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.
It is barely a week before Deepavali, and Devi Pitchay is busy preparing her family’s must-haves for the celebrations, such as muruku, love letters and kuih bahulu.
Devi’s festive offerings reflect the Malay and Chinese influences her community has assimilated from the 16th century. She belongs to the Indian Peranakan, or Chetti, community from Melaka.
Devi’s ancestors mostly originate from the Coramandel Coast of South India. They settled down in Melaka during the Melaka Sultanate in the 16th century. These Tamil settlers married Malay, Chinese and Javanese women, giving birth to the hybrid community known as Indian Peranakan, or Chetti.
Their traditional dressing is similar to that worn by the Malays and the more well-known Baba Peranakan. The women’s traditional costume is baju kebaya, comprising a sheer embroidered blouse and batik sarong.
Chetti men wear a fusion of Malay and Indian clothes in the form of kurta, shawl and sarong. A headdress called talapa, made from batik, completes their traditional wear.
At home, the Chetties speak Malay, which is their mother tongue, instead of South Indian languages like Tamil and Telegu.
Melaka Chetti women wear baju kebaya while the mens attire include kurta, sarong, shawl and traditional headdress (talapa).
The Chetti cuisine also reflects the assimilation of different cultures.
“Our dishes use a blend of Malay herbs and spices. Our favourite dish is lauk ikan parang pindang, made with coconut milk, lemongrass and turmeric.
“Another favourite dish is sambal telur ikan masak belimbing buluh, a hearty dish made with fish roe, lemongrass and ground chilli. My children love to eat dishes like asam pedas and kangkung masak lemak,” says Devi, a 62-year-old mother of five.
The Chetti’s celebratory dish is nasi lemak and kangkung, which they serve on special and auspicious occasions.
Devi’s family is one of only 20 Chetti families who still reside in the Chetti settlement in Kg Tujuh, on Jalan Gajah Berang in Melaka. Some live in other parts of Melaka or have moved elsewhere in Malaysia or abroad.
Marriage out of the community has also resulted in the Chetti’s dwindling population.
Devi serves a combination of Malay and Indian food like thosai, chicken curry and roti jala during Deepavali.
Like the Chinese Peranakan, the Indian Peranakan have retained their religion and its traditional rites, even though they have accepted Malay influences in other aspects of their daily and cultural lives.
“We have an altar in our home and pray to all the Hindu deities. Our beliefs are reflected in the Santhana Dharma which means eternal path of faith and truth,” says Devi.
Deepavali is the Chetti’s most important celebrations, and Devi’s family has gathered in Melaka to prepare for the festivities.
“We serve a combination of Indian and Malay dishes during Deepavali. They include roti jala, chicken curry, steamed nasi lemak and thosai. Our snacks and cookies comprise Indian favourites like muruku, omapodi, athirasam and Malay treats such as wajik, dodol, biskut semprit and kuih bangkit,” says Devi.
Her four daughters Sharmmila, Kavishalinee, Vilashanee and Kogela, have all come home to help her make the cookies and snacks. Their aunt, Devi’ sister, Tialamah Pitchay, 67, has also joined them.
Tialamah (right) and Devi making muruku for the festivities.
“My elder sister and Vilashanee travelled from Singapore while Kavishalinee and Sharmmila drove back from KL after work. The house feels so lively with their chatter and laughter,” says Devi, who lives in their 100-year-old wooden home with her mother Sakuntalai Subramanian.
The widow looks forward to the days leading up to Deepavali as her family is together.
Each person is tasked with different jobs.
Tialamah shapes the muruku dough – made from urad dhal, rice flour and spices – into spirals, and Devi helps to fry them into crunchy golden brown treats.
Kavishalinee takes charge of mixing the peanut biscuit dough while her siblings roll the mixture into perfect round balls.
Every year, they prepare between seven and 10 types of cookies and snacks.
Devi is pleased her children have returned home to help with their Deepavali preparations as they can also learn their unique Chetti recipes, the same way she learnt them from her 90-year-old mother.
The most sought-after Deepavali treat in this Chetti household is something that Devi is most proud of – her freshly-baked kuih bolu (kuih bahulu), a light and fluffy madeleine-like cake.
Neighbours will know when she is making her kuih bolu because of the tantalising aroma that wafts through the air.
Traditional baking tools for kuih bolu, love letters and roti jala are part of the must-haves in most Melaka Chetti kitchens.
“People enjoy my homemade kuih bolu. I make it the tradtional way.
“I still beat the eggs, sugar and flour with a hand-held spring whisk in an earthern pot. While making kuih bolu is time-consuming, I don’t mind as it is one of my children’s favourite cakes.
“Despite the availability of store-bought cookies, I am thankful they are willing and have the interest to learn how to make these traditional items from scratch,” says Devi.
True to their traditions
On Deepavali eve, Devi’s daughters will prepare the kolam on their porch. Bright-coloured rice flour is used for motifs such as flowers, and decorated with diyas (clay oil lamps) and kuthu vilaku (brass oil lamp).
“Traditionally, rice flour is used to design the kolam. It is believed the flour becomes food for ants and birds.
“It helps to create the act of giving and sense of harmony among humans and animals,” says Devi’s second daughter Vilashanee.
The house is spruced up, with new curtains and cushion covers to usher in the Festival of Lights.
A clean house is believed to bring in good luck from Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and fortune.
On Deepavali morning, family members will seek blessings from the elders.
On Deepavali morning, Devi and her family will wake up at 6am for an oil bath using gingely oil.
“The gingely oil bath helps to purify the mind and soul and reduce body heat. A herbal rub called shikakai powder is used to wash hair. We make it a point to wear new clothes on Deepavali day. It symbolises prosperity,” Vilashanee explains.
