh why?! The broth itself was not too spicy, but rich and thick – not diluted – which I absolutely adore. Luckily the sambal belacan and calamansi lime added that extra umph!
Will I go back to Li Yuan Café? Why, certainly, on condition, M, that it’s on me the next time I’m in Kuching! Now, I haven’t the clue how much you paid for my “Special” bowl of laksa 😀
Thanks, my dear friend, for introducing Li Yuan Café to me and making it my first decent bowl of Kuching laksa.Jl
My Laksa Bowl #4 ~ My Evil Twin
Can #4 beat #3? Let’s see…
Again, M, my friend, whatsApp’d me and asked if I wanted to meet up for another laksa brekkie. Well, of course I did NOT decline. And again, I left it to M to transport me to the ultimate location that morning. She told me the café we were going to is one of her few favourites and is also a favourite of another former classmate, whom I did not get the opportunity to meet in August. Apparently, she said the sambal was to-die-for. Erm… okay! Believing is after seeing and tasting for myself. I was more curious with this rendezvous than my last.
Here’s the bowl of laksa I had at Jin Ming Café, Jalan Sekama
Verdict: My first silent comment was “Where’s the to-die-for sambal??!!” The sambal served at Jin Ming Café was completely different than any sambal condiment I ever had! It had the look of soy sauce, but was a thick sticky mass akin to Bovril or Marmite. When I tasted it, it was a taste I was quite familiar with, ie something that came out from a jar! Mae Pranom’s Thai Chili Paste (nam prik pao), which is often added to Tom Yum Soup!. It’s sour-ish from the tamarind plus half a calamansi lime? Hmmm….! I love Tom Yum Soup, but I was at Jin Ming Café for a bowl of Kuching laksa!
As for the laksa, I’m afraid there was nothing to shout about. It was a “Special” bowl, but what I got was 2 halved over-cooked prawns (which made it looked as if I had 4 prawns), very little chicken strips. Infact my laksa was covered by strips of omelette. The brown broth was neither diluted nor concentrated, which was okay but it was not at all fragrant. It was flavourless flat! Some spices were missing.
Will I go back to Jin Ming Café? Of course! Huh? Am I nuts? After all the negative comments?
I will definitely go back to Jin Ming Café BUT not for the laksa. Sorry, M!
However, yes…. however, I will be back there for the kolo mee!! I bought 5 takeaways of that “Special” kolo mee for my Mum, sisters and nephews. They thumbed up to the kolo mee!
My Laksa Bowl #5 ~ Down Memory Lane
My 5th pitstop was at Min Hong Kee Café, Jalan Padungan. This café was not new to me. Before I moved to Belgium, this was one for my late dad’s favourite locales. We used to have our breakfast there after the Sunday service. It was for old time’s sake that my younger sister drove us (Mum, big sis and myself) there for a scrumptious breakfast.
Big sis and I ordered laksa! Ha ha…
The presentation was lovely!
Verdict: The bowl of laksa had everything that’s supposed to be served as Kuching laksa, but there was a wee bit too much santan (coconut milk), which completely overwhelmed the real fragrance of a perfect bowl of Kuching laksa.
Will I go back to Min Hong Kee Café? Without a doubt, I’m going back to the Café for their traditionally prepared congee, fresh popiah and minced stuffed kom piah (Foochow bagels stuffed with minced meat)! I will go back for the laksa but not all the time 😉
My Laksa Bowl #6 ~ Long and Winding Quest … And Some like it Hot!
The week my hubby and boys checked out of Damai, was our last week stay in Kuching. The countdown begun. *sad*
The laksa served at Choon Hui Café, Ban Hock Road, hits international spotlight when one of Travel Channel’s most famous Celebrity Chefs turned writer and CNN Presenter, Anthony Bourdain, ate his laksa there, not once but on 2 consecutive mornings! I have mentioned about it on this post, Malaysian Laksa with the Midas Touch of Sarawak .
It was a Tuesday morning. My younger sister promised to bring us for our grand finale taste of the infamous Kuching laksa before we left for BE.
I was so looking forward to having a laksa brekkie at Choon Hui. I wanted to find out why Choon Hui and what was it that made their laksa so sought-after. In other words, I was curious!
BUT … alas, no laksa! Shucks! For the record, we were not late. We arrived at the café before 9am, however – and most unfortunately – Tuesday’s an off day for the family-run laksa stall at Choon Hui Café! Sorry folks, no photo or verdict to comment on Choon Hui Café’s laksa for now. Hopefully, I will not wait another 7 years…
My sister was adamant to let us taste some of the best laksa’s served in Kuching, before we left for BE that week. She then drove to Jalan Abell. We were heading for another pearl in the oyster – Chong Choon Café. No Choon Hui, that’s fine. Chong Choon’s great as well…. HOWEVER, no laksa!!! Grrrrr…. damn, it’s a Tuesday! They’re closed!
To be honest, I have eaten the laksa’s at both Choon Hui and Chong Choon Cafés when I was still a student in Kuching. They were not new cafés, but ones that have been around in years! Since it was eons ago that I have had those laksa’s there, I could not recall the tastes explicitly, but they were definitely ones of the best in town.
My poor sis was more desperate than us. She’s like our late Dad. If she promises something, she will deliver her promise on the same day, through thick and thin, rain or shine, and even jeopardising her health, as a result. Little sis, I’m truly touched by your steadfast determination. That’s when she drove a little further in search for our next stop. It was at Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce and the name of the café? Tiang’s Café. I have never heard of the Café, but I’m open to new things and places. Then I discovered that the much discussed Barrett’s laksa is served at Tiang’s Café.
BUT… we did not have the laksa there because, yes, BECAUSE, the laksa stall’s closed! That’s right, it’s a TUESDAY. Oh, I hate Tuesdays!!!
Then we just followed my sister. Our 6th pitstop was at Rock Road. The place was an ordinary looking little foodcourt with the most absurd sounding name! Very Nice Restaurant!
Okay, let’s check it out! And checked it out we did!
I even took a picture of the ridiculous sounding name of the laksa stall and the owner willingly smiled for us. At least I know laksa’s served EVERYDAY at VERY NICE 😉
Verdict: We ordered “BIG” bowl for RM8. The bowl was literally “BIG” ie bigger size-wise compared with the normal bowl. At first sight, it was not a bad looking laksa. As with the other laksa’s, I had a sip of the broth first. Mmmm… not bad, I thought. There was something special about the laksa. Everyday Laksa at Very Nice Restaurant was the first laksa I have tasted that was more piquant. It definitely had that extra spice and heat that made it quite different from the 5 laksa’s I had in the last days. If Mr Everyday prepares his laksa the same way he did when we patronised his stall that morning, his laksa would be a crowd pleaser one day. Well, names and looks can be quite deceiving, eh?
Will I go back to Everyday Laksa @ Very Nice Restaurant? Erm…a difficult one…. I believe, YES!
My Laksa Bowl #7 – A Challenging Home Run!
My 7th bowl of laksa was a discovery. A challenge. MY challenge!
Here’re the visuals of my 7th bowl of laksa …
Verdict: For this bowl of laksa, I had my boys to voice their comments. Hmmm… nice black bowls and chopsticks, mama. And then silence… Slurp! Slurp! Slurp! And then my older son said, “Can I have another a bowl?” . Action spoke louder than words 😜
In case you’re wondering which stall we went to, well, the stall name didn’t exist and never will, but I know the person who made the laksa put a lot of work in it, because the person was the author of this post…. ME(*smile*), and the work was called LABOUR OF LOVE and the challenge was using Barrett’s Sarawak Laksa paste, which I got from a friend. I have never used Barrett’s laksa paste. I have heard of few negative remarks about Barrett’s laksa. The more I heard that, I was curious and wanted to find out why the paste was so bad.
By the way, our family favourite is the famous Swallow Brand and the creator of the laksa paste was Mr Tan Yong Him, the late father of Mr Barrett Tan! In other words, Barrett’s laksa paste is an offshoot of the original Swallow Brand. All-in-one-family…
I was fortunate to have prepared bowls after bowls of laksa with the special paste created by the master creator himself, Mr Tan Yong Him.
Today’s Swallow Brand laksa paste does not feature the creator’s name on the packet anymore.
Barrett’s Sarawak Laksa paste is an alternative.
Verdict: When I cut open the packet of Barrett’s laksa paste, I smelt no difference to the Swallow Brand’s. If there was a variance, it was not off by miles. It was probably redder than the Swallow Brand. The addition of coconut milk will tone down the colour, but by putting too much of coconut milk will only change the name of Kuching’s signature dish to Laksa lemak, which is wrong. There should be balances of flavour, texture and colour. The taste is personal. I like my laksa piquant with lots of flavour (like my Mum’s). A lot of work is put in making the broth tasty (meat stock from the carcasses of chicken and/or pork, prawn stock from the shells of the prawns and several other fresh herbs and spices). Any laksa paste on it’s own without the additional work, will never be good. I dislike weak and mild tasting laksa’s with too much santan or too brown. Then again these are personal observations. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Voilà!
