There are many books written on Penang food in the market but very few are written specifically on Muslim food. So, last week, when my husband saw Feasts of Penang, Muslim Culinary Heritage, a book written by Wazir Jahan Karim, he decided to get it for me for my birthday.
What my husband likes about this book is the inclusion of detailed description & the historical background of the dishes discussed by Wazir. Of course, a book about food is not complete without the recipes. Here, Wazir shared more than 100 recipes & I've tried 3 of them.
For me, the most interesting chapter in the book is the one on Nasi Kandar. I've always been intrigued by the fascination with Nasi Kandar. When I first went to Penang, my impression was that Nasi Kandar is just an Indian version of nasi padang... so what's the big deal..? But after making a few trips there & falling in love with the place, I can sense that it's more than just about Indian food. After reading this book, I can appreciate the fascination with Nasi Kandar better. Wazir's explaination of the historical background & evolution of Nasi Kandar is accompanied by beautiful pictures of the various places where the more popular Nasi Kandar stalls were & are still found.
The first recipe in the book that I tried was the Fish Curry. Fish curry was a basic dish in the original Nasi Kandar sold in the early 1900s. Fish curry is also a staple for my family... I cook it every other week. Since I wanted to taste the real flavour of this recipe, I followed the recipe (almost) to the T & measured all the ingredients. Although my family & I don't eat okra & brinjal, I decided not to omit them because, when cooked in the curry, they provide a unique flavour to it.
Just look at the pictures...... & it tastes heavenly.. It's rich, spicy & very delicious! I'm really not surprised... just look at the long list of ingredients!
Before I leave you with the recipe, I encourage you to get this book, especially if you are keen to read more about Muslim food in Penang. It may be a bit pricy, but for a well- researched book, I think it's worth it.
Fish Curry (Kari Ikan)
Recipe by Wazir Jahan Karim from Feasts of Penang, Muslim Culinary Heritage.
(Note: I've changed the order of the ingredients & simplified the method.)
1 kg king mackerel (tenggiri) - cut into 2cm-thick slices, wash & set aside
1kg red onions - slice finely
1 bulb or 10-12 cloves of garlic - slice finely
2 sprigs coriander - separate stems & chop stems finely (set aside leaves for garnish)
2 sprigs curry leaves - remove leaves from stems
1 tsp mustard & fenugreek seeds (I used store-bought mixed fish spice a.k.a rempah tumis ikan.)
200g pre-mixed fish curry powder - mixed with 250ml of water to form a paste
OR 25g turmeric powder
100g coriander powder
25g cumin powder
25g black cumin
25g chilli powder
500g tomatoes - cut, remove seeds & chop into fine pieces
100ml diluted tamarind juice
2 sprigs lemon grass - press
300ml coconut milk
250ml palm or rice oil (I used vegetable oil.)
500g okra - wash, cut hard end, lightly boil & set aside
500g purple or white brinjals - cut into small even pieces on a slant & fry to a golden brown
2 red & 2 green chillies - cut into two lengthwise & remove seeds
salt to taste
- Fry onions until light brown. Add garlic, curry leaves, chopped coriander stems, mustard & fenugreek seeds. Fry to a golden brown.
- Add spice paste & chopped tomatoes & stir evenly for 10 mins until oil separates from paste.
- Add another 250ml water as it thickens. Stir until oil separates from paste. The spices should by now render an aroma as oil separates further from paste. This process (from the time spices fry in oil) should take about 20mins.
- Add tamarind juice & lemon grass sprigs. Boil for another 20 ins.
- Add 600ml water, salt & coconut milk. Reduce as gravy thickens, oil will rise to surface.
- Add fish, boiled okra, fried brinjalm green & red chillies & one sprig coriander leaves. Remove from fire immediately & close pan with lid to allow fish to cook in the heat of gravy. Garnish with remaining coriander leaves.
Preparation time: 40 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour
- Malaysian Food Fest, Penang Month hosted by Alan of Travellingfoodies,
- Little Thumbs Up hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders, organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite D.I.Y. and
- Cook-Your-Books organised by Kitchen Flavours.