Experimental Malaysian Vegetables
The recipe that Amy posted last Friday looked so good that I had to try it right away. Malaysian Roast Chicken! Why not try a Malaysian recipe for a side dish to go with it? I don’t have a Malaysian cookbook, but I do have this, which has a chapter dedicated to the food of Malaysia. Smartypants me, I was certain I could find something suitable without any trouble.
It’s way on the other side of the world from me, this Malaysia. And on the other side of the world, they grow some things that aren’t grown here. Water spinach, candlenuts, pandan leaves…I must confess ignorance. I have no idea what that stuff is. The glossary in the book wasn’t much help, either, because either there was no substitute for a particular ingredient, or the substitute was just as mysterious as the original. There are several great, well-stocked Asian supermarkets in my city and normally I’d run out and see what I could find or ask for advice, but we were in the middle of a snowstorm. No way was I slipping and sliding all over town in search of pandan leaves. This experiment would have to be conducted with plain old American vegetables from my suburban grocery. Finally, I came to a recipe for snake gourd.
Being fresh out of snake gourds, I almost passed it by. But wait! There was a “Helpful Hint” at the end of the recipe. Long beans, it said, zucchini or summer squash can be substituted for snake gourd. My grocery store has long beans occasionally (usually in the summer), but they always have zucchini. I could get every ingredient except fresh curry leaves, which were really a garnish–I could throw in a little curry powder, which I’m sure is not the same, but whatever. It’s my experiment. I tried it, fiddling with the recipe as I went along, of course. Here’s my version:
Faux Snake Gourd
1/2 c. red lentils (couldn’t find yellow ones, as called for)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 c. water
1 med. zucchini
1 med. yellow squash
2 shallots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
3 red chiles, chopped
1 tsp. curry powder
Rinse lentils, combine with water and turmeric, bring to a boil and simmer until done. The turmeric turns the red lentils yellow, and then they look like what the recipe called for in the first place.
Cut squash into pieces about 1/2 inch thick.
Saute shallots and garlic in oil until soft and starting to brown. Add mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add squash, lentils, curry powder, salt to taste and cook until tender. (I covered the pan and at one point added a little water since it was drying out.) When just a few minutes away from being done, add the chiles and correct seasonings.
The verdict? Well, maybe snake gourd has more flavor. Zucchini just wasn’t sufficiently exciting in this preparation. The lentils form a sort of mush which had lots of flavor on its own, but the rather bland chunks of squash really didn’t contribute much. We liked the lentils, however, and I think next time I’ll just make curried lentils and leave out the squash.
But that chicken. Oh, Lordy. That is some serious, serious chicken. I marinated it for a day and a half and it was To. Die. For. No joke. If you know what’s good for you, run on over to KnitThink and get the recipe!
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