For the record, the sambal belacan was to-die-for! Mum made it and I’m glad I brought it back with me to Belgium! It’s really, really good with the squeeze of lime.
Oh yes, Carol, if you’re reading this, thanks for introducing Barrett’s laksa paste. It’s not too bad after all, with some extra work, of course! I have no clue how the laksa at Tiang’s Café tastes like. All I can say is, I’ve eaten Barrett’s laksa in my own kitchen 😉
A Patriotic Bonus
8 is a good number and is believed to have auspicious meaning, according to Chinese tradition. The word “eight” in pinyin Chinese sounds like “prosper” or “wealth”, hence I will conclude this longer-than-usual post with my Kuching laksa number 8!
Infact I just had the laksa very, very recently at a friend’s house. The laksa get-together was planned before I left for Kuching. I’m glad I met up with the other Kuching gals on Sunday. We were stuffed! Angel, thanks for hosting a great potluck reunion – great efforts to everyone with everything homemade! Delish! Mwah!
NOTE: The emphasis of the laksa write-up in this post here referred to Kuching Laksa and not Sarawak Laksa because I believe each division in Sarawak (farther from Kuching) has her own way of preparing / serving the laksa. I understood from a friend who hails from Sibu that the Sibu laksa has tau pok (deep fat fried tofu or bean curd). The addition of tau pok does NOT in any way represent Kuching Laksa. Kuching Laksa is made up of the following ingredients ~ cooked rice vermicelli, shredded chicken meat, prawns, strips of omelette, bean sprouts, fresh wansui (or coriander), accompanied with calamansi (or lime) and sambal belacan.
When my last packet of laksa paste went in the pot, I was being extremely careful not to waste anything from it. I wrung the last drop of juice from the pulp, which resulted in the pulp being as dry as the desert sands of Sahara!
The last replenishment of my laksa paste inventory was August last year when my Mum and eldest sis came to visit us. For a few months, we enjoyed glorious bowls of the aromatic and addictive laksa. My stock-count hit zero level a long time now and I literally drooled browsing the photos of the infamous Sarawak Laksa shared by my family…. *sigh*
Yessssssss … #laksa #Kuching
One of Travel Channel’s most famous Celebrity Chefs turned writer and CNN Presenter, Anthony Bourdain, posted a picture of a bowl of the irresistible Sarawak Laksa on Facebook and Twitter – with 2.14million followers – with just one hissing word, “Yessssssss….”
And Yes Sire to that! A picture is worth a thousand words!
Mr Bourdain was in Kuching recently to shoot an episode for the Travel and Food Show on CNN, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown“. Can you imagine this? He and his crew’s first stop was to a family-run laksa stall at Choon Hui kopitiam. And guess what? They were back at the same stall the following morning for another round of the most addictive laksa in the world! Dressed casually in a black T-shirt and jeans, the New Yorker ate the simmering hot and spicy Sarawak Laksa, filmed for about two hours and paid the bill for everyone at the stall that morning.
Now, THAT is testimony to the core! A satisfied Customer pays his bills, treats his friends and shares with the world his favourite Kuching dish! Hats off to you, Mr Bourdain!
D.I.Y the hard way
The secret to an exquisite bowl of laksa is definitely in the paste.
Malaysia is a land of laksa’s. Each State has her own laksa paste – sour, watery, fishy, shrimpy, thick, greasy, curry-flavoured … you name it, but Sarawak Laksa is known for its signature creamy texture, aromatically spicy, delectably tasty with its fiery crimson colour.
Sarawak Laksa is not a soup but a meal on its own. Five years ago, I posted a detailed write up and recipe to assemble a home-style bowl of Sarawak Laksa on this post, here.
Since my last trip to Kuching in 2008, and having run out of stock of the paste, I resorted to making my own Sarawak Laksa paste. It was hard work and long labour, but it was worth it!
Stonemanor’s Malaysian Laksa paste
My eyes twinkled when I chanced upon a jar of Waitrose Cooks’ Laksa paste (Malaysian inspired dish) at the British Store in Everberg not too long ago. I grabbed a jar for try-out. And by the way, it wasn’t cheap.
