Sri Lankan String Hoppers, Sothi (Yellow Coconut Curry), Masala Fried Egg and Spicy Prawn Fritters

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I know, it looks like there is a lot on the plate. But believe me, this is quite a light meal. Perfect for dinner actually. This dish is a culinary specialty in Sri Lanka. Oddly though, in Sri Lanka, String Hoppers or Idiyappam is even served for breakfast.

The original string hoppers are made from plain rice flour. And over time, this was also introduced with wheat flour for a healthier option which produces a brown hue. More and more people are opting for the latter for health reasons, compromising the divine taste of the original white rice deliciousness. In Malaysia, the string hoppers are called putu mayam and has become somewhat a local delight eaten with grated coconut in brown sugar – something like a desert. This way of eating with sugar is an influence from the Kerala-Indians.

I really don’t want to bore you too much on the origins of the string hoppers. Instead, all I really want to do it tempt you into trying (if you never have) these delicious string hoppers. And if you have tried putu mayam, you should try it the Sri Lankan way. Once you taste the wonderfully steamed rice string hoppers in a sweet and sour coconut curry and a masala fried egg, you’ll never turn back. It explodes a few different taste buds at the same time and that’s why I love this so much!

However, making the string hoppers is not easy. It’s a painful process of kneading the dough in hot water and squeezing it out in this tiny wooden vessel and then steaming it over a water bath for 5~10minutes. The hardest part for me was the “squeezing” as it drained all the energy out of me. Thankfully, the husband lent a helping hand. ūüôā After this episode, I was compelled to look for a more automated options to make this and there were a few and this one I liked best. Maybe, I should invest on this.¬†http://www.oritha.com/naveeno-95-black-and-white-1-set-1.html

String Hoppers (Idiyappam)

  • 1 cup white rice flour (or idyappam flour)
  • 1 cup wheat flour (or wheat idiyappam flour)
  • 3 cups of hot water
  • 2 tsp salt

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Method:

  1. Mix both flour and salt in a bowl
  2. Add hot water into the flour while using the back of a wooden spoon, mixing the floor together. You will get a somewhat a crumbly dough
  3. Using your hands (maybe use plastic gloves), knead the dough a little till it becomes fully mixed and no floury lumps in them. It’s okay if it’s still mushy
  4. Squeeze out the string hoppers using your gadget to get a rounded shapes over a tray that you will use over your boiler. I used a pizza tray with holes and layered it with a baking paper
  5. Steam string hoppers for 5~10mins

Sothi (Yellow Coconut Curry)

  • 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1~2 green chili halved and seeds removed (you can leave the seeds if you want more heat)
  • 1 tomato roughly chopped
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1/4~1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup of evaporated milk/light cream/milk
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • salt
  • 3~4 curry leaves
  • 1/2 a lime juice

Method:

  1. Fry the fenugreek seeds, onions and garlic in pan till the aroma is released from the seeds
  2. Add in the chilis, tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Let this come to a boil
  3. Then add in the coconut milk, tamarind paste and turmeric. The sothi will start to come together. Add salt and add in the milk. Do not let the sothi boil. Once the sothi has had enough heat, turn off the flame and add in the lime juice to finish off

Masala Fried Egg

  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Salt
  • 1 onion chopped fine
  • 1 green chili seeds removed and chopped fine
  • 3~4 curry leaves chopped fine
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Mix the turmeric and chili powder with little water (~2tbsp) till it is easily dissolved and no longer lumpy
  2. Break in the eggs in the turmeric and chili mix. Beat it thoroughly with required salt.
  3. Fry the onions, chili and curry leaves in a pan till softened. Add in the egg batter and fry in omelettes.

Spicy Prawn Fritters

Method:

  1. Similar to the masala egg, coat prawns in chili powder and turmeric and salt. You can add some cajun crumbs if you like.
  2. Fry them thoroughly

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Homemade Chicken Briyani, Raita & Curry

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I have never made chicken briyani. It seemed like a complicated cooking process and was pretty much a recipe for failure. Or at least that was the impression I had. Also, having the luxury of buying briyani from a store pampered me all my life and that somehow never motivated me enough to cook it, up until now.

