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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Nasi Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Nasi Goreng! (Fried Rice)

I don’t know what’s the fascination with Malaysians and fried rice, but there is at least 20 types of fried rice that I have had. There’s probably more than that, just that I didn’t know. There’s the chinese fried rice. Even within the chinese style, you’ve got a couple of versions. With pork, without pork, seafood, chicken, and the list goes on. And then you have the Malay style which uses belacan, anchovies, spicy, seafood, chicken, etc. And Malaysians are so influenced by the Thai flavours that you have Tom Yum fried rice, pineapple fried rice and etc. Not forgetting the mamak style too.

My personal favourite is the classic chinese fried rice, nasi goreng sambal belacan and nasi goreng kampung (village style). Today I’ll share the recipe for the chinese fried rice and belacan fried rice.

The thing about fried rice is that it’s better when the rice is a day or two older. As it will not turn into mushy fried rice. But in case you don’t have a day old rice, just cook your rice with a little less water so that you get a more grainier rice.

Chinese Fried Rice

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Ingredients:

  • Seafood or chicken or pork
  • Diced carrots
  • Corn
  • Peas (if you like, I don’t)
  • Garlic chopped
  • Shallots chopped
  • Green spring onion/Chives chopped for final garnish
  • Egg
  • Stir fry sauce/oyster sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Chopped chilis (optional)
  • Rice

Method:

  1. Garlic and onions fried first. Throw in your seafood or meat
  2. Add the veges and then add the egg and scramble to bits
  3. Thrown in the rice and stir fry with a little bit stir fry sauce and soy sauce for taste.
  4. Just before turning off the heat, add your spring onion/chives. Walla, you’re done.

Nasi Goreng Belacan (Shrimp Fried Rice)

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Ingredients:

  • Belacan (Dried shrimps)
  • Prawns or chicken
  • Cabbage/Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Ground chili
  • Thick soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Hot Chilis (optional)
  • Salt
  • Rice
  • Fried egg (Any style you want. Most people eat it with sunny side up, easy over or¬†omelette)

Method:

  1. Fry the onions, garlic, ground chili, belacan and seafood/chicken in a pan
  2. Add the veges and chilis
  3. Once vege is cooked, add in the rice, thick soy sauce and fish sauce
  4. Stir fry till the rice is coated with all the sauce
  5. Once done, serve with fried egg

Tom Yum Soup (with Vermicelli Noodles)

I have never made Tom Yum from scratch. It was always a tom yum paste which I would tweak to my liking. But seeing this post on #highheelgourmet.com, I was tempted to try making it from scratch and boy was I happy or what with the results! i’m not going to post the recipe here since Miranti has done an amazing job explaining to finite detail on how to make this. Do go and try!

Her recipe is here…http://highheelgourmet.com/2013/04/25/tom-yum-goong/

And here is my Tom Yum Soup ūüôā

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Mamak Mee Goreng (Yellow Fried Noodles)

This is a Malaysian favourite and it’s pure sin on a plate as it’s full of carbs, oil and would easily total up to 700 calories per serving. If you are too concerned about the dial on the weighing scale, then don’t even bother trying this.

The term “mamak” is referred to the Indian Muslim clan that created this dish. “Mamak” can be a derogatory term if used in that manner but somehow when you say “mamak” and “mee goreng” it is completely acceptable. The indian muslims in Malaysia are exceptional entrepreneurs. If you had been to Malaysia, you’ll know why. There’s a “mamak” restaurant or stall almost in every part of Malaysia. It’s the biggest food chain business and soon you know it, it’ll be heavily franchised too. One of my fav mamak shop called Ali Maju can be found in most township and is running 24/7 and even at 3am, their business is running well with the shop swamped with customers. And the guy making the mee goreng is constantly at his station, frying up plates and plates of mee goreng all night long…

Now that you know how famous this plate of noodles is, maybe you’d like to try it. The original mamak mee you get from the stalls is just plain noodles with fried prawn tofu, sawi and egg. My version of course has the goodies – prawns and fishballs or fishcakes (whichever that is in the fridge).