Here’s how I assembled a quick laksa for 4 people…
4 “Vrije uitloop” or “plein air” or free-range eggs
Fresh coriander leaves
Garam masala paste
Stock cube to taste
Kaffir lime leaves
2 stalks lemon grass, bruised
5cm piece fresh ginger
A handful black peppercorn
Some coriander stalks
Cook the prawns in the infused broth
Cook the chicken in the infused broth after the prawns are done.
Cook the laksa paste and add the flavoured broth and the coconut cream. Add 2 Tbsp garam masala paste. Season with half chicken stock cube and some drizzles of fish sauce (Note: I added garam masala paste because the 185g jar of laksa paste was not concentrated enough for 4 -5 servings)
Assemble a bowl with vermicelli, topped with slivers of chicken, crispy bean sprouts, plump prawns and strips of omelette and then ladle the spicy and unctuous broth
Garnish with fresh coriander and a lemon wedge (or if available, calamansi lime) with a side condiment of sambal belacan
WYSIWYG on a classic bowl of Sarawak Laksa, and of course the pièce de résistance has got to be that simmering hot, thick, spicy and creamy broth! Heaven! I’m in heaven! Or was I?
Verdict: It was a good bowl of Laksa, but not the real McCoy. 185g laksa paste for 4 people did not conjure a concentrated broth. Garam Masala paste plus other fresh herbs, spices and seasonings came to the rescue. On its own, the laksa would not pass the test. The colour was not right and it was quite sour with a bit too much tamarind paste. It was a “Malaysian” laksa but I had transformed it to what I know best to that one dish that transported me back to Bumi Kenyalang or the Land of the Hornbills!
I could not get fresh coconut cream, hence, I resorted to buying a small can of 100% pure coconut cream (incidentally, a product of Malaysia) I found on the shelf of a local Belgian supermarket. Therefore, I’m happy to link this post over at Little Thumbs Up with the June 2015 theme “CREAM” organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Mui Mui of my little favourite DIY and hosted by Diana of The Domestic Goddess Wannabe
As a saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” therefore, I have this to impart, “When in Kuching, do as what most Kuchingites would do. Have a bowl of Sarawak laksa for breakfast!” I’m not kidding here as the best laksa stalls in Kuching are opened as early as 7 am and closed by 10.30am. If you come by at noon, chances are you’d go home, feeling dis-satisfied and empty-handed. As there are so many different kinds of laksa’s in Malaysia, you can tell a Sarawak laksa apart from the rest as the must-have garnished ingredients are rice vermicelli, slivers of chicken, crisp bean sprouts, prawns, strips of omelette and sprinkles of fresh coriander with a condiment of sambal belacan and calamansi lime or lemon wedge. Anything else is NOT Sarawak laksa, ie NO tofu or sugar snap peas or cucumber or pineapple or lettuce, etc. Honestly speaking, I can have a bowl of Kuching laksa for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes, it’s that good! For this, I’m linking this post to Simply Eggcellent #5 – how do you like your eggs in the morning? hosted by Dominic of Belleau Kitchen. I’m curious what he thinks of this entry with omelette in a bowl of simmering crimson hot and spicy laksa for breakfast 😉
Two months ago, we had a small CNY pot-luck reunion with some closed friends. The pot-luck was decided at the eleventh hour as we had planned to dine at a restaurant, hoping for a larger turnout. Since most of the invited friends had scheduled prior appointments with their families and friends for separate reunions, the planned quorum dwindled further.
Then one of the girls suggested meeting up for a simple pot-luck reunion at her house. The rest of us were thrilled because the lady-of-the-house is a fantastic cook and I kid you not! Not only that, she is a Jane of all trades and ‘master’ of all, which completely defies the figure of speech, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
As you can see from the photo collage, we were well fed with simple, purely homemade yet fantastically delicious dishes! The lady-of-the-house made the absolutely delicious Yee Sang (Prosperity Toss) and tasty Pan Mee (with noodles she made from scratch!). She also baked a flawless pandan chiffon cake, almond/ cashew cookies, chocolate mousse and kueh sepit (not in photo). I brought my signature dish, Ngo Hiang. My friends, X, brought a meringue cake and C brought a bowl of minced mix ingredients and a packet of frozen gyoza wrappers or gyoza skins.
It was the last item that ‘pushed’ me to write this post. Thanks, C for “reminding” me 😉
By the way, it was a good thing that C did not bring pre-wrapped gyoza‘s. That way, we all had the opportunity to learn first hand crimping of the gyoza’s from … who else? The lady-of-the-house herself!
