The night of our first Malaysian feast, I made “beef” rendang, red cooked “chicken”, and some herbed rice, each Malaysian dishes, according to the book.
Beef rendang is ubiquitous, apparently, although I don’t think I had ever tried it prior to now. It is meat (or in this case seitan-ish stuff) cooked in coconut cream and spices such as star anise, cinnamon, clove, cardamon and lime leaf, until the liquid is cooked off, leaving moist, rich, coconut-flavoured wonderfulness. It is said to have originated in Indonesia, but is famously popular in Malaysia.
I used the recipe for beef rendang from the book, The Food of Malaysia, by Wendy Hutton, with a few minor changes to veganise. I used Fry’s vegan beef-style strips instead of cow-flesh. The recipe calls for a very long cooking time, however mock doesn’t tend to hold up to stewing, and I wanted to avoid ruining the texture, so I cooked the spices in the coconut cream without the strips, to release the flavours, and added the strips only for the reducing stage.
The rendang was easily the best part of the meal. So rich it was *almost* too much, but clearly the favourite, causing a small, good-natured skirmish over who would get the left overs for lunch the next day.
I’d spent up big with the Fry’s products, and used some of their chicken-style vegan strips to make Ayam Masak Merah (or Red-cooked chicken). This dish is said to be a Malaysian version of Italian chicken cacciatore: tomato-based chicken stew, with sour tendencies and a lot of chillies.
I found this dish at malaysianfood.net, and used their recipe, which you can find here. The only changes: vegan strips instead of meat, and I didn’t add pandan leaves, as I couldn’t find any at the markets.
This wasn’t as successful as the rendang. I forgot my own rule, and stewed the vegan strips for so long that they turned to loosely-held-together mush before I realised my mistake. The sauce was fantastic though, definitely one to try again. Mr ate it anyway, I am pickier, and ate the sauce and sort of avoided the bits with confusing and unpalatable texture. I think Mr ate them off my plate. We are complimentary, that way 🙂
I had intended to serve these main dishes with Nasi Kerabu, or herbed rice, As with the pandan leaves though, I couldn’t find half of the herbs required, like turmeric leaf, zedoary, daun selum and daun salam (?). I don’t know if they’re not available, if I was looking for herbs with different names here than they have in the book, or if they were some of things I just don’t recognise at the market, with no signs, or signs in languages I don’t read. In any case, I made a sort of white-girl version, using corriander, lemongrass, Vietnamese mint, and Thai basil, which was still refreshing and tasty.
The sour spiciness of the chicken was in contrast to the creamy, rich rendang and the fresh-flavoured rice, and it made for an interesting, satisfying and yummy meal.