I must say, for a first timer, my briyani turned out to be really good!! I made a small mistake of overcooking the rice a tad bit and underestimating my chicken before I layered them together. Therefore, after combining both the chicken and rice, I had to cook it a little longer till the chicken was thoroughly cooked. Resulting in a slightly mushed rice. But since it tasted good, that small glitch was easily ignored.

Here is my simplified version. And it’s really easy to make. There is a whole load of ghee used in this recipe. If you are looking for a low fat meal, turn back now. And if you are on a diet, screw the diet?

Ingredients

  • Chicken as needed (I used 1/4 chicken, specifically the thigh and drumstick piece per person)
  • 2 cups basmathi rice (for 3 person)
  • 2 onions sliced very thin (I used a slicer)
  • 1 whole garlic chopped fine
  • 1 bunch of coriander chopped fine
  • 20~30 cashew nuts (you can also use raisins but I dont like the sweetness in my briyani)
  • 4 tbsp yogurt
  • 3 green chilis split half and seeds removed
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 2¬†cinnamon¬†stick
  • 6 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamom
  • Coriander powder
  • Cumin powder
  • Turmeric powder
  • Garam masala / curry powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Ground pepper
  • Salt
  • Ghee & Oil
  • Saffron (Optional)

Method

  1. Marinate the chicken with yogurt, most of the garlic and chopped coriander in a bowl. The longer you marinade the meat, the more tender it gets. But because I am impatient and am always cooking on the go, I did this first while preparing the rest of the ingredients. So that’s like just 30mins marination.
  2. In large non stick wok or dipped pan, fry the cashew nuts in 1 tbsp of ghee and 1 tbsp of oil (I used olive oil, but this is a matter of choice). Once the cashew nuts are golden brown, take them out and keep aside
  3. In the same wok, add another tbsp of ghee and oil, fry the thinly sliced onions (only use 3/4 of the onions you have prepared). Fry till the onions caramelize and brown and become slightly crisp. Do not burn. Take them out and keep aside
  4. Using the same wok, fry 1 cinnamon stick, 2 star anise, 4 cloves and 4 cardamom (slightly crush them first with the flat side of the knife to open it up) and a pinch of onions (just for flavour). Once the spices have toasted, add the rice and 1/2 tsp turmeric and let the rice take some heat. If you have saffron, this is the time to put it in. Only tossing the rice for a minute on the pan, dish out the rice and spices into a cooking pan and pour in 5 cups of water and 2 tsp salt and cook in medium heat for exactly 5mins and turn off flame. The idea is to get a half cooked rice. Drain the rice immediately. (This is the mistake I made as I let the rice sit in the water and it ended soaking up all the water)
  5. Now for the chicken, fry 2 cloves of chopped garlic, the balance of the onions, cinnamon stick, star anise in the wok. Add in the chilis and tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Let this boil for a while and then add bay leaves, 1 tbsp coriander powder, 1 tbsp curry powder, 1 tsp turmeric powder and 1 tbsp cumin powder. This will turn into a thick curry paste. At this point, add in the chicken together with all the marinate into the wok and close the lid. Let the chicken cook 3/4 through which is about 5~10mins. I forgot to mention, add salt…and make it a little saltier than usual as it will need to flavour the rice.
  6. If you feel that your curry is far too watery, remove some of the curry and add more of the spice mixes.
  7. In the same wok, add the drained rice (no need to remove the spices in it) over the chicken & its gravy, layer the top of the rice with the caramelized onions. Close the lid tight to create pressure cooking and let this cook on low to medium heat for 5~10mins till the rice is somewhat cooked.
  8. In a sauce pan, melt 2 tbsp of ghee and keep on standby
  9. When the briyani is ready, add in the cashew nuts and stir the gravy and rice together. Take the melted ghee and pour it all along the edges of the wok. This will create a crisp texture and add more flavour. Close the lid for another couple of minutes. Using your judgment based on how cooked is the rice. You dont want to over cook it or else it becomes mushy.
  10. Alternatively, you can also boil eggs and add into your briyani. To be served with raita. I made cucumber raita which is just grated cucumber with yogurt and salt. As for the curry, as mentioned in step #6, I scooped up 2 spoons of the gravy into another pan, added 1 cup of water and 1 tbsp of curry powder and let it boil till it was the consistency I wanted.