Not the First and Definitely not the Last
This was not the first time I have cooked a dish that turned out into something else quite differently but completely edible, like so …
Making yaki gyoza or guo tie or wo tieh or potstickers has been at the back of my mind for a long, long time. The origin of this dish is Chinese. In China, they are called jiaozi. The Japanese word gyōza indicates that the word is of non-Japanese origin andwas derived from the Shandong Chinese dialect giaozi. There’s 2-in-1-method of cooking gyoza. First they are shallow fried with a small amount of sesame oil in a hot pan or wok until brown crusts appear on the flat base, and then a small amount of water (or cornstarch mixture) is poured over the dumplings, with the pan or wok covered. The liquid helps to steam the dumplings, creating a texture contrast of the thin crispy bottom and soft and juicy upper part, typical of Chinese cuisine.
Why I chose to use the word gyoza is because the ingredients I used as filling were more Japanese than Chinese. I’m also referring to them as potstickers, because it’s an English word and a lot easier to pronounce. Anyway, “pot stick” is the literal translation from the Chinese word guōtiē.
I have made a calamitous error when purchasing the gyoza skins or wrappers. I knew the wrappers should be round and not square. The square ones are used for making Wonton. Without reading the label, I placed the round dumpling wrappers in my shopping basket. I was a happy bunny that day.
I’m gonna make potstickers!! Yay!
My sons were looking forward to the tasty finger food. They were thrilled and couldn’t wait for the end result!
BUT wait a sec … there’s a difference in the thickness of the wrappers! Gyoza skins are generally thicker than the delicate wonton skins, hence, making them more suitable for frying. It was a shame I bought the thinner and delicate dumpling skins used for wrapping sio bee or siu mai (popularly served at dim sum restaurants).
Hmmmm….. I had already marinated a bowl of minced filling for the gyoza. There was no turning back. The show must go on!
Splashing Plan B !
With the flopped original plan of making gyoza or potstickers, I told my clearly disappointed looking boys that there was not going to be any dry finger-food-type gyoza but a wet and soupy dumpling soup! If only you had seen their faces and heard their remarks …
I told myself that if the Potstickers won’t stick then I had to transform the dish into something equally appetising, hence, Plan B was put into action 🙂
Yup, a splashing runny dumpling soup!
300g minced chicken
Napa cabbage, thinly shredded
1/2 Leek, finely diced (or 2-3 spring onions)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cm Ginger, finely grated
1/2 Carrot, grated
5 cm Daikon, grated
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp sushi and sashimi soy sauce
2 tsp Thai spicy fish powder ( in lieu of bonito powder)
1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine ( in lieu of mirin)
1 Tbsp corn flour
Freshly milled white pepper
Salt, to taste
1 packet (250g) Round dumpling skins
For the broth –
1 big carrot, washed and cut in very thin rounds
2 stalks celery, washed and remove stringy outer layer
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
3 cm ginger, bruised
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (optional)
Dried Coriander (I did not have fresh coriander that day)
1/2 a chicken stock cube
Coarse Sea Salt to taste
Freshly milled white pepper to taste
1.7L Water, boiled in electric kettle
Water, boiled for cooking the dumplings
Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least one hour
Remove the minced mix at least 15 to 30 mins before starting to wrap the dumplings
In a soup pot, throw in the cut carrots, celery, 2 cloves garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander and chilli. Pour in the boiling water into the pot. At this point, you can smell the fragrance and aroma of the herbs and vegetables whiffing past your nostrils
Season the broth with sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, salt and white pepper
Cook the broth further until boiled
In another pot, boil enough water to cook the dumplings per serving. Note: this water is NOT the broth for consumption, but just to cook through the dumplings separately.
Ready to serve. Place 8 to 10 pieces of dumplings in the hot water. The dumplings are cooked when they start floating to the surface. Scoop the dumplings, removing as much water as possible to a serving bowl. Then scoop the broth picking up some carrots, celery, chillies and coriander and transfer to the serving bowl.
Verdict: Without a word said, my boys slurped their bowls of dumpling soup clean. I think that’s translated as “Thumbs UP” 🙂
Be warned, though, of the spicy filling (spicy fish powder) and the extra chilli in the broth. The extra garlicky flavour differentiates the Gyoza soup with a twist from the milder wonton soup. I will definitely make these again 😉