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of yellow noodles (If you are buying this in a chain store, it would say Singapore noodles)
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced thin
  • 6~8 prawns, shells removed and deveined
  • 4~6 fishballs sliced to 3 (that’s 2 hemisphere and 1 flat circle)
  • 4 stalks of sawi cut into 3in lengths (If you can’t get sawi, you can use Kailan or choy sum)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4~6 small sized pre-fried tofu sliced to halves or threes (you can alternatively deep fry regular tofu if you can’t prefried tofu. It’s just a lot of work and oil required. I would recommend buying this ready made from the asian shop)
  • 2 tbsp of sambal chili with prawn (This is the most important ingredient. If you can’t find this, you might not get the similar taste. Use ground chili instead)

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  • Dark soy sauce for colour
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Fry the garlic in a wok with some oil before adding the prawns and fishballs
  2. Add the sambal chili with prawn and fry some more
  3. Once the prawns and fishballs are cooked, add the noodles and top it with the dark soy sauce
  4. Using your mad skills, stir in the noodles in the wok like a pro till the noodles is covered with all the sambal and dark soy sauce. The noodles takes about 5~10mins to cook. You can add in your salt now or wait after step #5 to salt
  5. Once noodles is cooked, beat 2 eggs in a bowl. Make some space in the centre of the wok and pour in the egg mixture. Give it some 10 seconds before stirring the noodles with the egg. The idea is to coat all the noodles with egg.
  6. Once egg is cooked, add in the tofu and sawi. Give it another minute for the sawi to get some heat. Don’t forget to check for seasoning one last time. And then you are done. Get ready with the fork to dig in! Yummm…

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Sardine Puffs

Nothing like a little scent of home and comfort of pastry puffs…

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I do owe an apology, more to myself rather than to you un-judging people, for not posting here in almost a week. I know for some bloggers, a week is perfectly normal but I was doing a daily post and suddenly having to go on a break like this seemed weird. I have been extremely tied up with friends visiting, the election drama in Malaysia, heartache that followed and etc.

The only thing that is comforting is food, what else. And this is the easiest thing to make which is quintessentially Malaysian.

Ingredients:

1 can of Sardine (you should be able to get this in any asian shop)

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1 red onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic chopped

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tbsp lime juice

2~3 Pastry sheets

1 egg

Method:

1. Remove the skin and bones of the sardines. Do not throw away the tomato sauce

2. On a pan, fry the onions and garlic with some oil till softened. Add the chili powder and the sardines together with all the tomato sauce

3. Break up the sardine into pieces and add salt to taste. Once it’s cooked, turn off the heat and add the lime juice.

4. Cut your pastry sheets in a reasonable rectangular size (I cut 1 pastry sheets into 6 rectangles)

5. Add a good spoonful of the sardine on the pastry and roll up

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6. Beat the egg and use as egg wash on the top of the pastry. Bake pastries on a tray with baking sheets in the oven on 180 deg C for about 20~25mins till they become golden brown.

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*

What can you do with Garlic Chives? – The yummiest stir fry!!

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I always had my reservations, don’t ask me why, when it came to garlic chives. I never knew how it would taste and was a little¬†skeptic¬†on how to cook it. I put aside my reservations and am extremely happy that I discovered that garlic chives is not only so yummy, it has officially become my favourite stalk *winks*

Before I started cooking, I kept getting this amazing whiff from the freshly chopped chives. It was making me a little impatient as I wanted to cook and eat the chives so bad!! Anyway, you should not use the very end of the chives. I got rid of the last 3 inches of it which were the least green portion of the chives. Still not sure what I was going to do, I decided to peep into my refrigerator and found regular firm tofu and minced chicken. And I thought…hmm…this could work and I wasn’t wrong. The outcome was¬†phenomenal!! Here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 3 firm regular tofu cut into 8 cubes/each
  • 1 bunch of garlic chives cut into 2.5 inches lengths
  • 200 grams of minced chicken (I’m guessing any meat you have in hand should do the trick)
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced thin
  • 3 tbsp of thick soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • Soy sauce to taste

Method:

  1. I wanted the tofu to be hard and less flimsy when I stir fry. So, I pre-fried them in a pan turning them around each side till they had a nice golden hue on all sides. Once done, I kept aside
  2. Next, I started to saute the garlic in a wok with some oil, before throwing in the minced chicken. Once the chicken was cooked, I splashed in the thick soy sauce, oyster sauce and salty soy sauce and gave it a good stir.
  3. I threw in the chives and tofu into the wok and made sure the sauce was evenly coated on all the tofu cubes. I hardly took 15 minutes to make this dish. (Not to mention I was very impatient at this point)

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This dish is best served with hot and steaming cup of rice. It’s gorgeous!

Image* This should serve 3~4 pax

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!

Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken

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This being my first post, I want it to be special. Hence, Nasi Lemak! It is not that Nasi Lemak is my signature dish or¬†specialty¬†or anything like that. Having said that, Nasi Lemak is my favourite meal of all time. Heck, I don’t know anyone who comes from Malaysia and not like Nasi Lemak. It is just that good. So rich in calories and fatty with coconut cream. Not forgetting all the fried condiments. The operative word here is evidently “fried”.

My oh my, this is the best way to start the day on a Sunday morning or a perfect way to end Friday night after a long night of partying and boozing. Of course these spoken as if I still lived in Malaysia, where every corner there is a hidden gem of a restaurant that serves freshly steamed coconut rice with mind blowing spicy anchovies or shrimp sambal. Bliss!! But here I am, without a choice, forced to cook my own version of Nasi Lemak. Not that I don’t enjoy cooking, but cooking nasi lemak on a Sunday morning or late night on a Friday is a big no-no. So, nasi lemak has become more of a lunch or dinner meal these days…sadly.

Truthfully, I attempted making nasi lemak at least five times before I got it right. The first two attempts were disastrous! On both occasions, the sambal was potent. It turned out to be an uncooked chili concoction with a strong stingy taste. My husband who normally enjoys my cooking, spat his first mouthful of the awful tasting sambal and rice. I don’t blame him since I didn’t attempt eating it at all. Sadly, I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. My recipe was right and I didn’t miss any ingredients. Luckily on my 3rd attempt, I sort of got it right. The trick is to use lots and lots of oil to make the sambal. Stirring constantly for a really really long time. So it appears,¬†perseverance was the key.¬†And by my 5th attempt, I was able to get a close to perfect nasi lemak as pictured above.

The other thing that sets apart normal rice to nasi lemak is the coconut milk rice. The sweetness of the coconut milk infused with rice is something quite wonderful. And what makes this rice even more¬†irresistible¬†is the sweet aroma of pandan (screwpine) leaves that fills your nostrils and awakens a hungry beast in your stomach.¬†In an event that you can’t find pandan leaves, use small pieces of ginger as replacement. The effect is equally ¬†inviting.

If you get the sambal wrong the first time around, fret not and try again another day! And as a precaution, maybe don’t invite friends over if you are going to try this for the first time, if you know what I mean.

Ingredients:

Coconut Milk Rice

  • 2 cups of rice (Typically I use Jasmine rice, but this is really a matter of preference)
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 2 cups of water
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 screwpine (pandan) leaves –¬†use 2 small pieces of ginger (skin removed), maybe a 2x2x1cm in size as a replacement

Sambal Belacan (Shrimp paste)

  • 5~10 dried chilies soaked in hot water (use accordingly to achieve desired heat)
  • 4~5 small shallots
  • 2~3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red onion thinly sliced in rings
  • 1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste)
  • 1~2 tsp of chili powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste

Fried Chicken

  • 4 Chicken drumsticks
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp tumeric powder
  • Salt

Other Condiments

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Thinly sliced cucumbers
  • Fried peanuts (with skin)
  • Fried anchovies

Method:

  1. Like cooking normal rice, once rice is rinsed and drained, add the coconut milk, water, salt and the screwpine leaves to the rice pot and cook. You might want to knot the screwpine leaves so that it is easier to remove once your rice is cooked. If you are using a rice cooker, you have less to worry about. But if you are using a steel pot to cook the rice, be warned that the coconut easily burns at the bottom of the pot. Best to grease the pot before cooking. 
  2. Grind the soaked dried chilies, shallots and garlic in a blender.
  3. Heat pan with 4~5 tbsp of oil and add the ground paste into the hot pan. [Warning, the paste can splatter at the first introduction to the hot oil] Add in the belacan that has been crumbled or dissolved in very little water. Keep frying the paste till it becomes caramelized and fragrant and starts to get darker in shade.
  4. Add the red onion and chili powder (Remember, chili powder is optional. You don’t want to end up making a chili concoction. Exercise heat accordingly). Let the red onion caramelize in the sambal. Adding more oil as and when needed.
  5. Once the sambal is fully cooked, add sugar, salt and tamarind paste dissolved in 1/2 cup of water. Let this simmer for a while before turning off the flame and setting aside
  6. Mix all the spice powders and salt in a bowl. Toss the chicken drumsticks in the bowl to evenly coat it with the spices. Deep fry the chicken till its dark brown and fully cooked.
  7. Serve the rice hot from the pot with the sambal, fried chicken and all the condiments on the side as shown in the picture. Bon apetit!