After seeking blessings from her grandmother, Vilashanee and her family will walk to the 200-year-old Sri Maha Mariamman temple for prayers.
The temple is one of three Hindu temples in their village.
“A coconut offering (thengai archanai) is done at the temple. It is for the purification of the soul and good luck.
“The breaking of the coconut symbolises breaking of one’s ego before the deities,” explains Vilashanee, who is a postal officer in Singapore.
The Chetti community’s festive table reflects their heritage of assimilating Malay influences in their cooking.
After their prayers, the family returns home to prepare a sumptuous lunch for close friends and family members.
Although it is a busy celebration, Devi looks forward to Deepavali every year. The hustle and bustle only adds to the festivities.
“Deepavali is all about the spirit of merry-making, family togetherness and purification of the soul. It is also about illuminating the Chitty community’s legacy for generations to come.”
Besides Deepavali, the Chetti community also observe other Indian festivals like Navarathri (festival of nine sacred days), Parchu Bhogi (held a day before the Tamil harvest festival, Ponggal) and Parchu buah-buahan (held during the fruit season in June and July).
Are you ready for Deepavali? On Nov 6, 2018, the world celebrates Diwali, which we have heralded with a series of FCX videos at facebook.com/star2dotcom. In case you missed it, we’ve put all our special programmes into one easy-to-watch playlist here.
Multiethnic Chinese-Indian Malaysian Family Celebrates Deepavali
Leong Kow Chai and Valiamah Selvadurai have been married for over 40 years. Their relationship has been built on love, humour and respect for each other’s history, culture, traditions, language and faith. In this video, they share their charming romance as they prepare for the Hindu Festival Of Lights, along with their six sons who also talk about embracing their Chindian heritage. Reported by Sheela Chandran, produced by Lennard Gui and Dinesh Kumar Maganathan. Read more: https://bit.ly/2wEc9Sz
Family Affair: The Lams Keep It Together With Indian Classical Dance
Hariraam Tingyuan, 27; Arunagiri Szeyuan, 18; and Sangametra Yuiyuan, 16; have been dancing since they were six, learning their steps from their mother, Indian classical dancer Geetha Shankaran, and their love of theatre from their father, drama coach Lam Ghooi Ket. In this video, they reveal how they inherited their passion for the arts and why keeping their cultural roots is so important. Produced by Ian Lau Yan Fun and Sheela Chandran. Read more here: https://bit.ly/2Aex3d4.
The Splendour Of Sari: Tips On How To Wrap, Tuck & Drape A Saree
Joseph Rakesh, the self-styled Malaysian Sari Man, offers tips and advice for anyone wearing a saree for the first time. Plus, our model Chichi Chakaipa – who has never worn a sari until now – shows how easy it is to learn a Pavadai tuck, a Gurukul wrap and a South Indian drape. And if you’re a first-timer like her, don’t be sorry that you can’t get your sari right. Perfection is for experts; everyone else just needs to feel beautiful. Produced by Lennard Gui, Ian Lau Yan Fun and Bervin Cheong. Read more: https://bit.ly/2COAx7P.
On The Menu: Bluffer’s Guide To Murukku
Fire up the wok and get on with the murukku! Don’t be scared to make your own. Sure, you can go the purist way by blending your own rice and lentil flours, but our instant mix recipe is quicker, cheaper and a lot less intimidating. It’s also vegetarian friendly and you can make it gluten-free too. Directed by Ian Lau Yan Fun, produced by Lennard Gui. For more easy-peasy home cook recipes from our On The Menu series, watch all 12 episodes here: https://bit.ly/2zqEDPZ
As a garment, the sari is both beautiful and steeped in culture. It has been worn for centuries by women in India and represents both timeless elegance and feminine grace.
Tying a sari however, can be a little daunting if you have never done it before. Especially so when it comes to dealing with the multiple drapings and correct folding of its beautiful pleats.
Enter Joseph Rakesh. With more than 20 years of experience, the man has tied saris for actresses, dancers and models, as well as women who need to look good for special occasions.
According to him, everyone can learn how to tie one and it is a matter of just getting the hang of it. He says he picked up the skill while working in India’s film industry during the 1990s.
“A sari is just a cloth six metres in length, but it can be tied in different styles. These can fit all women – no matter their body type, and is perfect for different events and celebrations, ” states the 49-year-old Malaysian.
“There are more than a hundred ways to tie a sari. As it is, each state in India has their own specific style. The Guruku, the Pavadai or the South Indian for example, are just some of the many.”
Joseph Rakesh is considered to be an expert at tying sarees.
Joseph says that he used to give classes on how to tie the sari. To him, it only takes a few simple steps. He also points out that anybody can look good in a sari, no matter your race or ethnicity.
“Accessories are important. Bangles, necklaces and rings can all help dress it up. I see more women these days wearing a sari with just a pair of statement earrings, and it looks good too, ” he notes.
When asked, Joseph reveals that the best place to shop for saris is actually in Malaysia. He gets his sarees from Klang, where there are a lot of showrooms and the price is very reasonable.
“Never pay the price the shop keepers are asking for though. You must always bargain. If it’s RM100, ask for RM90. Trust me, you’ll get what your asking for, plus your money’s worth for the effort.” Joseph relates that the very first time he saw a woman in a sari, it was his mother. He recalls how he has always admired her, where she would wear one when going for important events and functions.
View our video above or on facebook.com/star2dotcom/videos, where Joseph talks about the dos and don’ts of tying a sari. Also, watch as Star2’s former intern Chichi Chakaipa demonstrates how to tie three easy styles – taught by Joseph himself.