Malaysia Vegetarian Food

Simple Malaysian Vegetarian Food

Malaysia Vegetarian Food - Simple Malaysian Vegetarian Food

Do you remember the food cooked by Mom?

 

Remembering mom by remembering the food she cooked for us………..A sudden surge of emotion always touches my heart whenever I cook this lovely long bean rice for my children.Whenever she cooked this long bean rice,she would repeatedly told us how they survived during the second war world – the days of eating sweet potatoes,boiled paku and midin(wild ferns) and at the beginning of the war,long bean rice every day.

“Count us lucky because we lived  in small town.There were still a lot of paku and midin around.”She always concluded thus.On hearing this,one just could not help thinking – should we retreat to villages or jungles like our ‘midin’ in order to survive if another war is coming ?

During Japanese occupation time,there was a shortage of all kinds of materials.Of course,rice was one of the items that could hardly be found in abundance.Many just cooked very diluted porridge but in my hometown,local rice was still available.Almost every family in the town cooked long bean rice everyday.This hakka dish actually requires dried shrimps,garlic,rice and a lot of long beans.Simplified version is just cook it with long beans and rice plus salt.That’s it.That made a meal or meals for a day.Everything had to be kept as simple as possible.Those were the days when one really knows what ‘hardship’ meant.My mom passed away eleven years ago.Mom was a loving mom and a great cook.Memories of her images in the kitchen still lingers in my mind even up to this day……

Long bean rice -Don't be deceived by its humble look.

Long bean rice -Don’t be deceived by its humble look.


Let’s just look at some long beans before checking on the recipe.

The picture below shows the red tailed long bean.This is the most popular long bean  in Malaysia and it is used in the long bean rice recipe.It is fleshy and tasty.

The red tail long bean

The red tailed long bean

Shown below are the reddish purple long beans with green tips or tails.The vendors here in the markets call it red long bean.

The red skinned long bean

The reddish purple long bean

Shown below are the snake long beans.The beans are fleshy but not as tasty as the red tailed long beans.It is curly like snake,thus the name.

The curly long bean

The curly long bean

Shown below are the string beans,a very slender type of long beans.In some Chinese restaurants,the beans are boiled for a while and used as an decoration item in the form of a weaved basket,a mat or a boat-shaped plate.

There are less popular long beans not shown here,like the pale green long beans and extra long long beans.

The string long bean

The string long bean

Shown below is a stir-fried dish of red tailed long beans and the reddish purple long beans.Prepare 100 g of each of these two types of long beans and stir-fry them together with 1 tbs of miso and 2 chilies.That is it,as simple as 1 & 2 & 3……

Red and green bean

Stir-fried red and green long beans

Recipe

Long bean rice

Ingredients
  • 2 cups long grain rice (400 g more or less)
  • 600 g – 800 g long beans – cut into 2 cm lengths 
  • 4 dry chilies
  • 10 g vegetarian belacan or miso
  • 4 cups water
  • Garlic (5 cloves) – Optional
  • 2 tbs light soya source
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Method
  1. Soak the rice for half an hour.Drain the rice.
  2. Fry the long beans till slightly brown.
  3. Take out from the wok and drain out the excess oil.
  4. Discard excess oil from the wok.
  5. Fry garlic till slightly brown.
  6. Add rice  and belacan and stir-fry in the wok.
  7. Lastly add the chilies,the half-cooked long beans and 4 cups of water.
  8. Cook till the rice gets dry  in the wok then scoop the rice into the rice cooker.
  9. Cook the rice in the rice cooker for 1 hour.

Serve the rice with thick soya source and fresh chilies.As the name implies,this long bean rice should be rich in long bean flavor so the weight of long beans should be 1.5 x the weight of the rice.Don’t be fooled by its simple looks.It is actually very tasty.

Do not use small grain rice like bario rice for this recipe but bario rice is great for cooking long bean porridge.Most of the times local rice like gedong rice or any local rice can be used for cooking this Hakka long bean rice.

This dish reminds us of my late mom.She spent most of her married life busy in the old kitchen equipped with big woks and pots.The best way to express love to her children was by preparing food for the family.That lead me to think – how many of us know how to express love in this way ?

Tell us your memories of the food cooked by your mom/dad or any adults that lead your tears rolling down your cheeks.Please connect with us on facebook.You can either comment or send us a message.

Yes………, memories of food cooked by mom,

     Always hold a place deep in our heart and soul….

 

 

 

 

The Royal family of edible ferns in Malaysia (part 4)

Paku kubuk/Paku uban(Nephrolepis acutifolia) a.k.a  creeping sword fern

This hairy fern is called Paku Uban in Malay and Paku Putih in Sabah.Paku uban always grows alongside of Paku Pakis so naturally we find them along the road,near the drain and at any place where a lot of paku pakis appear.Not many non-natives know about paku uban.It is less popular than Midin and Paku Pakis, probably due to its hairy fronds and stems.
paku kubok

A bundle of Paku kubuk bought from the market

Pluck off the cores of the fronds and soak in water for 15-30 minutes to get rid of the hair.Rinse thoroughly and blanch in boiling water for a few minutes.It is believed that Paku kubuk tastes less bitter with cores of their fronds being removed.Bitter or not bitter,the cores of the fronds have to be removed because one will never know what are inside the cores.


Paku Kubuk

Paku Kubuk with cores of the fronds being removed

The curly heads are very crunchy with a slight but pleasant bitter taste.Best for ulam and  nasi kerabu.

The best way to relish this fern is to ulam it.It has a distinctive crunchy texture and its slight bitter taste matches so well with the spicy sambal belacan which is so appetizing.

