Beef rendang is the most complicated and elaborate dish I have attempted to make. It is a decadent and fragrant braised beef dish with a rich and thick gravy and it is one of the iconic dishes of Malaysia. What makes it complicated is that the ingredients are themselves complex recipes, including chili paste, rendang spice paste, and kerisik, which is grated, toasted, and mashed coconut. It is also a very sensitive dish and the thickness of the gravy, the degree of spice, and the richness of the flavor all depend on how you cook the dish. Each person in our class made their own rendang and everyone’s tasted different. Luckily, they were all absolutely fantastic.
I think there were two distinguishing factors of the class at Lazat: (1) the owner and teacher were friendly, funny, and knowledgable and (2) the food we made was among the best I’ve made across all my cooking classes. Each dish was a complete home run. The preparation also made me understand why my friends who live in Kuala Lumpur eat out most nights – you can buy incredible food for a couple dollars and making these dishes is time consuming and challenging. But given that I don’t live in Malaysia, I’m very excited to try to attempt these at home.
Our appetizer was cucur udang or prawn fritters. Unlike the corn fritters I made in Bali, which had the chili embedded in the fritter, for these we learned how to make an incredible sweet / spicy chili dipping sauce. I can think of about 100 other things it would be good on. The fritters were the most straightforward dish to make – we mixed flour with corn, prawns, bean sprouts, shallots, spring onions, and a dash of turmeric. We scooped tablespoons of the gooey mixture into boiling oil and simply waited for the batter to transform itself into crunchy, chewy, delicious fried fritters.
We also made a salad called acar timun to accompany our beef rendang – it is a spicy cucumber and carrot mixture that brings a refreshing acidity to accompany the rich rendang. To make the salad we fried a spice mixture of mustard seeds, star anise, cinnamon, and clove and then added in a ground up combination of rehydrated dried shrimp, shallots, ginger, and garlic. We made a light dressing by adding in vinegar, sugar, and salt then tossed in our julienned veggies and chilies for a quick fry.
Dessert was kueh koci, which is white glutinous rice filled with palm sugar and grated coconut. I absolutely love the texture of glutinous rice and will go out of my way to order dishes that have it if they are on a menu or if I see them in an Asian grocery store. I also have a steady supply of mochi in my freezer, which have a thin layer of the stuff surrounding ice cream. It was really cool to learn how to actually make the mysterious chewy, sticky, gooey mixture. It is basically just a dough made from glutinous rice flour and water and the flavor comes from the sweet filling and a salty coconut milk glaze. Despite stuffing myself with everything else, I managed to squeeze in a few of these and they also made a reappearance as a bedtime snack.
I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the deliciousness and diversity that is Malaysian food.Additional information:
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