Poh writes, “when people ask me what my favourite meal is, I say this. For one, Mum always made the sambal for me, which I love, but this kampung (village) style of eating, which is so wonderfully frugal, is something my Great Aunty Kim taught me to appreciate from a young age. I’m infinitely amazed at how just mixing the smallest dollop of sambal can inject such an explosion of flavour into a simple bowl of rice. The eggs are a cheap, easy-to-cook protein and the cukes are there for cooling. You could call it a cheaty nasi lemak, but with the simple additions of fried peanuts and ikan bilis (dried whitebait), you’d take it pretty close to the real deal.”
Recipe: Mum’s Maylasian Sambal Lemak with leftover rice, Fried Eggs & Cucumber
- leftover rice, reheated in the microwave
- 2–3 fried or boiled eggs
- ½ a continental cucumber, diced into bite sized chunks
- soy or fish sauce to taste
- 20g belachan
- 20–25 dried chillies*, snapped in half, covered and soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes (soaking water reserved)
- 3 fresh long red chillies
- 125 ml (½ cup) oil
- 3 tsp tamarind
- 3 medium brown onions, peeled, sliced 4mm
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- To make the sambal, blitz the belachan, dried chillies and their soaking water, and the fresh chillies in a mini** food processor or blender until smooth. Combine with the vegetable oil in a medium non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook, stirring regularly, until caramelised to a deep red and fragrant – sinuses will be charging at this point! Turn off the heat, then stir in the tamarind paste, onion and sugar. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
- To serve, mix the rice, eggs, cucumber, as much sambal as you can handle and a dash of soy or fish sauce. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.
*When you are buying dried chillies, the larger the chill, the milder the heat, I often play around with combinations of large and small for my desired heat level. You can also shake the seeds out to temper the volatility.
**Mini because the chillies will only break down to a smooth paste in a smaller cavity.
‘What I Cook When Nobody’s Watching by Poh Ling Yeow, published by Plum, RRP $44.99, photography by Henry Trumble and Gretl Watson-Blazewicz.’ Images p. 7, p. 31 and p. 94 are by Gretl Watson-Blazewicz, all other images by Henry Trumble.
This is a multi-part series where we’ll go on a journey with renowned chefs and cooks where they share with us their cherished memories and their beloved recipes.