The Meal Planner

On Sunday our Secret-Secret Geography Club got together for some Malaysian fare. We wanted to do a country that was really quite foreign to us, so we had to research recipes and use ingredients we weren't familiar with. I was really looking forward to trying food that was totally different.

Our group delivered the delicious goods as usual. Lindsey brought a Malaysian Spicy Fruit Salad called Rojak. It was a combination of cucumber, pineapple, jicama, mango, and green apple tossed with a dressing of chili, sugar, lime juice and shrimp paste. But after Lindsey opened the jar of shrimp paste and smelled it, she decided to skip out on it. It's REALLY strong smelling and I can understand why she would shy away....kinda almost like fishy dog food. But stronger. Anyways, the whole mixture was topped with ground peanuts and black sesame seeds. It was really interesting. The combination of spicy, sweet and sour seemed to really work. It was refreshing.

Lindsey also brought a dish of chilied eggs. Yes, I know it looks weird. There was just no salvaging the look of it for the picture. It's essentially eggs in a chili-coconut sauce. The eggs were first hard-boiled, then fried, then simmered in the coconut sauce. This one was just a little too weird for me. I think everyone felt the same.

I made Beef Rendang from Rasa Malaysia's website. It was a long process that took about 2.5 hours to prepare but sooooooo worth it! I loved the flavors of the chili's, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and coconut combined with the warm spicy star anise, cinnamon and cloves. I hate to say it, but I think I'm really starting to like anise and cinnamon in savory dishes...if it's done right of course. After frying a homemade spice paste the beef, coconut milk, toasted coconut and more spices were added and then simmered and stewed. You let the mixture stew until all the liquid is gone and by the end the pieces of beef are being fried. At the end of the 2-3 hour process all the spices and flavorings have combined to create this amazing earthy, spicy beef that is just incredible. Steve thought it was possibly the best thing I have ever cooked. Now that's a compliment!

Dan also purchased some shrimp paste, but he actually ended up cooking with it. It went into these spicy long beans. After smelling the shrimp paste and the odor filled the room as Dan cooked with it, my stomach was turning thinking about eating these beans. But just like fish sauce can be potent and you would never eat on it's own, when you cook with it in small portions it adds great flavor. So shrimp paste and all, these beans were good. Like...really good.

It seemed we couldn't have Malaysian food without Malaysian satays. Dan made these and they were incredibly delicious. They tasted just like the satays I made with a recipe again from Rasa Malaysia. Everyone was fighting over the last few skewers.

Can't have satays without homemade peanut sauce.

I think we all loved our Malaysian feast and all the unexpected flavors. The last couple months have been filled with countries we love like India, China and Mexico, but they were all very familiar dishes. Besides the skewers, I had never tried any of these dishes before. New, exciting and delicious.

The next country we are going to explore is the culinary delights of France. That means fresh spring vegetables, butter, cream, pastry, cheese and copious amounts of wine.

I can hardly wait.

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6 Responses
  1. Trish Says:

    How do I get an invitation to this dinner club?!?!?
    It all looks so delicious.
    I must confess...I tried a Pad Thai recipe a few months ago. It was my first experience cooking with fish sauce. Ugh! I might be scarred for life. I still have the bottle in my fridge but I CANNOT bring myself to give it another try.
    I fear that shrimp paste would be the same. :P
    And I'm a really brave eater. LOL

  2. Kelly Says:

    Yum! The beef you made looks amazing!
    I feel the same way about fish sauce, the first time I smelled it I almost threw out the bottle! But in small doses it can pack a big flavour punch.

  3. Kathy Blais Says:

    Wow, that sounds like an amazing meal!

    I made the mistake of reading the ingredients on the fish sauce bottle once.... I couldn't use it for months after that!

    For your French night, you should try making Coq au Vin... it's my favourite French thing to make (okay, it's the only French thing I know how to make, but it's really good!)

  4. Trish - Fish sauce really isn't that bad! Maybe it was the recipe you tried??? I would never stick my nose in and smell it, but a bit here and there with the right combo of other ingredients is pretty dang awesome. I suspect shrimp paste is like that. Because I am so used to it now, it's easy to get passed it's strong smell. But the shrimp paste was new and so overwhelming...I'm sure I could get used to it and like it though. Eventually.

    Kelly - It really was amazing! No thanks to me, it was all Rasa Malaysia and her fabulous recipe. It's funny that you say you almost threw out your bottle of fish sauce...Lindsey considered doing the same with her shrimp paste! She figured she must have bought a bad jar of it...haha. Different countries really do use the strangest ingredients :)

  5. Kathy - I know what you mean..just knowing that shrimp paste is made from fermented ground shrimp and then sun-dried to intensify the fermented shrimpy flavor sounds just plain disgusting...but then again we all eat Worcestershire sauce and it's made from anchovies. Same stuff, different pile :)

    Thanks for the Coq a Vin suggestion! I already started researching and that dish caught my eye. I think I'll experiment and try some stuff before the next dinner night, and I'll be sure to try that one.

  6. Marisa Says:

    I love the concept of your Secret-Secret Food club. I've scanned through all the posts with international food and it all looks delicious!

    Pity I'm all the way over here in South Africa. I gues I'll just have to try the recipes out myself.