KUBUK

Paku Kubuk served with vegetarian sambal belacan

Recipe
Ulam Paku Kubuk
Ingredients
  • 200 g Paku Kubuk (blanched or boiled for 2 minutes)
  • 100 g tempe (diced)
  • 50 g belacan ( mixed with 2 tbs of water to form a paste)
  • 2 tbs minced chillies
  • 1/2 cup bunga kantan florets(optional)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs lime juice
Method
  1. Fry tempe till slightly brown.
  2. Add belacan paste and chili. Fry till fragrant.
  3. Tempe fine cubes and belacan paste must be slightly burnt to bring out the desired flavour.
  4. Finally add in bunga kantan florets,all the seasoning and the lime juice.
  5. Serve the blanched Paku kubuk with  sambal belacan.

 

 

Paku Kelindang (Blechnum orientale L.)/Centipede Fern/贯众,乌毛蕨

It is less popular due to its slimy texture and tasteless fronds.It is good for constipation.Our natives here use the slimy fronds for drawing pus from boils.

 

Paku Kelindang

Paku Kelindang

Most of our vendors here in Kuching would strip its skin off and sell the creamy colour fronds in 150 g packs.

 

Skinless Paku kelindang bought from the market

Skinless Paku kelindang bought from the market

The picture below shows stir-fried skinless Paku Kelindang fronds with tom yam paste.It can also be eaten as vegetable for ulam.

Paku kelindang stir- fried  with Tom yam source

Paku kelindang stir- fried with Tom yam source

 Source : Philippine Medicinal plants

 That is all,folks.Other edible ferns are not as popular,so I leave them aside for the time being.After viewing my posts on these edible ferns,I hope there is no more messing up with the names of  those ferns.I know there are people who cannot differentiate paku pakis from paku kubuk and they think all ferns are called paku midin.

Remember,all these are natural organic food and our native vendors depend on them for a decent living.Just wanna remind our trekkers,please be careful when you set your feet on the jungle trails.Mind your steps please.Do not step on the wild edible ferns or some wild vegetables which I am going to blog on them later.

                                    

Enjoy your jungle trekking!

 

 

 

 

 

Brinjals here,brinjals there.Brinjals,brinjals everywhere…..

I am always facinated by brinjals,especially brinjals grown in Borneo.They come in different sizes,shapes,colors and tastes.

One of these brinjals that stand out as an indigenous plant to Borneo is called Terung Dayak , Terung Asam or Terung hutan in Malay. It is also a GI (geographical indication) plant of Sarawak meaning it is very popular and widely grown in Sarawak.It tastes pleasantly sour and therefore named Terung Asam which means sour eggplant.Its botanical name is Solanum ferox L.Since it is very similar to Terung Bulu,it is actually botanically regarded as a variant of the hairy eggplant which is more common in West Malaysia and other parts of the world.In chinese is 野生茄.

 

Terung Dayak

Terung Dayak

 Terung Dayak flowers are white and immature fruits are green in color.The mature fruits can be yellow ,orange,reddish orange,dark purple to black depending on varieties.

They can be propagated by seeds.They seem to thrive in rural area and those grown in cities do not yield much fruits.The stems are thorny.Most Sarawakians cook it with seafood. Here in this post we have two recipes to share.

Before sharing recipes,lets look at various types of brinjals found in Sarawak.In this post,I will omit the long purple brinjals normally seen in the markets.Only the more unusual ones are shown here.

The picture below shows a kind of brinjals called Mini Brinjal. Look cute,aren’t they ? Perfect choice for topping pizza. They can be cooked in dal. They are about the size of a ping pong ball with white and purple color.It has thin skin and tiny seeds.

 

Terung Mini

Terung Mini

Those shown in the picture below are the egg-shaped eggplants which comes in three colours,namely light green,white and purple.These fleshy eggplants are ideal for pan-fried,steamed or grilled dishes.Cooking them in Chinese way i.e slice thinly and boil with some water,add some oil,stir-fry with chillies and dou shi(fermented black beans).Finally add thick soya source and thai basil.In Chinese is 胆囊茄 which means gall bladder eggplant.

 

Oval-shape terung

Oval-shape Terung telur-the white and purple eggs brinjals

Another eggplant is the Terung India which simply means it is originated from India.These are usually cooked in dal or curry.The skin is quite thick and the flesh takes time to cook.As the name implies,this eggplant is very popular among the Indians and is more commonly found in West Malaysia.

 

Indian Eggplants

Terung India-Indian Eggplants

The picture below shows another variant of Terung bulu.It is actually terung dayak but has dark purple,almost black skin on ripening.This black colour may be is due to the fruits being plucked while they are still green and on keeping them for too long,turn dark purple. Nevertheless,the venders insist that this is a different type of terung dayak.It tastes less sour and slightly bitter.

 

Terung Hitam

Terung dayak with dark purple skin

The eggplants shown below are not so commonly found in the markets here.The one on the left is Terung Jepun which means its origin is from Japan.What is special about this eggplant is its sepals and leaves are edible as well.

The one on the left are Terung Java which are small finger- sized eggplants with variegated green and white stripes.It is about 10 cm long and 1.5cm-2 cm wide.Steam and dip in chili source.The skin is not tough and get cooked easily.

 

Terung Jepun and Terung Jawa

Terung Jepun and Terung Java

Recipe

Terung Dayak in sambal belacan

Preparing the Terung Dayak

Terung Dayak skin is tough ,so as the flesh. Boil  or simmer the fruits for at least half an hour for easy peeling of the skin and also softer texture of the well-cooked terung dayak.

