Flavors of Malaysia Cookbook

Flavors of Malaysia celebrates the best of the Malaysian table: sizzling satays, flavorful stir-fries, fragrant rice and noodle dishes, aromatic curries, and Malaysia’s signature hot and spicy condiments, the delectable sambals.

For centuries Malaysia was a major center of the spice trade in Southeast Asia. Over time, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian and Arab, as well as Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences blended beautifully to create the mélange of cultures and intensely vibrant flavors that is Malaysian cuisine today.

Susheela Raghavan serves up treasured recipes, touching family stories, and fascinating notes about the origins of Malaysian food in this lovingly compiled collection.

· More than 150 authentic, easy-to-follow recipes
· 16-page color photo insert
· Detailed introduction to Malaysian history & its culinary origins
· Guide to Malaysian ingredients and cooking techniques

Flavors of Malaysia: A Journey through Time, Tastes, and Traditions
$40.00; hardcover; 408 pages; 8″ x 9″
ISBN 13: 978-0-7818-1249-8; ISBN 10: 0-7818-1249-6


Hippocrene Books: http://www.hippocrenebooks.com/book.aspx?id=1686

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Flavors-Malaysia-Traditions-Hippocrene-Cookbook/sim/0781812496/2

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flavors-of-malaysia-susheela-raghavan/1100375115


Malaysia today continues to be a land of great cultural and ethnic diversity. Sociologists have classified over 180 identifiable ethnic groups in Malaysia. According to the most recent available (2008) population estimate, Malaysia comprises 53.3 percent Malay, 26 percent Chinese, 7.7 percent Indian, 1.2 percent Others (which includes Eurasians), and 11.8 percent Indigenous Peoples. Bumiputras (or Bhumiputra, from the Sanskrit word meaning “sons of soil”) refers to Malays, Orang Asli, and some indigenous peoples from Sabah and Sarawak. While the people of Malaysia come from different cultural backgrounds, we all share a common passion—food! The Malay language itself reflects our obsession with food. In addition to “apa khabar” (“how are you?”), I might greet a friend in Malaysia by saying, “sudah makan?” (“have you eaten?”). And what makes Malaysian curries, sambals, stirfries, and noodles so unique and so full of flavor? It is the combination of a number of spices, fragrant roots, lemongrass, dried shrimp paste (belacan), coconut milk, preserved soybean paste (taucheo), kasturi lime, and tamarind juice. Let’s look at some of the basic ingredients and seasonings that make Malaysian cuisine truly unique.

Common Malaysian Seasonings and Ingredients

The ‘soul’ of Malaysian cooking is the rempah, which refers to spices, both dry spices (including cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, clove, and star anise) and wet spices (including turmeric root, galangal, chilies, lemongrass, belacan, tamarind, and ginger). Rempah is the base for curries, sambals, stir-fries, laksas, and stews. Rempah ingredients are finely or coarsely ground using a mortar and pestle (batu lesong), food processor, or blender. After the ingredients are pounded or pureed, they are continuously stirred in oil (a process called tumising that takes away the raw tastes of the ingredients) till the oil starts seeping out of the rempah paste and the paste develops a fragrant aroma. Then the other ingredients are added—chicken, shrimp, meats, fish, or vegetables. For tumising, cooks generally use plenty of oil. I use less oil in my recipes and thus less time tumising, but still end up with a delicious sauce.

A year before Ma passed away, she finally parted with her treasured mortar and pestle which reminded me of Ma and my Grandma whom we affectionately called Periama. Today, I use it to pound my rempah. It is among my greatest treasures! And whenever I use it to prepare recipes in this cookbook, memories come flooding back of Ma and Periama in our kitchen. I remember Periama sitting on the kitchen floor, bent over the mortar, ready to work on the rempah ingredients. She did not raise her head up even for a moment, but concentrated on what she was doing. She began with the shallots, pounding them into a soft paste, and scraping them out. Next, she added garlic and ginger and pounded them for few minutes and then took them out. Then she added the soaked and drained dried whole red chilies, which took longer pounding. She used just enough water to get the paste moving and rotated the pestle to pound in a circular motion. The work required some exertion. She carefully took the end of her sarong and wiped her face, then continued pounding.

Periama’s other favorite rempah grinder was the bigger batu giling (a rectangular and flat stone or granite-based block also known as ammi kallu in Tamil or metate in Spanish) that was kept atop a concrete pedestal outside the kitchen at the back of our house. On it she ground the dried red chilies that had been soaked in water to make our curries and sambals. Periama turned grinding chilies into an art. Using both her hands on the stone rolling pin (metlapil ), Periama moved it to and fro, as she pushed in pieces of chilies toward the center, adding a little water at a time, and finely grinding them into a smooth paste. She then scraped the paste and placed it in a saucer and brought it into the kitchen to make her fish curry. As I worked with chilies later, I used to wonder how she never got a “burn”!

From FLAVORS OF MALAYSIA: Introduction- Page 8

2 Comments on “Flavors of Malaysia Cookbook”

  1. October 15, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    This is one of my favorite cookbooks. I love to read it for the stories and history. And its a great source for malaysian recipes…they are easy to follow and so delicious! It belongs in every cooks library…

  2. October 16, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    Thanks Sandra…glad you enjoy my cookbook!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: