Curry: one of the greatest mysteries of life. Both a leaf and a mixture of spices formed into a paste, the term “curry” can be as nuanced as those age-old recipes that are passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Based on where in the world you find yourself, curry’s culinary interpretation are as unique as the regions where its use is most frequent, namely India, the Middle East, East Asia, and West Indies. I venture that for every curry dish that is made at a given time, there is a wise, elderly woman just waiting to advise you of the “right way” to make a curry.
Well, I didn’t have a grandmother from Malaysia on stand-by, but my alternative to learning the ways of the Malaysian curry was no less treasured. Let us call him “Albus”, the wizard of Malaysian Curry. He entered my kitchen with his own special, mysterious supplies, set up shop discretely and neatly, and jumped right in, making the most fragrant, delicious, and soulful curry any of us had ever tasted. Compared to Indian curries, which contain curry powder, a series of fresh ingredients impart a subtle, yet fragrant flavour to Malaysian curries, where turmeric adds the magic of colour and flavour.
So, although I have been sworn to secrecy about the particulars of the recipe (actually, Albus would have been forthcoming, but his mother, while imparting her knowledge of cookery to him, emphasized that he should determine the curry’s perfection primarily through “its colour” rather than specific amounts and measures, and adjust the ingredients accordingly), I am at liberty to divulge the generalities of a Panggang Kuali paste (best served with stir-fried chicken, pan-fried fish, or grilled prawns).
Ingredients: Garlic, onion, shallots, ginger, lemongrass (bottom only), water, and chili peppers (remove the seeds if you are looking for a milder version)
- Blend all ingredients together in a food processor (Albus prefers a Magic Bullet, as they are easier to clean – finally, a reason to bring it out of the darkness of the storage into the light of day) to make a paste.
- Heat olive oil in skillet
- Add curry mixture, bring to a boil, then reduce heat
- Add protein of choice
- Add 1/2 can of coconut milk, but do not agitate this with the coconut water in the can (otherwise, the mixture will be too runny)
- Add 1 tsp of turmeric and reduce
Selamat menjamu selera!