Cut two terung dayak (500 g)in thin wedges.Boil in 1 litre of water for 30 minutes.Keep the soup for later use.Take out the terung and the skin discarded.When the terung is well-cooked ,the skin will come off naturally.

Ingredients
  • 250 g terung dayak ( from the 500 g boiled terung dayak prepared earlier).
  • 50 g tempe
  • 25 g vegetarian belacan
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 chillies ( minced )
  • daun kesum
Method
  1. Chop tempe finely.
  2. Mix the belacan with chilies and 1/4 cup of water.
  3. Stir-fry the chopped tempe till slightly brown.
  4. Add in the belacan and minced chilies mixture.
  5. Continue cooking until the belacan dries up and turns brown.
  6. Add in the boiled Terung Dayak and a few leaves of daun kesum.Simmer till thicken.

 

Terung Dayak in sambal belacan

Terung Dayak in sambal belacan

 Recipe

Terung Dayak Jam

Ingredients
  • 600 g ripe terung dayak – boiled for 30 minutes and skin picked.
  • 150 – 200 g  brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
Method
  1. Blend the boiled terung dayak together with the brown sugar.
  2. Simmer with low fire until the mixture thickens.
  3. The jam tastes like orange marmalade.

Serve with  mini water biscuits.This local water biscuit is only 3cm in diameter,very crispy and can remain so for about half an hour if  left outside the tin.

Local water biscuits topped with terung dayak jam

Local water biscuits topped with terung dayak jam

 Here are more dishes of terung dayak :

1)Mock fish fillet with Terung dayak in sambal belacan

 As much as I want to avoid using mock meat in my recipe due to its seasoning and unclear fat content,sometimes I have to make do with it because I have to cope with young adults’ palates and their demand for varieties on the dining table.So here I am,presenting a dish with a slice of mock fish fillet,slightly pan-fried, with a scoop of boiled or stir-fried Terung Dayak in sambal belacan on top of it.

Mock fish fillet topped with Terung dayak

Mock fish fillet topped with Terung dayak

 

2)The picture below shows Terung Dayak Soup with seaweed and bunga kantan.A teaspoon of Tom yam paste can be added to this soup.In addition,a bundle of cooked mee hoon or glass noodle completes the dish.Trust me,this soup is very appetizing.

Please check for the recipe here.

Terung Dayak Soup with seaweed and bunga kantan

Terung Dayak Soup with seaweed and bunga kantan

The picture below shows another two types of brinjals which are Terung Pipit and leunca with botanical names Solanum torvum and Solanum nigrum respectively.The details of these two brinjals will be discussed  later in another post.

Terung pipit and terung leuoncat

Left-Leunca                   Right-Terung pipit

There are many more brinjals in other parts of the world,so keep your mind open,ready to be exposed to new species of brinjals.

                         

                         Hey, Sarawakians who are abroad,

                  Do you miss this Terung Dayak ?

           Drool, drool you may but not in your dreams.

      Aiyo yo yo,I know…….

Home-cooked meals,especially by mom are always unforgettable !


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changkuk manis,the most palatable vegetable in Malaysia

Cangkuk manis a.k.a Cekor manis which means sweet shrub is the most palatable and therefore by right is the most popular leafy vegetable in Malaysia.Its botanical name is Sauropus androgynus.What has been eaten by us Malaysians is actually a cultivar  meaning it was once a small shrub found growing wild in the rainforest.In Chinese it is called Shu Cai (树菜,树仔菜)which means ‘ tree vegetable’.In English it is called Star gooseberry and Malay Cheera in Indian.

Cangkuk manis plant grows to 1.5 m tall with dark green stems and light or dark green leaves.The shoots and young leaves taste great in soup and stir-fry dishes.Before cooking,leaves must be squeezed and crushed by hands .

Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.

Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.

Basically there are two varieties,one is the thin leaf type and another one is the thick leaf variety.The thicker leaf type has smaller and darker green leaves.

The picture shown above is the thin leaf type of cangkuk manis.Usually only the shoots are eaten because the older leaves are too tough for cooking,even after crushing with hands.

The thick leaf changkuk manis bought from market

The thick leaf changkuk manis bought from market.

 The picture shown above is the thick leaf variety of cangkuk manis which is considered as the best among all the varieties.Its dark green leaves are thick and crispy.All the leaves,young or old,can be stripped for cooking purpose.This is not possible with the thin leaf type with old leaves too tough for cooking.This variety is great for stir-fry or frying with mee or any noodles because it can be crushed easily by hands and can be cooked in a few minutes.Usually we keep this variety for frying purpose and the other type of cangkuk manis for cooking soup.

Cangkuk manis flowers and fruits borne below the leaves.The dark maroon coloured flowers will fade away after the fruits are formed.Both flowers and fruits are edible.The plant can be propagated by vegetative cuttings.

Cangkuk manis fruit and flowers.

Cangkuk manis young fruit and flowers.

This vegetable is rich in vitamin A and C.But be aware that it contains the alkaloid papaverine which is bad for lungs.Asthmatic people should avoid taking too much of it.Under any circumstances,one should not consume raw cangkuk manis.There were cases reported in Taiwan a few years back that those who drank its juice raw for weight loss purpose had suffered lung impairment.

Its potassium content is  high which is 2620 mg.Check Table 7 for its nutrients content.

 The picture below shows basic ingredients for the fried mee recipe.

 

Long life salted mee,white pepper,soya cubes and cangkouk manis

Long life salted mee,white pepper,soya cubes and cangkuk manis

Recipe
Ingredients
  •  200 g crushed cangkuk manis( the thick leaf type)
  • 200 g  salted long life mee – 1 packet
  • 1 chilli
  • 3 cloves  garlic(optional)
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp mushroom powder
  • 2 tbs roasted soya cubes – soaked in water for 15 minute.Drained and baked in oven at low temperature for 60 minutes  or until dry.
Method
  1. Prepare the mee by soaking it in 1 litre of ying-yang water with equal portions of boiling water and tap water for 2 minutes or until it is loosen.Never use 100 %  boiling water for this purpose or else the mee will become too soft.
  2. Add 1 tbs of oil to the loosen mee .
  3. Fry the soya cubes with garlic and chilli.
  4. Add in the mee and stir fry until slightly brown.
  5. Lastly add the cangkuk manis.Dizzle a few drops of water from time to time so that the vegetable can be cooked.The mee is slightly salty so no salt should be added to this dish.

 

Long life Mee fried with cangkuk manis

Long life Mee fried with cangkuk manis

 

A popular dish among the natives in Sarawak is stir-fried cangkuk manis with pumpkin.As usual,cangkok manis leaves have to be squeezed by hands and retain the green juice which should be added to the dish.To cook masak lemak , just add coconut milk to this dish.

Stir-fried pumpkin and cangkuk manis

Stir-fried pumpkin and cangkuk manis

Recipe
Ingredients
  • 200 g pumpkin – diced without the skin. Choose the old or ripe pumpkin which is thicker in flavour and sweeter in taste.
  • 200 g cangkuk manis
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 tsp light soya source

 

Method
  1. Fry pumpkin cubes until slightly brown.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of water and continue cooking until pumpkin cubes turn soft.
  3. Add in cangkuk manis and stir-fry for a while.
  4. The dish is done by adding chilli and light soya source to it.

 

The dish looks simple enough to cook but you will be surprised by its natural flavour and sweetness which is so appetizing.

Other ways of cooking cangkuk manis include stir-fry it with baby corn,unripe durian,fresh bean curd(Dou Bao) and make vegetable pancakes.It is also the main ingredient for Hakka Ban Mian(客家板麵),the broad mee cooked in Cangkuk manis soup.Not to forget it is also one of the side dishes for lei cha.Here in Sarawak,people likes to fry it with eggs.

Oh yes,once you have tasted this vegetable,you might get addited to it.It just happens.Don’t ask me why……..

 

Ever popular vegetable in Malaysia

    The taste of Cangkuk manis remains in our memories……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to cook Nasi lemak?

Nasi lemak,the coconut milk rice is a Malay dish well-loved by all the Malaysians from all walks of life.It is known as a national dish of Malaysia.It would be strange if it is not included in the Malaysian Vegetarian recipe.In Chinese it is 马来椰浆饭.My first encounter with this dish was in the university canteen.Back then it was sold at 50 cents for one plate.Now the price has gone up to at least Rm 3.Those were the days when we either ate nasi lemak or roti canai for breakfast or subsequent meals for the day.

 

The most important part of Nasi Lemak is its source,known as sambal in Malay.In my recipe,I am using the unopened florets of the bunga kantan(torch lily).

The picture below shows a mature bunga kantan flower.

Mature Bunga Kantan from my garden

Mature Bunga Kantan from my garden.

The flower is showy with waxy bracts of brightly colours ranging from white to pink,red and maroon depending on the variety.

The picture below shows young flower buds of bunga kantan.

Young flower buds of bunga kantan

Young flower buds of bunga kantan

The young flower bud can be cut into halves and used in soup.For the nasi lemak recipe,we  have to use the mature flower as shown in the first picture.

The outer bigger bracts of the mature flower are discarded,leaving the tiny bracts and unopened florets for use in cooking.

The tiny,aromatic bracts are used in soup or stir-fry with other vegetables.

Tender petals from Bunga kantan

Tender bracts from Bunga kantan

  The picture below shows the unopened florets whicn can be eaten raw in salad.I use these florets to replace onions in my vegetarian Nasi Lemak recipe.The use of bunga kantan in the sambal gives the dish a kind of aroma which is so unique to taste.

Click here to find out more about bunga kantan.

 

bunga kantan florets

Unopened bunga kantan florets

The picture below shows the two ingredients for the sambal i.e. asam jawa paste(seedless tamarind paste) and the vegetarian belacan made from fermented soya beans and salt.

belacan

Left- The seedless tamarind paste. Right- The vegetarian belacan

 

Preparing the source(sambal assam)

Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs chilli powder
  • 2 tbs asam paste
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 10 g  vegetarian belacan – made from fermented soya bean.
  • 1 cup of unopened florets from 3 stalks of Bunga Kantan(can be replaced by 2 big onions).
Method
  1. Blend all the ingredients together except the florets of bunga kantan.
  2. Boil the blended mixture in the wok till it turns thicker but remains runny.
  3. Add in the florets and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Now the sambal is ready.Keep aside and allow to cool.

 

nasi lemak

Long grain rice  to be cooked together with pandan leaves(screwpine leaves),cinnamon sticks,lemon grass and sawtooth coriander leaves.

 

Preparing the rice

Recipe

Ingredients
  • 2 cups(400g)  long grain rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 stalks serai(lemon grass) – crushed
  • 6  pandan leaves(screwpine leaves)
  • 6  sawtooth coriander leaves
  • 2  cinnamon sticks
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 600 g grated coconut without husk- from which extract 4 cups of coconut milk.

 

Method
  1. Wash the rice and strain.
  2. Add all the ingredients in the rice.
  3. Leave aside for 2 hours.
  4. Cook in rice cooker for 1 hour.

