Some recipes, you just don’t mess with: the rendang your grandmother has cooked the same way for 40 years, or your aunt’s laksa, which she insists must be served with a particular brand of prawn paste, or char kueh teow fried in anything but a big wok over high heat.
But for most cooks, adding personal touches and tweaks to dishes is usually a good habit to have. After all, what would cooking be without the adventure?
Hence the mashups we feature here. We wanted to do a fun project and since Deepavali is coming up, we thought about how to incorporate Indian flavours in a variety of foods.
While good intentions don’t always lead to good results, the dishes we’ve concocted are not so way-out to be unpalatable. In fact, some even taste good.
If you have ideas for other combinations, please leave a comment below.
CURRY & PANEER LOADED FRIES
We started with something easy: Loaded fries topped with dhal curry and paneer. This is a play on poutine, that comforting Canadian dish of French fries with gravy and cheese curds. Our fries came frozen from the shops (we baked them in the oven), and the dhal curry and paneer are homemade, but these two components can also be bought so you can put this dish together without a lot of effort.
Frozen French fries
Restaurant lentil (dhal) curry
Ready-made paneer, cut into small cubes
Cook the fries following the instructions on the package. Spread them on a large plate. Top with curry and cubes of paneer.
MURUKU COCONUT BROWNIES
These bars are based on pretzel brownies. They have a sweet and salty taste, which we thought could be replicated with muruku. The spiciness of the muruku would also add another layer of flavours to the brownies – after all, chocolate pairs well with chilli. Use your preferred brownie recipe or the following recipe made with cocoa powder.
100g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
175g caster sugar
75ml vegetable oil
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g desiccated coconut
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease bottom and sides of an 18cm square pan.
In small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix together sugar, eggs and oil with electric mixer until slightly pale, about 2 minutes. Stir in cocoa and extract until blended, then the flour mixture just until combined, and finally the coconut.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Spread the top with pieces of broken muruku, pressing lightly into the batter.
Bake until a skewer inserted 5cm from the centre comes out almost clean, 25-30 minutes.
Cool brownies in pan, set on a wire rack. Cut the brownies into 16 bars. Muruku will soften after a few hours, so eat as soon as possible.
Hotteok is a pan-fried Korean sweet pancake that has a cinnamon-flavoured sugar and crushed peanut filling. It is commonly made with all-purpose flour, but there is a version that also includes glutinous rice flour and produces a chewy dough. For our hotteok, we enclose a whole boondi ladoo – those deep yellow ones – into the yeast-based dough.
160g all-purpose flour
½ tsp fine salt
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp instant dry yeast
100-120ml lukewarm milk
4 shop-bought ladoo
Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add enough milk so the mixture comes together and form into a smooth, tacky dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside until the dough doubles in size.
Knead the dough briefly and divide into four even portions. Form into balls.
Take one ladoo in your palm and gently press it to loosen it slightly. Oil your hands and flatten a ball of dough into a disk between your palms. Place a ladoo in the centre and pinch the edges of the dough around it to enclose completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Heat a large frying pan and add enough oil to thinly cover the base. Add the filled balls to the pan one or two at a time depending on the size of the pan. Oil the bottom of a metal spatula and press the balls to flatten them to about 8cm wide. When the bottom is brown and crisp, flip to cook the other side. Remove to a kitchen paper-lined plate and eat while still warm.
RASAM OMAPODI POPCORN
Look for popcorn recipes and you’ll find them in a variety of flavours. Flavouring it with chilli and other hot spices isn’t unusual. We used ready-made rasam powder and added other components that you find in a muruku mix.
1 stalk fresh curry leaves
4 dried chillies
2 tbsp cooking oil
4 cups popped corn kernels
100g butter, melted and kept warm
2-3 tbsp ready-made rasam powder
shop-bought fried green peas and peanuts
Strip the curry leaves from the stalk. Snip the dried chillies into small pieces. Heat the oil and fry the curry leaves and chillies until crisp, 1-2 minutes. Drain and spread on paper towels.
Place popped corn kernels in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm melted butter and toss the popcorn to coat well. Add the rasam powder and toss. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Corn dogs are deep-fried sausages enclosed in a cornmeal batter. All we’ve done is substituted cornmeal with gram flour, as in pakora batter.
120g bread flour, plus extra for dusting
90 besan (gram dhal) flour
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1-2 tsp garam masala
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
oil for deep frying
Combine flours, salt and pepper, baking powder, sugar and garam masala in a bowl. Whisk egg and enough milk into the dry ingredients for a thick batter. Place batter in a tall glass.
Insert skewers into the hotdogs. Dust in extra bread flour. Heat oil in a saucepan with high sides.
Holding each hotdog by the skewer, dip into the batter, coating it completely. Lower into the hot oil. Cook until batter is done and golden in colour. Drain and serve hot.
Before I even make it to The Majapahit, I am already in a sour, snarly mood. Parking at the spanking new Arcoris Mont’Kiara (where The Majapahit is housed) is difficult to navigate and having inadvertently exited the same carpark twice without finding a place to park, I re-entered the carpark a third time only to have the same po-faced security guard shout violently at me (his exact words were “I’m security here, I tell you where to park!”) before directing me to a carpark bay I had gone past a million times because it was marked ‘Reserved’.
Needless to say, I am not a happy camper.
