At every waking hour, food awaits.Often grouped in clusters, food stalls are commonplace in Southeast Asia. You may find culinary treasure being offered on a street corner, down an alley, or on a village road. But it is when you gather from five to seventy-five stalls in one location that a “Hawker Center” is born.
These food courts of Malaysia and Singapore are culinary meccas to locals and travelers alike. Most vendors have been cooking the same dish or few dishes every day for years. They’re masters of their craft! Often a stall’s specialty has been passed down from generation to generation.
Each spends a whole career focused on preparing a regionally unique offering, building and maintaining that all-important reputation. She or he may have chosen Chinese-inspired Char Kway Teow (wok-charred rice noodles with green onions and local clams) (pg. 336), while others have focused on Malay Nasi Lemak (coconut rice with curries,cucumbers and crisp anchovies) (pg. 330), or possibly Indian Roti Canai (crispy flat bread paired with curry or dhal) (pg. 286).
Even chicken wings are given the attention that they deserve; here they slowly roast them over a coal fire. A few Malaysian ringgit, less than one U.S. dollar, can get you a meal.As impressive as the foods are, so are the logistics that make them possible. You enter the culinary arena in search of that certain dish you crave at the moment. You order your food and then sit on a flimsy plastic stool and wait at a rickety table nearby. Within minutes your food arrives— no receipt or pager needed. At your seat, your drink order will be solicited. Each center has at least one... more can be found within the pages of Southeast Asian Flavors book.
Satay on the Move
This was a first for me, a lit satay grill mounted on the back of a scooter that zooms through the streets of Kuala Lumpur. I think they have tightened the regulations a bit since the early 90’s.
Roti Paratha – The acrobatic flatbread
Here is a video of one of the most interesting recipes in the book, Roti Paratha. Here a cook in the Tekka Market in Singapore's Little India. He pulls, twists and turns a slab of dough into a paper thin sheet.
Actual recipes from within the pages of Southeast Asian Flavors
Find out why chilies burn, and is what you want, how to reduce that burn and even make some decorative flowers.
There are many styles of coarse chili paste called sambal. Most probably originating in Indonesia, but it has become a prominent condiment in Malaysian and Singaporean cuisines. Sambal is a broad term that includes many chili-based condiments. The most common ingredients are chilies, garlic, shallots, and sugar – many also contain shrimp paste, salt, and tamarind.
Condensed milk – not filled
Pay close attention when buying condensed milk. Many times the labeling is exactly the same for both filled and full cream condensed milk. "Filled" has the unnecessary addition of oil and other additives, stick with full cream, the flavor and texture is superior.