That’s it.It is that simple,isn’t it?

Serve the Nasi lemak with roasted groundnuts,pan-fried tempe,sambal,sliced cucumber and a quarter of boiled banana flower to add more fibre to the dish.

Very often nasi lemak is wrapped in banana leaf or brown paper and sold at Rm2 or Rm3 per packet.Vegetarian rendang cooked with chick peas and potatoes can be added to the rice as one of the side dishes.Pineapple and pumpkin cooked in sambal can be added too.In some vegetarian cafes,nasi lemak is served with additional side dishes like deep-fried vegetarian salted mock fish fillets and stir-fried kangkong.

Nasi lemak served with roasted groundnuts,sambal assam,fried tempe and boiled banana flower.

Nasi lemak served with roasted groundnuts,sambal assam,fried tempe and boiled banana flower.

 

             It is hot!!! 

It is sweet!!!

It is sour!!!

Do not miss it when you are in Malaysia. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lei Cha cooking,another truly Hakka experience(part 2)

Cooking and eating lei cha is another truly hakka experience.The picture below shows a complete set of lei cha dish from my kitchen.

Though preparing lei cha is laborious and tedious,it is worth all the trouble because lei cha is fiber-rich and detoxify the liver if taken regularly.It is good for people having persistent cough.Sickly people should eat lei cha everyday without the groundnuts.

To avoid last minute rush,it is better to prepare the groundnuts together with the chai poh one day beforehand and keep all the finely chopped vegetables in the fridge.

 

lei cha

lei cha from my kitchen

The three most important herbs of lei cha:

herbs for lei cha

Herbs for lei cha: L-R:- Mugwort(艾草),Sawtooth coriander (假芫茜),Thai basil(九层塔)。

-The most important herb of lei cha is the Dwarf mugwort (artemisia vulgaris L.).In Chinese is Aicao.Dry mugwort is used in Chinese Medicinal treatment as herbs for moxibustion.Hakka Remedy for headache -  boil and drink the soup or make tea.Another one is fry the herbs and eggs together without oil.Mugwort is easiest to grow among all the herbs for lei cha.

- Sawtooth coriander(eryngium foetidium) is a very popular herb here in Malaysia and is a good replacement for cilantro.Despite of their different look and texture,they are very similar in taste,both display that distinctive fragrance and pungent taste of coriander.It can be used to replace curry leaf and Chinese celery for cooking curry or soup.This herb grows well under shade and needs a lot of water.This herb is a must-have item in my Nasi Briyani Recipe.

- Thai basil(ocimum basilicium L.) is an important herb for Hakka people.Hakka clan is the ancient immigrants from the Yellow River plateau.They include a lot of basil leaves in their dishes.One of this is stir-fry brinjal with fermented black beans and thai basil.

 

Another three herbs of lei cha:

herbs

Herbs for lei cha: L-R:- Spearmint aka Pudina(碧琪草),Perilla(紫苏),Elephant foot grass(地胆头)。

These are not optional but if cannot be found anywhere nearby,then just skip one or two herbs.Out of these three herbs above,the first two are not easy to grow here in Malaysia.Nevertheless,there are some farmers who grow lei cha herbs and supply them to the lei cha hawkers in Kuching.

-Spearmint a.k.a pudina(mentha spicata) is known to display a fresh,sweet and tangy flavour,with a cool after-taste.All varieties of mints are good for cough and clearing lungs.For lactating mothers,limit the use of this herb as it reduces milk secretion.

-Perilla(perilla frutescens) is a common herb found in Asia.It is a well-known remedy for food poisoning from fish and crab.Just boil about 60 gm of the leaves and drink.There are a few Chinese patent medicine containing perilla like Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Pian.

-Elephant foot grass aka tutup bumi(elephantopus scaber L.) is a very versatile herb.Unofficial reports from some Chinese Herbal magazines show that it can cure leukemia.It can grow easily in Malaysia.It has a slightly bitter but pleasant taste.Hakka people cook this herb as vegetable by boiling soup with the fresh or dry leaves.

Tutup Bumi is a good remedy for heat stroke.Wash the leaves thoroughly,mash and extract the juice – that is the Hakka remedy passed down from wise ancestors ages ago. Brew tea with the dried leaves or boil the fresh leaves with dates is another option for this remedy.

The three bitter herbs of lei cha:

herbs

From left to right:- Kulixin(苦粒心),Daun capa(大风婆) and the Pennywort(雷公根,崩大碗)

These three herbs shown above are bitter and should be prepared separately to form a bitter paste.

-Kulixin is the three-leaved acanthopanax(Acanthopanax trifoliatus L. Merr.)As the name implies,it has clusters of three leaves in one and the middle one is the biggest leaf.It has thorns all over the stems so it is better to use scissors for cutting the leaves.Dried Kulixin leaves taste like tea leaves but much  more bitter and astringent.

-Daun Capa(Blumea balsamifera) is an aromatic herb which grows wild in the bush.Hakka people boil the dry plant of the herb and use them for bathing the mothers in confinement.It is believed that daun capa bath can help to get rid of bad ‘winds’ from the loosen bones of the mothers who have just given birth.They are unlikely to get postpartum bone pain after the bath.Daun capa,as you can see,is a herbal remedy for rheumatism.

-Pennywort a.k.a pegaga(Centella asiatica) is also used by Malays.Do not add too much of this to lei cha soup as its strong herbal taste may overshadow other flavour in the soup.Lei cha soup can go without it.In Chinese medicine,pegaga is a  remedy herb for tonsillitis.After thorough washing,mash and squeeze the fresh leaves to extract juice,mix with vinegar and swallow slowly.No harm trying if the pegaga plants are homegrown and safe for eaten raw.

