You guys probably have gathered by now that I’m not originally from around here. I’ve only been living in England since 1999 when I came here on a full scholarship to do my degree. When I received the phone call offering me the scholarship, I was 18, bored, fed-up, despondent and had just returned home defiant after having walked out and disappearing for a few weeks. It was a definite yuuuuusssss moment.
I adore Malay cooking. I was aware that some people in this world had cereal for breakfast but why would you want that when you could have rice cooked in coconut milk, prawn sambal, cucumber salad and a fried egg for breakfast? This was exactly the breakfast I had daily at my school. It wasn’t uncommon to skip breakfast at home as school started at 8am and I had to catch the deathly public bus to school by 6:45am. We didn’t have hot water coming out of our taps in my parents house so the morning ablutions involved a lot of chucking jugs of cold water on my shivering body in our wet bathroom.
My school was in the heart of the city, a church owned Convent school situated next to a virgin rainforest. I had to use an over bridge to cross from the bus stop to get to the back entrance of the school. We would sometime bump into our Headmistress, Mrs. Manuel who would be lurking there to catch out those skiving classes.
There were two other approaches to the school, one passing the all boys St. John’s School just nearby. On Valentine Day’s, a representative from the boys school would turn up with plastic containers full of singly wrapped red roses, sent by boys from the school to their chosen Valentine, I never got one. Suffice to say this was the very catalyst to my rapidly acquired feminist stance that giving flowers to a woman is tantamount to being sexist.
The other approach to the school was a newly built road which curved along the edge of the rainforest. I once was flashed by a man there while walking up to school. At the age of 15, I actually thought I’d discovered a real life Asian Tarzan. I was so transfixed by the whole experience that my best friend then had to drag me away and lecture me about strange men who liked exposing themselves to girls in school uniform and plimsolls.
So, seeing that my family will be descending upon my household in a matter of days, I have been brushing up on my Malay cooking. I made some kickass peanut sauce yesterday and I have adapted the recipe so that you can make it with easily obtained ingredients.
Please, please, please, no jars of crunchy peanut butter were sacrificed for this dish.
1 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (unsalted)
1 cup water
2 tablespoon sugar
1/8tsp teaspoon of Maldon salt
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/2 lime, juice squeezed
6-8 dried red chilies (seeded and soaked in warm water)
3 cloves garlic
2 lemon grass (discard the green bits, they won’t blend well)
1 1/2tsp ginger
– Crush 1/3 of the peanuts coarsely.
– Grind the rest to medium texture.
– Take the ingredients for the spice paste and blend it with 2tbsp of oil.
– Bring the rest of the oil of a decent heat (that’s Asian decent heat, I’ll have you know). Fry the paste til it starts drying and you can smell the sweet aroma.
– Add the peanuts, water, sugar, lime juice and salt. Cook it on medium heat for around 5 minutes.
The peanut sauce is best with beef and chicken satay but it also goes beautifully with plain freshly boiled basmati rice and a salad of diced red onions, cubes mango pieces, chopped coriander, coarsely chopped tomatoes, a handful of thin egg noodles and a squeeze of lime juice.