Ceylonese Style Chicken Curry

ImageFirstly, I apologize for the unappealing picture. You see, as soon as I finished cooking the curry, I just scooped up as much curry as possible on my plate before I devoured every bit of it. And I also had second helpings. Only once my tummy was full, I realized I didn’t take a photograph of the curry. Oopss! So, hurriedly, scooped up whatever curry that was left onto a plate and this is the picture you get. Most of the potatoes and bigger chicken pieces were already gone. Maybe I’ll update this post another time with a better picture. But here is the recipe for one of my favourite chicken curry – the ceylonese style!

It’s the perfect curry for rice or for dunking in your “roti”. It’s yum, creamy and spicy all at the same time. And it’s great for dinner parties as there will be more than enough curry to go around. Or maybe not…

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken cut into 12~16 pieces
  • Handful of ginger bashed in a pestle & mortar (if you don’t have pestle & mortar, fret not, just fine grate the ginger) – save all the ginger juices
  • 2~3¬†cinnamon sticks
  • 4~5 star anise
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 4~5 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1~2 soft tomato diced
  • 1 whole garlic chopped fine
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2~3 large potatoes skinned and cut into quarters
  • 1~2 chili halved and seeds removed
  • 4~5 curry leaves

Method:

  1. Use the ginger juices and ginger bits to coat the chicken in a bowl and set aside
  2. Toast the cinnamon sticks and star anise in pot with some oil. Once the aroma is released, add in the onions and garlic. Stirring constantly to avoid the garlic to over burn.
  3. Once the onion has caramelized, add in the chili, tomato and 2 cups of water. Add in the curry powder and chili powder and stir in till it becomes a thick paste
  4. Add the chicken together with the ginger and all. Also add in the potatoes. Stir in the curry paste all around the meat and then close the lid to let the chicken start cooking
  5. Once the chicken is almost cooked, add in the coconut milk and stir in the curry.
  6. Let the curry boil till the potatoes are cooked through. Check for salt and add the cumin powder. If needed, add more curry powder or if too thick, add some water. You can adjust this on your own discretion.
  7. At the end, add in the curry leaves and you are ready to serve the curry. I usually let the curry cook for about 30mins on the stove. And the last 10mins, I let it simmer with medium heat with the lid off and hood on. What happens is that the moisture starts to escape from the curry and slowly thickening the gravy. In the end, you will end up with only 3/4 liquid from what you started with.

*This should serve at least 5~6 person

Perfect Tuna Cutlets

The trick to getting the cutlets crispy on the outside and soft inside shall be revealed…

In fact, I can say it in a few words. You cannot have too damp of a filling. When your filling is soggy, the cutlet loses its shape when you fry as it soaks up too much oil – resulting in mushed cutlets. Keep the filling as dry as possible. Especially the mashed potatoes and the tuna has to be drained well from the can. Also, the exterior needs to be crisp when fried. A good bread crumb would do the trick. If you don’d have bread crumbs, you can always blitz cream cracker biscuits or even oats/cornflakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of tuna in water¬†(large) – flakes if you want this easier
  • 2 medium sized potato skin removed (or 3 if potatoes are small)
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 green/red chili diced (without seeds)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg white
  • salt to taste
  • Bread crumbs

Method:

  1. Boil the potato in a pot till it’s ready to mash. Drain the potatoes thoroughly before mashing it.¬†
  2. Add drained tuna into mashed potatoes. Together with chili powder, turmeric and salt. I would taste for salt at this point rather than later but that’s just me.
  3. Add in the onions, chili and egg yolk. Using your hand (which is the best), mash all the ingredients together. If you just had your nails manicured and don’t want it to stain then maybe get someone else to do it or use plastic gloves. Nothing like using the hands to integrate the potatoes and tuna. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Image
  4. Make the cutlets into bite size balls. You can make them flat or rounded (like I did)
  5. Next, coat the cutlets in egg whites before coating them in bread crumbs
  6. Fry the cutlets in a pan with oil that reaches at least half the cutlet’s height. Fry till it’s bronzed on all sides evenly.

