Bubur Pulot Hitam, Sticky Black Rice Pudding

September 8, 2009
Sticky Black Rice Pudding is a Vegan, Whole Grain Dessert

Sticky Black Rice Pudding is a Vegan, Whole Grain Dessert

For dessert at our final dinner in Malaysia, we were served a warm rice pudding, accompanied by sliced papaya. It was the perfect ending to three weeks of lip smacking.

Although the main ingredient, black glutinous rice, may be hard to find, the dessert is very simple to prepare. And you can’t beat it for unusual appeal–how often do you eat something so dark purple, it’s black?

A Vegan, Whole-Grain Dessert

If that isn’t reason enough to try it, assuage your guilt by knowing it is actually a whole grain, full of fiber and vitamins from the bran and germ, which are left on. While not as tacky as white glutinous or sticky rice, the grains have a chewy, nutty flavor that is perfectly offset by the accompanying salted coconut milk.

Look for black glutinous rice in Asian markets. I was ecstatic to find it in Chinatown, Honolulu, and I jumped right in, testing and concocting, to develop this recipe.

In Malaysia, a pandan leaf is often added to enhance the aroma, and palm sugar or a combination of palm and white sugar are used. To my non-Malaysian palate, omitting the pandan leaf and substituting brown sugar were not offensive. On the contrary; this is going to become one of my favorite desserts.

Alina’s Bubur Pulot Hitam,
Sticky Black Rice Pudding

1 can coconut milk
1/4 tsp salt

1 c glutinous black rice
2-1/4 cups water

6 TBS brown sugar

Combine coconut milk and salt. Stir to dissolve salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Combine rice and water in a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and cook on medium-high for about 30 minutes, until water is absorbed and grains are tender.

Check near the end of the cooking time to be sure it doesn’t burn, and add a small amount of water if necessary. Older rice needs longer cooking time and will absorb more water.

Remove from heat. Leave covered and let sit 10 minutes.

Add brown sugar; mix well. Set aside to let cool.

To serve, put warm (not hot) rice into a bowl. Spoon salted coconut milk over it. Serve with sliced fruits, such as papaya, mango, peaches, etc., if desired.


Fermented Flatbread, Indian Dosa

August 9, 2009
Hard at work in my secret laboratory!

Hard at work in my secret laboratory!

I’ve just begun my latest mad science experiment. I’ve been making fermented dough–batter, actually–for dosa and uttapam, which are flatbreads typically eaten in South India for breakfast.

Although the process takes time, it isn’t complicated. Rice and urad dahl are soaked in water for several hours, then drained and blended with water to create a slurry.

The mixture is left to ferment overnight, but even here in Honolulu in summer, it took two days in my kitchen. You end up with a bubbling, stinky mixture that makes me feel like a crazy scientist in a hidden laboratory. Mwah ha ha ha!

The batter is cooked like pancakes in a skillet or on a griddle. It can also be spread paper-thin so they cook into crisp rounds.

I’ve tried them with and without fenugreek seeds, which add a fragrance akin to maple syrup, and I’m going to try them again with chana dahl (garbanzo beans) once I go buy some. Salt is added after the ferment so that it doesn’t slow the fermentation process down.

I have fallen in love with the tangy flavor, reminiscent of a good sourdough bread. While I have yet to get the techniques for cooking down, the result is nevertheless delicious and well worth the advance planning.

Uttapam and Coconut Chutney

Uttapam and Coconut Chutney

Next I need to get good variations on the accompanying dishes they are usually served with. One is coconut sambar or chutney, another is tomato chutney, and a third is sambar, a watery dahl and vegetable curry just perfect for dipping into.

There is a recipe and video here.


Carrot Cake (Not What You Think)

July 14, 2009
Me Against the Spitting Oil

Me Against the Spitting Oil

I spent several hours yesterday and today attempting to make Malaysian carrot cake. It’s not the carrot-and-spice-studded sweet treat that automatically comes to mind for many of us. I’m talking about a steamed cake made of rice flour and daikon, the strong-flavored turnip or radish of Asian cultures.