 

herbs

A bundle of lei cha herbs bought from the market.Buy two bundles and sort out the bitter herbs for this lei cha recipe.

Recipe
Ingredients

Use a pair of sharp scissors,snip off the young leaves of the following herbs:

  • 50 g    Mugwort
  • 20 g    Sawtooth coriander(cut into 1 ” Strips,using scissors)
  • 20 g     Thai Basil
  • 5  g     Perilla
  • 5  g     Elephant foot grass( cut into 1″ strips,using scissors
  • 1 tbs of green tea leaves(dry toasted) or Japanese green tea powder
  • 1/2 tsp mushroom powder(optional)

 

Notice the total weight of the picked herbs is 100 g.

Do not cut or chop the herbs using knife as action like this will result in bruises on the leaves.

Wash the herbs thoroughly and proceed to the next step immediately.

Method

Prepare 1 cup of boiling water in the wok.

  1. Plunge the herbs into the boiling water and bring to boil for 2 minutes.This is to prevent the leaves from turning black due to oxidation when the cut surface gets in contact with the oxygen in the air.
  2. Add another 1/2 – 1 cup of  bottled water and allow it to cool.
  3. Blend the herbs with 1/4 cup of groundnuts and 1/2 tbs of toasted green tea leaves.Do not add too much tea leaves which will make the soup looks black.
  4. A jade green herbal paste is now ready for the lei cha soup.
  5. To prepare the lei cha soup,just add 3 tbs of jade green lei cha paste to 1 cup of hot tea.The concentration of the tea is up to individual.

Preparing the bitter paste

Ingredients
  • 10 g Kulixin
  • 5 g Daun Capa(optional)
  • 5 g Pegaga(Optional)
Method

Steps for preparing bitter paste is the same as above except water to be added is 1/4 cup of water.

Do not add groundnuts to this bitter paste.

Add the bitter paste according to personal favour.

Ingredients for side dishes

Ingredients for lei cha side dishes.

 

Preparing the side dishes

Ingredients
  • 2 pieces tofu – cut into tiny cubes and stir-fry.
  • 200 g groundnuts (smaller type) – Do not wash.Dry toasted right away and skinned or buy packed groundnuts.
  • Almond flakes,sunflower seeds or cashew nuts can be used to replace the groundnuts.
  • 1 tbs dry toasted sesame seeds(optional)
  • 200 g  grated  chai poh(preserved raddish)- stir-fry till slightly brown.

Prepare 200 g of each of the following :

  • Chai xim
  • Kai lan
  • Cangkok manis
  • Long Bean or winged bean 
  • Leeks( optional for Buddhist and Hari krishna vegetarians).

All the vegetables listed above are to be chopped.Stir fry the vegetables one by one.

Serve with a bowl of rice or puffed rice topped with all the side dishes.Add salt to taste.

Lei cha in a bowl

A bowl of Lei cha rice topped with all the side dishes.

                    

                        Yeah,cooking lei cha is fun.

                                Crunch,crunch,crunch!

      Munch,munch,munch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lei Cha,the Hakka legendary tea rice….(part 1)

Lei cha and Romance of the Three Kingdoms(三国演义)

 

Legend has it that during the period full of tribulations of the Three Kingdoms,General Zhang Fei,a great warrior of Zhu Ge Gong Ming’s troop,together with his few hundreds men,fell sick due to an outbreak of plague in the hilly area of Hunan province.Worried and feeling weak,he decided to camp at the foothill of a mountain.An old,white bearded man then came down from the mountain and taught him to grind roasted rice,ginger and tea leaves in a pot,pour boiling water in and that was it, the remedy for the army sickness.

True enough,his army recovered from the plague and until now, people in the Hunan  area still drink this rice tea.Hakka people,being the immigrants from the Northern parts of China,also brought with them this traditional dish to Southern China and over the ages had developed into two types of Lei Cha – the sweet and the savory versions.The sweet version is more popular in North China and Taiwan.Most oversea Hakka cook the authentic lei cha of the Hopoh clan which is a savory dish full of herbal flavor.

Check here to have a peep at the heroic warrior Zhang Fei who was the most rugged and dramatic one among the three brothers who were Liu Bei,Guan Yu and Zhang Fei himself.Below is Zhang Fei in a fighting scene with Ma Chao (with English Subtitle).

At present,there are quite a number of stalls selling lei cha in Kuching,almost all are run by Hakka ladies.There is one stall having a few branches in the city.Some sell vegetarian and non-vegetarian lei cha at the same stall.Most of them use blenders to grind their lei cha paste.

Traditionally,Hakka people believe that they must eat seven types of vegetables on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year and that is why lei cha are served on that day.Since it is quite a hassle to prepare lei cha ,most families would prefer to eat outside.It is a common sight to see eateries swarming with city folks  during the seventh day of Chinese New Year which is also known as ‘Ren Ri’ or the ‘Mankind’s day’ in Chinese.Very often they have to get numbers and wait in the long queue on that day,just to have a bowl of lei cha !

 

There are quite a number of Lei Cha stores in Kuching City.

There are quite a number of Lei Cha stalls in Kuching City.

The picture below shows a nicely arranged lei cha dish sold at one of cafes in Kuching.Notice how the rice is topped with vegetables ? Some vegetarian stalls have garlic,leeks and chives in their side dishes.Look at the colors displayed,a good presentation indeed.

 

Some LEI CHA

Lei cha rice topped with the side dishes.

