INGREDIENTS THAT ARE USE IN MALAYSIAN CUISINES
1.0 Chili peppers
Chilli peppers are indispensable to Malaysian kitchens, and both fresh and dried chilies are used. Chillies come in several sizes, shapes and even colours. As a general rule, two type of chilli cultivars are the most commonly available: the bird's eye chili (cili padi), although small in size are extremely pungent and very hot, and longer varieties which tend to be a lot milder. Green chillies are more peppery in taste while red chillies, green chillies which have been left to ripen, have a slightly sweeter heat. If a milder flavour is preferred, the seeds and membranes would be removed from the chili pods before it is cut, or the chillies would be left whole and removed prior to serving. Some common uses include but are not limited to grinding the chillies into a paste or sambal, chopping fresh chillies as a condiment or garnish, and pickling whole or cut chillie.
Belacan is essential to Malaysian cooking. It is a type of shrimp paste which is pressed into a block and sun-dried. In its raw form it has a very pungent, and some would say awful, smell. Once cooked however, the shrimp paste's aroma and flavour mellows out and contributes an inimitable depth of flavour to any dish. To prepare belacan for use, a typical method involves wrapping a small amount of the shrimp paste block in foil, which is then roasted over a flame or placed into a pre-heated oven. Belacan is most commonly pounded or blended with local chilli peppers, shallots and lime juice to make the most popular and ubiquitous relish in Malaysia, sambal belacan. Belacan is also crumbled into a ground spice paste called rempah, which will usually include garlic, ginger, onions or shallots, and fresh and/or dried chilli peppers.
The coconut (Malay: kelapa) is another quintessential feature of Malaysian cuisine, and virtually all parts of the plant are used for culinary purposes. The white fleshy part of the coconut endosperm is grated, shredded and used as it is; dried to make desiccated coconut; or toasted until dark brown and ground to make kerisik. Grated coconut flesh is also squeezed to obtain coconut milk, which is used extensively in savoury dishes and desserts throughout the country. Coconut oil is used for cooking and cosmetic purposes, and may be obtained either from processing copra (dried coconut flesh) or extracted from fresh coconuts as virgin coconut oil. Coconut water, the clear liquid found inside the cavity of each coconut, is a popular cooler in Malaysia's hot and humid climate. Gula melaka is unrefined palm sugar produced from the sap of the coconut flower. It is the most traditional sweetener in Malaysian cooking and imbues a rich caramel-like flavour with a hint of coconut. Coconut fronds are traditionally used to wrap food, hollowed out coconut husks and shells may be used as a source of charcoal fuel for barbecued meats and traditional pastry making, and even the apical bud or growing tip of the coconut palm is a popular delicacy served in rural communities and specialist restaurants.
4.0 Soy sauce
Soy sauce is another important ingredient. Different varieties are used: light soy sauce contributes its pleasantly salty flavour to a variety of stir-fries, marinades and steamed dishes. In some hawker establishments, freshly sliced or pickled chillies arrive immersed in light soy sauce to be used for dipping. Dark soy sauce is thicker in consistency, more intense in flavour and less salty. It is often used when a heartier flavour is desired, particularly with masak kicap (a style of braising with a blend of soy sauce varieties as the primary seasoning) dishes, and also to provide a darker shade of colour to a dish. Kicap manis, Sweetened soy sauce sometimes flavoured with star anise or garlic, is also a popular seasoning for cooking caramel sauce, which is...
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