Saturday, January 14, 2012

Daging Salai Masak Cili Api / Smoked Beef in Hot Coconut Milk Broth

When we think about Malaysian food, you start imagining satay dipped into spicy peanut sauce, roti canai pan fried with enough ghee to last you a decade, teh tarik loaded with condense milk, sambal tumis ikan bilis swimming in at least two inches of oil and the warm steaming nasi lemak boiled in a gallon of coconut milk waiting for you in the morning at the corner. Is there anything on the Malaysian list of food that can be gorged without feeling a tad bit guilty? Here's a recipe that can give you the satisfaction in your tummy in a happy and healthier way.
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Hey, you’d be surprised to learn that there are just as much low-fat-calorie dishes here in Malaysia and throughout the South East. You just haven’t found them yet. Our low-fat meals are usually prepared through cooking methods such as smoking, grilling, steaming or boiling. No excessive oil is used in preparing food this way – sometimes there isn’t any oil at all.

The art of smoking beef isn’t exclusive to the western kitchen, it is also a method widely practiced here in Malaysia. This is especially done in Malay cuisines in the state of Negeri Sembilan, which is about an hour south of Kuala Lumpur.  In the old days, there were no refrigerators to keep meat from turning bad. Storing meat was a task, with high humidity levels in Malaysia the setting is perfect for cultivating bacteria causing meat to rot faster. Therefore, smoking fresh meat was a method adapted to keep fresh meat longer.

The method of smoking meat for this recipe is simply starting up a barbeque with a handful of dry coconut husk and charcoal. A grill goes over the burning coal and the meat is then layered onto the grill. The traditional way takes a few hours. I grilled my choice of meat on a grilling pan over the stove and covering the pan with a tight lid to allow the smoke to accumulate. Seared the meat till  I saw visible charred marks then I transferred the half cooked meat into a foil wrap. I then placed it into my over and let is bake for another hour in half at 200C. It doesn’t have that nice smoky scent from the coconut husk but given that I live in an apartment – this works for me.

Although this recipe calls for thick coconut milk, that amount mention here is just enough to serve a family of 4. This recipe does not have any oil accept the natural oils from the coconut milk and meat. You will need, 200 g of thinly sliced smoked beef, 2 sticks of lemongrass, 4 bird’s eye chili crushed,  3 inches of fresh turmeric crushed, ½ cup of water, 1 ½ cup of thick coconut milk, ½ of an asam gelugor (substitute for 1 tbsp of tamarind juice) and salt to taste.

Begin by adding ½ cup of water and ½ cup of coconut milk to the pot, with all the ingredients except the smoked beef, tamarind juice and salt. Let it start to boil over low heat and stir continuously. Once the broth as boiled, pour in the thick coconut milk, you can add the meat and adjust the salt and tamarind juice to taste. If you don’t want it to be too hot, just take the chili out before adding the beef. 


  1. sounds delicious! can I use something else instead of tamarind? what are your plans for autumn, any chances to see you in Europe?

    1. hi agata,

      I think you can use any souring agent. I remember early this year, when I was in Istanbul. I was making curry. They didn't have tamarind - but they had this red berry that was made into a jam. It was sour. If you can find something of similar qualities, you can use it. Not too much - just a little for tast.


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