If you are from Malaysia, or if you have ever took a trip to Malaysia, I am sure you have tasted nasi lemak before. And while the whole nasi lemak ensemble is a treat indeed, the one thing that I consider a must have is nasi lemak sambal that comes with it.
So, if you are thousands of miles away from Malaysia (like me) and want to make the delicious nasi lemak sambal at home, give this recipe a try.
This sambal (chili sauce) is good not only with nasi lemak, but with almost any other Indonesian/Malaysian dishes. We use it with so many thing, from pairing it with fried chicken, all the way to dipping sauce for fresh vegetables.
Hot (Original) vs. Mild Versions
The original recipe uses 100 gram of dried red chilies.
I will be the first to admit that my poor stomach cannot handle that spiciness level. So, what I usually do is I dial down the spiciness level way way down to a measly 20 gram (and I remove all the seeds from the chilies too!).
If you want that signature red color in your sambal, you have two choices. First choice, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of mild/sweet paprika powder (not chili powder, or it will be super hot again). Second choice (which is my preferred version) is to add 1 can (6 oz/170 gram) of tomato paste.
If you choose 2nd option, you will definitely want to increase the sugar (usually double the listed amount) and salt (by about 1 teaspoon) to balance out the tomato paste. If you stick to the first option, you most likely won’t have to tweak the amount of listed sugar and/or salt.
Now for something completely different. To all my readers, sorry for the super long absence. I took two long vacations back-on-back.
First a 3-week trip to Washington, D.C. with my husband. Then a 2-week road trip with my in-laws from Rocky Mountain and going south all the way to Guadalupe Mountain.
It was super exhausting but very fun. Now that I am back and have taken enough rest, my posting schedule should be back on track. 🙂
One particular dish that one must try from a Malaysian Mamak stall is assam fish curry. It’s like the most delicious fish curry ever, on par with our own Indonesian style fish head curry. It has everything, spicy, sour, sweet, savory, and I can eat my rice just with this dish alone, and I might even have a second helping of rice! Believe me, it is that good. If you ever had the chance to visit Malaysia, be sure to order this dish. And for everyone else, give this recipe a try, then get ready to dig in.
What fish can you use to prepare assam fish curry
The fish that we most commonly use to prepare assam fish curry is Spanish mackerel. If you can find Spanish mackerel, you will want to buy them in steaks (4-5 pieces should be enough). Or if you managed to get fresh whole Spanish mackerel, you can get your butcher to clean and cut it into steaks for you. Some good alternative to Spanish mackerel that I have tried:
red snapper steaks
For most people living in the United States, the easiest fish to use is probably tilapia fillets. And though it is different than the original, preparing assam fish curry with tilapia fillets is pretty tasty too, so do give this recipe a try even if tilapia is all you have.
What you need to prepare Malaysian assam fish curry
Aside from the fish, here are the rest of the ingredients that you need to get to prepare this fish curry dish:
If you cannot find okra, I have also tried making this dish with Thai green eggplant with great success. But note that okra has natural thickening properties, so if you do substitute, you may want to thicken the sauce with some cornstarch.
There was a food stall I frequented when I was a student in Malaysia that sold superb inche kabin to go along with nasi lemak. Although rendang will always be the popular choice for nasi lemak, I almost always couldn’t stop myself and ended up with one inche kabin (fried chicken) too.
Years later I learned how to make this fried chicken dish myself. Whenever I am in the mood for some seriously good fried chicken, a batch of inche kabin – Malaysian fried chicken do wonders to stave off the cravings.
The marinade for Malaysian fried chicken
The key to great inche kabin (fried chicken) starts with the marinating sauce, which includes coconut milk, shallot, lemongrass, eggs, curry powder, turmeric powder, chili powder, cornstarch, and salt.
Luckily it is a super simple sauce to prepare as long as you have a blender. I typically dump everything in my blender and just whizz away until it becomes a smooth sauce.
You can use a whole chicken cut up into pieces, or about 8-10 chicken drumsticks, or even 16-20 pieces of chicken wings.
To make sure the sauce coats the chicken really really well, I always place the sauce and the chicken in a large gallon size ziplock and marinate for one whole night. If you cannot wait for one night, at least try to let the chicken marinate for 4 hours.
How to fry chicken
1. Make sure chicken is at room temperature
Before frying, be sure to remove the marinated chicken from the fridge and let them return to room temperature. I usually remove the chicken an hour before frying.
2. Choose a heavy pot or a heavy-bottom pot
The best pot/pan for frying chicken is a cast-iron skillet/pot or a Dutch oven since it will retain heat better and make sure the oil temperature stays where we want it.
3. Choose a high smoke point oil
When it comes to deep-frying, you want to use a high smoke point oil. Peanut oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, or vegetable shortening is all good choice.
Also, be sure to always cook chicken in batches so you don’t overcrowd the skillet/pot and lower the oil temperature too much. This can lead to an increase in cooking time and a greasier chicken.
4. Fry until chicken is fully cooked
Fill your skillet/pot with 1-inch of oil and heat over medium-high until the oil is hot. If you have a thermometer, it should register 175 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Fry chicken in hot oil, turning every 1-2 minutes until the skin is deep golden brown and the chicken is fully cooked.
If you have a meat thermometer, the thickest part of the fried chicken should reach 74 Celsius (165 Fahrenheit) to be fully cooked. It takes about 12-15 minutes for drumsticks and about 10-12 minutes for wings. If you are new to frying chicken, keep in mind that slightly overcooked chicken is vastly preferred to undercooked one.
5. Drain on a wire rack
Although you can drain the fried chicken on paper towels to soak up excess fat, it’s not exactly a great thing for the fried chicken. Letting fried chicken (or fried anything really) sit on paper towels will make the fried chicken crust less crispy once cooled. I know the photos show me doing this exact thing I said not to do, but well, we all live and learn. 😁
The best tool is a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Fried chicken will stay crispy once they cool. Remember to be patient and wait for 10 minutes for the chicken to cool before serving.
Serve with chili sauce and coconut rice
Inche kabin tastes wonderful as is, but my favorite food stall always gave me plenty of sambal to go with it. My favorite chili sauce for these fried chicken is nasi lemak sambal. But inche kabin with generous serving of sambal terasi or sambal bajak is equally lovely.
Steamed white rice is lovely with the fried chicken, but if it is possible, I highly suggest serving these with coconut rice, such as nasi uduk or nasi gurih.
Reheating fried chicken
If you have leftover fried chickens, you can store them in the fridge in an airtight container. To get that crispy skin back, try heating the chicken in a preheated oven of 200 Celsius/400 Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes. 10 minutes if you start from room temperature chicken, and 15 minutes if you start from cold fridge temperature chicken.