All my cookbooks bar one sit tucked away on a set of shelves in my kitchen where they're instantly accessible. Tools of the trade to get dog-eared and splattered with food. One of them is somewhat different to all the others though and so has pride of place on the living room shelves nestled amongst, come to think of it, some pretty random things: a couple of human bones, a nautilus shell, some mementos from The Fat Duck and a pickled shark - to name a few.
My girlfriend is half-Malaysian and a couple of years ago we went over there to visit her family. As far as food goes it's by far and away the best food I've ever eaten on a holiday, or for any two weeks of my life for that matter. As this blog shows I'm pretty partial to oriental food and over there, surprisingly, they tend to eat it all the time. Noodles for breakfast isn't a sign you failed to finish your takeaway the night before, it's just normal everyday fodder. Over the course of the holiday I many dishes stuck in my mind and I took loads of photos.
Later in that year I received a present from my girlfriend and opened up to find the most amazing handmade cookbook. Leah had collated all our food related holiday photos and then scoured the web for recipes corresponding to the dishes in them. It was such an amazing present and so nicely done, yet she still wonders why I don't have it in the kitchen getting greasy with all the others.
Anyway here's a few photos of inside the book, along with some others that are in the book.
One of the dishes that stuck in my mid the most from the trip was kangkong belacan. Luckily Leah got a recipe for it in the book and so I thought I'd make and blog it for you.
Kangkong is goes by many names around the world: water spinach, water convolvus, water morning-glory, tung choi (tong choi with fermented beancurd is an amazing Cantonese dish) and in Mandarin kong xin cai which transaltes to hollow heart vegetable. Belacan is fermented shrimp paste which is a pretty interesting and potent concoction made from ground up tiny shrimp left to dry and fermented in the sun. It sounds foul and smells even worse. It adds a great savoury note to dishes though and isn't short on umami either.
As well as the kang kong and the belacan this dish also contains tiny dried shrimp, chili and some onion and garlic - all stir fried together coating the long, thin greens. Thinking about it it would probably be a candidate for the Weird and Wonderful series but it's staying here instead.
250gr (one pack) kangkong, cut into 5cm/2" lengths
1 or 2 shallots, diced
1 clove garlic
1 big red chili, sliced
1 TB dried shrimp
1 ts shrimp paste
Pinch of sugar and pinch of salt
This dish involves a little preparation then a little stir frying, pretty simple really.
First off put the onion, garlic, shrimp, shrimp paste and half the chili into either a mini-processor or pestle and process to a paste.
Heat a wok up with some oil and chuck the paste in. Stir fry for maybe a minute. This will stink so open all your windows and get the extractor fan going. I did yet 4 hours later when Leah returned home she still asked what on earth the smell was.
Add the remaining chili slices and fry for 15 seconds before adding the kang kong.
Fry till starting to wilt then add the sugar and salt and maybe 3 TB of water. Stir fry till fully wilted then serve. I chose to serve mine with the not remotely traditional pork dumplings. Alas I cannot claim credit for these as they were straight from the freezer. I've made them before and will do again in the future for the blog as they're pretty simple and use easy to get ingredients.
It's been a while since I've cooked this and outside of the smell I don't know why. The dish is so tasty. Greens are my favourite type of veg and here you get their leafy taste and texture of them along with the pungent, earthy flavours of the shrimp paste, the sweet onion and garlic all finished with some fiery chili heat. A very special dish by all accounts.