Look at their jade-green soup,isn’t it awesome ? The secret for a jade-green soup lies in the preparation.Check it out in my next post on lei cha recipe,Lei cha(part 2).Olden way of preparing lei cha results in dark and brownish green soup which does not look very appealing even to the most adventurous eaters.

 

The jade green lei cha

The jade green lei cha soup.

Traditional way of preparing authentic lei cha of Hopoh Clan requires a lot of hard work which involves grinding lei cha herbs,nuts and dry toasted tea leaves together in a big lei cha grinding  earthen pot.

The picture below shows a lei cha grinding pot passed down to me by my late mom.Remembering Mom by remembering the food she used to cook for us and also by inheriting her antique lei cha pot.Nowadays,the art of making lei cha pots still remains in our city but the materials they use is very different.Most of the time we use blender to cook lei cha.I avoid using my lei cha pot because it is an antique full of sentimental values.

In the picture below,a guava(jumbu batu) stick or pestle is used to grind the boiled herbs,dry roasted groundnuts and roasted green tea leaves.Notice the lines or rails of grooves in the lei cha pot.These grooves or ‘teeth’ of the pot help to crush the nuts and herbs. A pot of boiling water or hot tea is then poured into the pot.Add salt to taste.

The tea is then served with side dishes as described in details in my next post , Lei Cha(part 2).

 

Left-Lei cha grinding pot inherated from my late mom Right-Grinding the ingredients with the pot.

Left-Lei cha grinding pot inherited from my late mom.
Right-Grinding the ingredients with the stick made from guava branch.

A saucer of dry toasted groundnuts is a must together with stir-fried chai poh(preserved reddish)and a generous serving of stir-fried tofu as well.For the other part of the side dishes,different vegetables can be used.The most important vegetables used are changkok manis(sauropus androgynus),long beans or winged beans,kai lan or baby kai lan.

For some,the slightly bitter vegetables like the Indian lettuce(kumak) and local mustard are included.Their bitter and yet pleasant taste do bring lei cha to a different level.

In additional to the usual side dishes,we used to cook long bean and winged bean shoots to add more flavors to the lei cha dish.Cooking lei cha is always a family thing with every female member getting involved.It is a tedious and laborious task to complete.With electric blenders and food processors around in this modern age,time for cooking lei cha can be cut short.It is good to see that Hakka ladies are quick to grab the chance for venturing into business.In the past,lei cha cooking was only restricted to family activities.

 

Left - Longbean shoots Right - Four-winged bean shoots

Left – Long bean shoots
Right – Four-winged bean shoots

 The picture shown below is the lei cha cooked by me alone using an ordinary blender.I cut and chopped the vegetables one day beforehand and prepared the roasted groundnuts one day earlier.On the actual day of cooking lei cha,I cooked the rice first and then prepared the jade green paste and the bitter  paste separately.This was followed by stir-frying the chai poh and vegetables.Check for the recipe in my next post- click  Lei Cha(part 2).

lei cha

Lei cha,a dish rich in fibre,nutritions and medicinal values.

  Yes,it looks very alien to people outside Malaysia,parts of China and Taiwan but once you get used to it,you might get addicted and even request for more bitter paste for the soup.

                      

Authentic  Hakka Lei Cha of the Hopoh clan,

is  forever green and  delicious!

 

 

 

 

Cheese for vegetarians,yes or no?

Can vegetarians eat cheese ? The answer is ‘YES ‘and ‘NO’.

NO, because most cheese contain animal based rennet.And it is also a ‘no,no,no’ for vegans.Then what is ‘rennet’ anyway?

Rennet is an extract from the tissue in the fourth stomach of young ruminants,such as cows,goats and sheep.It contains enzymes that causes the milk to coagulate and form curds.Curds are then pressed to form cheese.Nowadays,animal-based rennet are mostly manufactured.As one can see, this type of cheese is not suitable  for vegetarians.

Nevertheless, it is a ‘ YES ‘ for lacto – vegetarians because there are cheese made from non-animal or microbial rennet.Better choice are homemade cheese such as panir,the Indian homemade cheese and cream cheese made from yogurt.

 

No-bake layered cheese biscuits cake.Sprinkle on top with almond flakes or dust with coco powder.

No-bake layered cheese biscuits cake.Sprinkle on top with almond flakes or dust with coco powder.

Please check the labels behind the packs of the cheese products bought from the supermarkets.

Shown below are two types of cheese useable by lacto- vegetarian.

Left - cheese made from non-animal rennet Right - Cheese made from microbial rennet

Left – cheese made from non-animal rennet
Right – Cheese made from microbial rennet

 Of course,there are different brands of vegan cheese made from tofu available in the organic shops too, so vegans can easily replace the ingredients used in this recipe to vegan friendly version.Well,raw vegans can just ignore this recipe altogether.Most Malaysian vegetarians are lacto-vegetarians and hence for the time being,we have to use cheese made from diary products without animal-based rennet.

Most people need a period of transition to change or progress to another level.Bear in mind that not many people can afford organic food.For ordinary people like us to be able to march out the first step to become a vegetarian is by itself a great achievement and  let different individual  paves his/her own way towards vegetarian at his/her own pace.Segregation among vegetarians is totally unacceptable.After all,most vegans begin as vegetarians.

Panir,the Indian homemade cheese

Homemade cheese like Indian panir can be made by adding 1/4 cup of lemon juice to 2 cups of boiling fresh milk .Turn off the fire and stir.Collect the curds formed in a bag and then press between two chopping boards by adding a stone mortar on top.Collect the panir the next day.Panir is great for cooking Palak Panir, creamed bayam with panir and cashew nuts.