But as soon as I walk into The Majapahit, that wary, unsettling feeling dissipates. The Majapahit is a high-ceilinged beauty with foliage scattered throughout. There are even plants suspended in planter boxes high up near the ceiling! Low rattan-backed chairs complete this laidback yet chic tableau and you’ll find yourself leaning back and easily forgetting all the travails of the day.
The eatery has only been around for a few months but is already gaining traction for its selection of South-East Asian cuisine, gleaned predominantly from Thailand and Indonesia, with a sprinkling of Malaysian and Vietnamese cuisine to round things off.
Chic and comfortable, the restaurant exudes character and warmth.
“Although it’s a South-East Asian restaurant, we mainly serve Thai and Indonesian food. What we realise is that there are a lot of Thai restaurants here but not many people know about Indonesian food. So when people come, they get to enjoy both. But we do have other South-East Asian food from Malaysia and Vietnam as well. Hence the name Majapahit because Majapahit was once a kingdom in South-East Asia, so we’re covering the food served in those areas,” says Nelson How, the restaurant’s marketing manager.
The kitchen is helmed by Indonesian chef Pak Isan Santibi, a seasoned veteran who is well-versed in Indonesian cuisine and also served at Thai restaurant Ginger, where he picked up a litany of Thai recipes. Many things on the menu are ideal for sharing among friends, and you’d do well to start with the Satay of South-East Asia platter (RM52 for a regular portion). The meal features Balinese fish satay, Malaysian chicken satay, Indonesian beef satay and Vietnamese sugarcane prawn with unique homemade dipping sauces. Of these, the Malaysian chicken satay is a clear winner – tender and succulent, with a sumptuous, sweet peanut sauce. The Balinese fish satay is also delightful – plump and packed with flavour with a light, tangy sauce to complement the assemblage.
Enjoy various meat skewers and unique dipping sauces with the Satay of South-East Asia platter.
Then there is the Curry Galore (RM52), another cleverly designed sharing platter perfect for curry aficionados. With the platter, you’ll find a motley crew in the ilk of Thai red and green curry, Indonesian squid curry and Malaysian prawn curry served with chapati bread and cassava crackers. All the curries are made to order from homemade curry pastes. The curries are delicious – most notably the slightly sweet squid curry swimming with chunks of tender, pliable cephalopod and the Thai green curry, a comforting favourite done to perfection here, with just the right amount of heat. While the cassava crackers are delightfully crunchy and tasty, I’m not sure they’re ideal for mopping up the curries as they tend to get sodden and leaden every time you plunge them into the curry’s watery depths. In lieu of that, I would recommend that you eat the curries on their own or pair them with the much hardier chapatis on offer instead.
- Leave some space in your belly for the fried rice platter, which is incredibly satisfying.
- If you’re a curry fiend, you’ll love the curry platter.
For an even more filling sharing platter, definitely, definitely indulge in the The Maha Rice Royale (RM48), which encompasses Thai pineapple fried rice, Thai fried rice, Indonesian fried rice and Malaysian kampung fried rice. It’s difficult to pick a favourite here because the entire platter is delightful – the kampung fried rice is as good a rendition as you’re going to find anywhere – spicy with crunchy shards of ikan bilis thrown in, while the pineapple fried rice features bursts of zesty pineapple, cashewnuts and other bedfellows that serve to elevate the rice. The Indonesian fried rice originates from Bandung and has sly spicy undertones while the Thai fried rice has a herbaceous underbelly and a slight fieriness. Although portions are plentiful, this platter is such a winner that you’re likely to hoard it closely to your person, warding off the trespassing spoons of your friends with vicious “I dare you!” stares.
Creamy and rich with slight coconut nuances, the coconut butter chicken is delicious when eaten hot.
If you’re looking for stand-alone dishes to sample, definitely order the coconut butter chicken (RM25), a play on creamy butter chicken. Here, the deep-fried chicken is smothered in a sauce made of butter, margarine, cream and coconut milk in what proves to be a delicous, slightly coconut-ey coupling. Be sure to eat this when it’s hot though, as the sauce seizes up once it’s cold and is decidedly less appetising.
On a cold day (or simply a long one) you could opt for a warm pot of Spicy Seafood Tom Yam (RM32). Filled with prawns, squid and fish, the soup is satisfyingly spicy without endeavouring to assasinate your taste buds. You might find though that while the sweet-sour balance here is good, the flavours could be more robust, as they are a little understated at the moment.
- Served piping hot, the tom yam is suitably spicy but could do with more depth of flavour.
- The Vietnamese drip coffee offers a soothing, satisfactory end to a meal.
End your meal at The Majapahit with the crowd favourite Viet-namese drip coffee (RM12). Stir the tar-black coffee which already has a layer of condensed milk in the base of the cup and you’ll find a soothing, lightly sweet beverage guaranteed to ease frayed nerves and soothe your senses into a state of blissed-out contentment.
How says that while The Majapahit will remain a stand-alone restaurant, there are now plans to forge ahead with a spin-off restaurant called Gajah Mada which will epitomise the same cuisine ideals as The Majapahit.
“The first eatery is planned in MyTown KL – it will be a full restaurant, it’s just that we will price the food lower than The Majapahit,” he says.
Lot No G8, G9 & G10
Ground Floor, Arcoris Mont’Kiara
No 10, Jalan Kiara
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-6411 7097
Open Sunday to Thursday: Noon to 12.30am; Friday to Saturday: Noon to 1.30am