Malaysia: Recipes from a Family Kitchen, written by Ping Coombes, features the incredibly flavorful and diverse cuisine of Malaysia with over 100 family-style recipes. Highlights include Lor Bak (Five-Spice Pork Spring Rolls), Kuih Ketayap (Malaysian Coconut-Filled Pancakes), Nasi Lemak (Malaysian Spicy Coconut Rice), Murtabak (Malaysian Flaky Bread Stuffed with Spiced Lamb), and Sayur Goreng (Stir-Fried Lettuce). I will also be sharing her recipe for Mee Goreng Mamak (Malaysian Fried Mamak Noodles) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Weldon Owen in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Ping Coombes grew up in Ipoh, Malaysia and moved to the United Kingdom in her early 20s to attend university. She is a home cook with a focus on Malaysian cooking and won the MasterChef competition (UK) in 2014. You can find her at Pings Pantry and she has also worked with Chi Kitchen.
Ping begins with an introduction to Malaysian cuisine and its influences from Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures along with the differences between the Peranakan/Nyonya (Chinese ingredients using Malay methods) and Malaysian Mamak (Indian Muslim, particularly noticeable in street food stalls) cooking styles.
Chapters are divided based on course: My Pantry; Cook’s Notes; Pastes, Sambals, and Condiments; Small Plates and Snacks; Salads and Broths; Rice and Noodles; Rice and Noodles; Meat and Poultry; Fish and Seafood; Vegetables and Eggs; “English” Food; Sweet Things; and Drinks.
For those new to Malaysian and Southeast Asian cooking, she includes a list of basic pantry ingredients with descriptions, storage, cooking tips, and occasionally photos of popular herbs, chilies, spices, seasonings, noodles, and other essentials. Ping also covers the use of the clay pot, metal wok, and rubber spatula. You will learn how to form the foundation for the recipes with homemade pastes, sambals, and condiments to help build the flavors.
Measurements are listed in US Customary. The name of each recipe is written in English and Bahasa Malaysia. Headnotes are included with serving size, background information (I especially love the inclusion of Ping’s memories growing up and what makes these dishes so special), and serving tips.
The beautiful photography is provided by Laura Edwards. Most of the recipes include a full-page styled photo of the finished dish. A handful like the Ketam Cili Dengan Mantou Goreng (Chili Crab with Fried Mantou) and Roti Canai (Flaky Bread) also have step-by-step photos to help demonstrate some of the more challenging techniques.
Mee Goreng Mamak (Malaysian Fried Mamak Noodles)
Mee Goreng Mamak is a stir-fried noodle dish coated in a thickened sweet and spicy sauce. Fresh egg noodles are tossed with fried tofu squares, tiger prawns, tomato wedges, choy sum, bean sprouts, and green onions. Finish them off with a sprinkling of crispy shallots and a squeeze of lime juice.
If available, Ping states that the noodles are traditionally served with calamansi (a type of citrus native to Southeast Asia). Since calamansi is generally hard to find here (other than when my mother-in-law used to grow it, I have occasionally seen the juice packaged in the freezer section of some Southeast Asian markets that have Filipino ingredients), lime wedges are listed as a substitute.
Choy Sum (Choi Sum, Cai Xin, Chinese Flowering Cabbage) is Chinese leafy vegetable known for its yellow flowers and mild flavor. It can be found in the fresh vegetable section of markets featuring Chinese ingredients. I actually recently came across it in my local Wegmans (listed as Yu Choy Sum).
Kecap manis (Ketjap Manis) is a thick, syrupy sweet soy sauce popular in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking. The sauce can be made at home (here is a recipe from Fuss-Free Cooking), but I have not personally tried yet. It can be found in the sauce section of markets featuring Southeast Asian ingredients or on Amazon: ABC Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce (for a higher price).
Ping mentions that noodle dishes are often served at the end of a celebratory birthday meal for longevity. This also happens in our Filipino household where birthdays (New Year’s/pretty much all celebrations) are paired with Pancit.
I also made Kari Popcorn (Curry Popcorn), Nasi Goreng Ayam Dan Halia (Ginger and Chicken Fried Rice), Roti Jala (Malaysian Net Pancakes), and Kaya (Caramel Coconut Curd).
Claire and I couldn’t get enough of the Kari Popcorn. Freshly popped popcorn kernels are immediately coated in sugar before being drizzled with a curry and fennel seed-spiced butter. The addition of the sugar adds a crisp, sweet coating that pairs nicely with the warming spices. Claire now requests the popcorn whenever she sees me pull out the bag of kernels.
The Nasi Goreng Ayam Dan Halia (Ginger and Chicken Fried Rice) is a great way to use up leftover rice and chicken. Cooked and cooled (preferably overnight) rice is stir-fried with chicken, garlic, eggs, and ginger with a light seasoning of soy sauce. This one was another family hit.
Roti Jala is an interesting type of roti (flatbread/pancake) traditionally made by pouring a turmeric-tinted batter into a net-shaped mold. Since this mold can be difficult to find, Ping includes a technique to make the pancakes by transferring the batter to a squeeze bottle and swirling the pattern into a hot pan. Evan had a lot of fun playing around with this and making the patterns. These roti can be rolled up and served with curry.
Kaya has been on my list of things to make for a while now. I had never tried it, but it came up quite a bit in my research. I am so glad I finally made it and am now hooked. This caramel coconut curd is created by cooking a sugary egg yolk coconut milk mixture that has been lightly flavored with pandan until thickened. When it is almost ready, freshly made caramel is stirred in for a boost of richness. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, if it lasts that long. I served it simply over toast with butter.
Looking for more Malaysian recipes?
Malaysia is a great pick for those interested in Malaysian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Most of the recipes are easy for the home cook to create with a nice assortment of appetizers, snacks, meat, seafood, desserts, and drinks. Everything I tried was simple, yet perfectly-balanced.
Having a market that features Southeast Asian ingredients nearby will be helpful. Some difficult to find items include kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, pandan leaves, palm sugar, lychees in syrup, star anise, crème fraîche, choy sum, kecap manis, Kashmiri chilies, dried shrimp, belachan, tamarind concentrate, squid ink, curry leaves, banana leaves, Szechuan peppercorns, pork belly, and more.
Mee Goreng Mamak (Fried Mamak Noodles) Recipe
Reprinted with permission from Malaysia
Mee Goreng Mamak (Fried Mamak Noodles)
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce kecap manis
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon crispy prawn chilies optional
For the chili paste:
- 3 fresh red chilies
- 1 tablespoon water
For the Mee Goreng Mamak:
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Half an 8-oz block firm tofu cut into 1 1⁄4-inch cubes
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 8 ounces raw peeled tiger prawns
- 1 tomato cut into 6 wedges
- 2 stalks choy sum roughly chopped
- 14 ounce package fresh yellow noodles
- 2 green onions sliced
- 4 ounces bean sprouts
- Salt to taste
- 4 lime wedges
- 3 tablespoons crispy shallots
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.
- Put the chilies and water for the chili paste in a small blender and blitz to form a paste.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the cubed tofu for about 15 minutes, until browned all over. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Using the same wok, add the garlic and chili paste and fry for 1 minute. Add the prawns and fry until they start to turn pink, then add the tomato and choy sum and stir-fry for a minute more. Add the noodles, browned tofu, and sauce, then the green onions and bean sprouts. Mix well and make sure the prawns are cooked through.
- Check the seasoning and add salt to taste, then serve at once, with lime wedges and crispy shallots. Squeeze over the juice from the lime before eating.