Left - Home-made cream cheese -Yogurt strained in a glass jar. Right - Biscuits arranged layer by layer in a tray

Left – Homemade cream cheese made by  straining yogurt in a glass jar.
Right – Biscuits arranged layer by layer in a tray

 Homemade cream cheese

Another homemade cream cheese made from yogurt is worth trying your hands on it because it is simple to prepare.

First make your own yogurt using yogurt maker or just buy the ready-made yogurt from the supermarkets.Pour the yogurt into a soya bean milk filter bag and strain the yogurt in a tall glass jar.Fix the bag in position using the lid and let the whey be drained overnight.What is left in the bag is homemade cream cheese.This cream cheese collected can be used in fruit and vegetable salad,just by adding honey to it.

Left - Cream cheese and milk mixture Right - Biscuits arranged layer by layer in the tray

Left – Cream cheese and milk mixture
Right – Biscuits arranged layer by layer in the tray

Shown here is a recipe using this cream cheese for making no-bake cheese layered biscuits .

 During Hari Raya or Chinese New Year festivals,there are a lot of these layered biscuits  for sale in the local cake shops,together with the colourful layered cakes called Kek Lapis in Sarawak.Some are homemade for sale.A bar of this layered biscuits cake sells at RM 25 .The biscuits used are super thin cheese biscuits.Since the contents of the cheese powder used for the biscuits are not clearly stated ,it is therefore not suitable for vegetarians.

 

Ingredients for making no-bake cheese biscuit cake

Ingredients for making no-bake cheese  layered biscuits

Recipe

No-bake cheese layered biscuits .
 Ingredients
  • 750 g   yogurt or  200 g cream cheese made from microbial rennet
  • 1 1/2 cup  fresh milk
  • 1 cup  condensed milk
  • 2 packets square soda biscuits or any thin biscuits
  • 30 g   processed cheddar cheese ( optional)- to add salty taste to the cake.Do not add this if salty manufactured cream cheese is used.
  • Almond flakes and coca powder (optional )
Method
  1. Prepare the home-made cream cheese from the yogurt one day beforehand.
  2. Blend the cream cheese,condensed milk and fresh milk together.
  3. Line  a 9″ x 9″ x 2 ” tray with aluminum or plastic sheet.
  4. Using a pair of tongs,dip the biscuit one by one into the mixture and arrange it layer by layer in the tray.
  5. Repeat  the steps above until there is no mixture left.
  6. Keep in the fridge overnight.
  7. Turn the layered biscuits over on a chopping board.

Sprinkle almond flakes on top or dust with coco powder (optional).

Cut and serve in paper cups.

 

Cheese biscuit layered cake

No-bake cheese layered biscuits

 

 Enjoy!

 

Unripe durians as vegetables?

Unripe durians as vegetables ? That’s right,make no mistake about that.My late mom used to cook this dish for us during our childhood.

She would use lots and lots of durians for making durian kueh,a local durian toffee, the unripe ones for cooking as vegetable and the half-ripen durians to be eaten raw.During peak seasons,we always had durians for free.Those were the days when wild fruits were abundant and boatloads of durians were a common sight along the rivers.Durians piled up on the kitchen floor and unripe durians were easily found and mostly were given free by the natives.
Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis

Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis

For decades I have not seen vendors selling unripe durians in local markets but this year 2012 was indeed an unusual year.The year 2012 saw a big harvest of durians together with dabai,the jungle olives everywhere in the land of hornbills,Sarawak.As a result of an excess supply of durians,unripe durians are sold in markets without the shells at Rm10 per kg.

Select big and fleshy unripe durians from the market and the next step is to get rid of the seeds and peel off the bitter skin of the seeds attached to the flesh.

Fleshy unripe durian bought from market

Fleshy unripe durian bought from market

 

Cut the pulp into bite size and stir-fry with cangkuk manis and the dish is as shown in the last picture below.Be careful not to add too much water at a time otherwise the dish will become soggy.

 

unripe durian cut into bite size

unripe durian cut into bite size

 Just for the information,this dish is usually not sold in food outlets in Sarawak.This is due to lack of supply of unripe durians.Good quality durians do give a kick to its taste and flavour.The first picture shown in this post is a dish of yellow flesh unripe durians stir-fried with cangkuk manis a.k.a star gooseberry in English.

The picture below shows a picture of cangkuk manis vegetable in my garden.Its scientific name is sauropus andogynus.In India it is called malay cheera.Click here for more information about cangkuk manis.

Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.

Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.

 

 The picture below shows another dish of ordinary unripe durians cooked in the same way.

Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis

Unripe durian stir-fried with cangkuk manis

 
Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1 kg of unripe durian – prepare the flesh as instructed earlier and cut into bite size.
  • 150 gm of cangkuk manis – Pick the leaves.Clean and crush the leaves with both hands.Chop finely.
  • 2 chilies – cut into bite size.
  • 1 tsp  light soya source
  • a pitch of salt
Method

 1)Heat up 2 tbs of oil in the wok.

2) Fry the unripe durian till slightly brown.

3) Keep on adding a bit of water at a time to cook the unripe durian till soft.

4) Add cangkuk manis with chilies.

5) Continue adding little bit of water now and then until the leaves are well done.

6)Season with a pinch of salt and 1 tsp of light soya source.

How does it taste ? Well,it tastes like  creamy sweet potatoes with a faint aroma of durian.Some people deep-fry slices of unripe durians instead.I am yet to try.Have to wait for another season of durians.My next post will be on tempoyak and durian kueh or lempok (lempuk).

Enjoy cooking!

Uoo La La!