Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kacang Kelor

To my horror I find that I am writing a series of food posts. Not very balanced in what is supposed to be a general blog about Katong, its residents and lifestyle. But sometimes, things just work that way. Today's post is about an unusual vegetable called drumstick, kacang kelor (pronounced Kah-Chang Kay-loh), or the seed pods of the horseradish tree.

This is a very unusual vegetable in that the exterior (the seed pod) is horribly hard and fibrous. But when cut into pieces and then cooked for some time, the exterior can be broken easily to get to the soft, juicy interior. This is the vegetable seen frequently in Indian curries, especially dahl (lentil) curries. But it really goes well in other curries as well, eg chicken, fish curries.

My grandmother's neighbour has a horseradish tree somewhere in his garden. Every now and then, he harvests the seed pods and my grandmother gets a share of his bounty. She passes much of this on to my mother. My mother used to cook it in fish or chicken curries. Then she realised that the meat was just taking up the surplus space in the pot. So now we have our drumstick cooked in vegetable curries, so that the main attraction of the dish is just this vegetable. After the end of the meal our plates are piled high with the thick, fibrous, remnants of the seed pods, all with their insides dilligently scraped clean. So here is a picture of kacang kelor, on the outside and inside.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Prawn Bostadar

We cooked some prawn sambal bostadar the other day and given that this blog has been silent for about a month now, I thought I'd put up an entry on this. Prawn bostadar is a very, very Eurasian dish. It is more commonly called green chilli prawn sambal, and used to make sandwiches with. In fact, what I like doing is eating the dish itself one day and eating the left over chillis in sandwiches the next morning for breakfast. Talk about eating your cake and having it too. But the traditional Eurasian birthday party tea (at least, for those living in Katong) would have red chilli and green chilli sambal sandwiches, sausage rolls from Chin Mee Chin, (next to Holy Family Church), and a birthday cake from either Cona Confectionary (other side of Holy Family Church) or Tay Buan Guan's cake shop (see older post here). Plus other goodies of course! And we'd play games like "Musical Chairs", "Passing the Parcel", "Crocodile, Crocodile, may we cross your river" and the like.
But back to the dish. Prawn Bostadar is a sambal, but because of the coconut milk it is not really a dry sambal (in fact the way I cook it is a rather wet sambal, coz I like the gravy on the rice). What makes it really unique is that the chillis are not used as a garnish, but as a vegetable - they appear in this dish in the same quantities as you would expect, for example, green beans to appear in a vegetable dish. And they are meant to be eaten! A dish not for the faint hearted indeed. I've used the proportions from the recipe in Mary Gomes' book, "The Eurasian Cookbook" but I've slightly varied the method. The major difference is that lazy people some of us are, the spices are pureed using a blender.
300g prawns, shelled and deveined
10 sliced green chillis (more, if you like)
1 teaspoon sugar
125ml (or so) thick coconut milk (I tend to add more)
5 cloves garlic, sliced finely
For the rempah (spice mix):
10 shallots
5 buah keras (or candlenut)
1 small cube belacan (Mary Gomes says 1 teaspoon.)
1 teaspoon kunyit (tumeric) powder (you can use the tumeric root - maybe about 1 cm's worth - but I always stain my fingers with this so I'd go with the powder).
Pound or blend (using the blender) these ingredients together. It's important not to skimp on the candlenut, and not to overdo the belacan or kunyit powder. Dish should come out a nice, sunny yellow rather than a bright orange.
1. Heat oil in saucepan and when hot, fry the garlic till golden brown. Remove from heat, dry on kitchen towels.
2. Add the rempah to the pan. Fry until fragrant, don't let it burn (medium-lowish heat)
3. Add the green chillis, and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the prawns and fry (turn up heat). Because they cook quickly, after 1 minute or so, add in the coconut milk and sugar. Let the coconut milk thicken.
5. Remove from heat, serve garnished with garlic.


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