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* This should give you at least 15~20 cutlets. Depending on the amount of potato you used and cutlet size. Usually eaten as a side dish for rice & curry. But I understand if you have the tendency to pop it into your mouth while it’s still hot from the pan *winks*

Quick, Easy & Delicious South Indian Sambar (Dhal Curry)

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Being born Sri Lankan, did not expose me much to sambar since sambar is not on the menu. However, being in Malaysia exposed me to other Indian food and sambar is a staple side dish for banana leaf rice (yum) or thosai. My personal favourite is with rawa thosai as shown in the picture. My mother tried making the sambar on several occasions and sadly for her, it didn’t turn out very well. I don’t blame her since she has been cooking Sri Lankan dishes all her life.

Lucky for me, marrying into a Malayalee family imparted me with a few good recipes and one of them is the sambar (dhal curry). I never knew how simple it was to cook this up till I actually tried it myself. Okay, maybe I modified this recipe a little and it’s not entirely the Malayalee fashion but it’s just as good or better than restaurant standards. First and foremost, you will need the split Toor Dhal (yellowish) and sambar powder (preferably Baba’s) which you can get in any Indian groceries. Once you have this two basic ingredients, you can cook up a sambar in no time. The vegetables that go in doesn’t have to be as per recipe. You can tweak it with whatever vegetable you have in hand. There was a one time that I made a pumpkin sambar since I ran out of carrots and potatoes. Let me tell you, the pumpkin sambar was out of this world. So, don’t be too rigid with recipes, alright?

Ingredients:

  • 1~2 cups of split Toor Dhal
  • 2 shallots diced
  • 1 green chili halved and seeds removed
  • 2 large potatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 regular carrot sliced slightly thick (1.5~2cm thickness)
  • 1 white carrot sliced the same way
  • 2 drumsticks cut into 3~4 inches length
  • 3 tbsp of sambar powder
  • 3 tbsp of grated coconut (ground very fine) – optional
  • 1 tsp of tamarind paste (you can add more if you like it more sour)
  • Salt to taste

Special for tempering:

  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 4~5 curry leaves
  • 3 dried chilis
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • If are making sambar with brinjal or okra, instead of putting it in the sambar, you can fry it together with the tempering ingredients and dump into sambar in the end.¬†

Method:

  1. Firstly, rince the dhal thoroughly and then boiling it in a pot under a medium flame with double the amount of water. Boil the dhal till it’s soft to mash with your fingers.
  2. Most of the water would have evaporated. If you still have some water left, you can chose to keep this or just pour out the excess water.
  3. Add more water till it’s triple the amount of dhal. Dump in all your onions, chili, vegetables and sambar powder into the sambar. Let this cook till you have cooked your vegetables through. Good idea to check the potato as it usually takes the longest. You want your potato to be soft and easy to mash so that when you eat, it just melts in your mouth.
  4. Once your sambar is cooked, add salt, tamarind and coconut. If you feel your sambar is not thick enough, add more sambar powder. And if it’s too thick, add more water. Let the sambar simmer for another minute or two and then you can turn off the flame.
  5. Assuming you are an excellent multi-tasker, while your sambar is cooking, you can fry all the tempering ingredients in a another pan till the onions are caramelized. If you are frying brinjal or okra with this, start frying the vegetable first before adding the tempering ingredients as the vegetables take a while to cook.
  6. After your sambar is done, add the tempered ingredients into it. And walla! Sambar is done. I’re sure if you make a dilute version of this, you can turn it into a soup!