Grated daikon and rice flour are mixed together and steamed until solid, then left overnight to firm up. The next day (today), they are sliced and fried in a generous amount of oil in a pan in order to get a crispy outside, in perfect contrast to the chewy, pillowy inside.

Unfortunately, thanks to the moisture in the steamed cakes, the frying part was a dangerous mess. Oil spit and jumped all over the place, creating an oil slick on my kitchen floor. A piece of renegade carrot cake even landed on my lower eyelid. Yow! I have multiple freckle-sized burns covering my arms, and a few on my legs and feet, too.

When the ordeal was over, I ended up with three mounds of mushy, tasty goodness that isn’t exactly what I ate in Malaysia. Mine were a lot blacker on the outside–next time I will not attempt to hang my laundry and cook at the same time.

However, with the addition of a soy-hoisin-chile sauce, I could taste the potential. I just have a couple kinks to work out…


Kerabu Nenas, Pineapple Salad

June 3, 2009
Kerabu Nenas, Pineapple Salad

Kerabu Nenas, Pineapple Salad

We often ate this salad in Malaysia, an innocent-enough combination of raw carrot, onion, chile, and cucumber. The surprising addition of pineapple helped to create a light, oil-free dressing with a touch of sweetness and just enough tropical flair to win a spot at the top of the favorites list for many in our tour group.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you into thinking this is worth passing over. Sometimes simple is best.

Vegan Kerabu Nenas, Pineapple Salad

1 can (20 oz/567g) pineapple chunks in juice
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 cucumbers, thinly sliced or julienned
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, chopped (remove the seeds from half or all if you want a milder salad)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBS reserved pineapple juice

Drain pineapple, reserving 2 TBS juice.
Mix all ingredients together.
Let stand for at least one hour, for flavors to develop.


Roti Can’t-I

May 20, 2009
Flour + Water = Flop

Flour + Water = Flop

I wish I had paid more attention. Not that it would be helping me now. But I didn’t fully appreciate roti canai while I was in Malaysia, eating it every third day or so.

Roti canai (pronounced chahn-eye) is a flatbread with a crispy outside and flaky, soft layers inside. It is a Malaysian variation of Indian parathas, another flatbread. Most of the time there was one Indian man at the bread table, making these to order.

Sometimes we had it plain, for dipping in curries. Sometimes it had onions inside, cooked til crisp-tender and sweet. A dessert version contained bananas, palm sugar, and butter or margarine. I’m drooling just thinking about them.

Of course I want to be able to make some at home. Internet searching produced several different recipes and a number of videos showing the shaping of the bread.

The dough gets flung in circular motions, somewhat like the skirt of a flamenco dancer, until it is thin enough to see through, and large as a pizza. It is folded over onto itself like an envelope, which traps bubbles of air and fat, giving it flaky layers.

My first attempt wasn’t too bad, but the dough never got really thin, and there were no flaky layers. I decided to try a different dough recipe.

Last night the dough balls soaked in a bowl of oil. Today I attempted to shape them into thin rounds, and while the dough looked more like how it does in the videos, and I could get it much thinner, it was still not working.

I used whole wheat flour, which may have been part of the problem, since the bran and germ seemed to contribute to all the holes I was getting. I’ll have to try again using unbleached flour. My technique isn’t too bad, considering I’ve only done this twice. It almost looks like the people in the videos, except that my dough doesn’t land in a graceful circle on the counter. It sort of crashes, the way some ducks and other birds land on water, stopping forcefully and suddenly, jerking forward and smashing their faces.

Here is what roti canai is supposed to look like:

Roti Canai

Roti Canai

Here is what mine looked like:

Uh...nope.

Uh...nope.

I may have to go back to Malaysia to eat more!


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