Wednesday, August 29, 2012


31ST AUGUST 1957 is Independence day for the Federation of Malaya

A new Federation under the name of Malaysia was created on 16 September 1963. 

I am proud to be a Malaysian and would like to share a simple traditional recipe from the ancient , to celebrate this occasion.

Traditional Malaysian foodies are known to be spicy, aromatic and very flavorful.

I like to present this recipe in a traditional way, from memory- 
and not the usual orderly way such as listing the ingredients first, then followed by the cooking techniques.
SMOKED  FISH IN COCONUT GRAVY or you may do grilled fish
Fish- preferably the not too soft type and has some good fat content
A good example  is catfish which is high in vitamin D and some omega fatty acids.
There are many edible catfish varieties that are prepared as food, in many different ways worldwide. Catfish makes an interesting ingredient for this ancient dish.

Smoke or grill 3 medium size catfish. Let them get burnt a bit, but remain soft on the inside. Coal fire would be great. When done cut into half- careful not to break into pieces.
1 cup concentrated coconut milk mix with 1 ½ cup water OR vice versa if you prefer a thicker and richer gravy.
3 pieces bitter gourd- halved and seeded. This gives great flavor, just a slight bitter taste helps make it a more authentic dish with great medicinal value.
1 large eggplant- quartered
Half  inch fresh mature turmeric root. It is not an original recipe, if you use turmeric powder.
Some fresh chili- this depends on your feel for chili hot taste.
Traditionally, we use the very hot bird chili variety.

1 piece/ 1 slice sun dried asam gelugor (dried garcinia/ gandarusa) – an origin of Malaysia- see image

A substitute for this traditional asam will be green unripe mango, which is crispy and has a sour taste. A quarter cup of sour green mango slices will do just fine.

Blend turmeric with chili. Use a cooking pot-add in coconut concentrate with water, blended ingredients, bitter gourd and eggplant.

Let boil and stir consistently to ensure a smooth gravy texture. After 10 minutes, add in fish and asam / mango.
Stir for another 10 minutes and put off fire.

Serve with rice as a main dish. You may complement this with fried chicken and omelet.

Traditionally, we used claypot to cook this- 
it helps bring out the best of flavors, 
as well, retain heat for a long time.

After a hearty meal and a whole morning workout in the fields, it is time to  relax, stay indoors and shelter oneself from the afternoon sun.
Betel leaf and betel leaf gold plated holder
The elderly, especially grandparents will help themselves to what I personally call  the “ancient chewing gum”. Yes, it’s eating sireh pinang time.
Sireh (betel leaf-as in topmost pic)  in an addictive psycho-stimulating  formula, popularly eaten in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and in Asian countries like Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Here, areca nut, catechu (kattha) and slaked lime is wrapped with the betel leaf. This combination is called “Betel quid”. The betel quid has been popular for several  thousand years and still is.
Areca nut or betel nut with a cutter
both holder and cutter pics(excluding leaf and nuts)
are from perpustakaan negara
In some countries tobacco is added, but not in ours. According to medical studies, excessive intake may cause oral cancers, but I have never seen one affected this way. 

Medicinal value
In India, betel leaf is used to cure worms and antiseptic. In ayurvedic , it’s a remedy for bad breath.
Both betel leaf and areca nuts are stimulants. Stimulants induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical function or both.

Examples on the effects of stimulants may include enhanced alertness, wakefulness, and locomotion etc. Their effects typically have an "up" quality to them, stimulants are also occasionally referred to as "uppers". Depressants are "downers", which decrease mental and/or physical function.

In some countries, Betel quid may include coconut, fruit preserves, rose petal preserves, various spices or candy coated fennel seeds, for a sweeter variety.
May be you know of other interesting formula using betel leaf and areca nuts  to psycho stimulate one’s brain. Do share with us. Thank you.


  1. Ooh, coconut milk gravy sounds delicious for this fish.

    1. hi dear . thanks for your sweet comment. have a nice day

  2. Using aracanut in cooking is new. Nice article.

    1. hi swathi// how are you. thanks for your visit.

  3. Hi Wan, very impressive posting, and I never heard, tried this delicious dish before. Looks sinfully delicious! Sure love your eloquent style posting.....
    This smoked fish in coconut gravy....I can practically get the beautiful scent of the spices.....
    This the kind one spoon in mouth forget mother's name, ha ha.
    Really impressed with your cooking. Outstanding!

    Your mentioned of chewing sireh....I did try couple of times long ago when staying in a friend's kampong house. Noticed the makciks rolling the sireh, they made one for me.
    They sure had a good laugh my running to the well washing my mouth, not used to the unusual taste and reddish colour.

    Oh ya, catfish not on my food list, as I love fishing, but not eating any fresh water fish, except udang galas.....will give the fishes to my neighbours.
    Wishing you selamat hari merdeka,
    keep a song in your heart.

    1. Thank you for your visit and sweet compliments on my recipe, even tho you don’t eat catfish.
      I guess it’s ok for you to be impressed with my cooking this time, cos I am happy with the results too- the taste came out perfect , just as how it was traditionally prepared. But I should have used a claypot instead.

      Thank you for the merdeka wish. You cant acquire the taste of sireh? I can, it’s kind of hot, but not like chili. The red color in sireh has a special mention in kama sutra… I have never read, but I am sure you knew. Ha ha. Have a wonderful day Lee

  4. Very impressive post...Interesting customs; would love to try mentioned leaves.
    Love smoked food!

    1. hi jasna. the betel leaf is a stimulant..with that i am also curious to try out (again) and get the feel of that "stimulant". have a nice day

  5. Restaurant few doors from my shop serves this dish everyday and they use catfish too...truly delicious!!

    My parents don't eat fresh water fish - therefore I only learned to eat catfish when I was 20yrs old and this was the "VERY" dish that started me loving catfish!

    SELAMAT HARI MERDEKA... n have a good weekend..

    1. Thanks Katrina. selamat hari merdeka to you too.
      i only like catfish if prepared this way- else i dont eat..
      especially pond products. have a nice day

  6. As'kum Wan, MERDEKA MERDEKA MERDEKA,its always a pleasure to visit your place. Firstly for the informative health food and also the honesty of the way the message is written and presented for sharing to all.Thank you for the concern message at Lee's comment box about me.InsyAllah all is well at this stage.Be going in again next week for the rest of the scopes and scans.Uncle and Aunty tengah tengok TV1 live telecast of MERDEKA day celebrations same time looking at your blog. Aunty very impressed siap gan diary resepi dia ahahaha,she kata the color of the smoked fish in coconut gravy is just right and perfect,nampak gaya ni lah menu for us tonite. Thank you so much and for the info about sireh pinang. It is so full of memories sebab my granmother was hooked on it and live to a ripe old age of 95 and still to her last day was using it and to think she started at the age of 17 so it must have some medicinal and health benefit as explained in good detail by you.Best Regards and keep the N3'S coming as we certaintly look forward to your writings.....happy weekend and God Bless insyaAllah..Uncle AL. PG.

    1. Salam AL, many thanks to you and datin for visiting. I am happy to note that datin likes my recipe- it sure is the original “ikan salai” recipe without doubt. Also glad you like my way of presenting it, which, personally I feel it’s a bit out of the ordinary.. all because of “MERDEKA!”
      Hoping all will be fine on your health matters, wishing you a speedy recovery and that you remain healthy always. Take good care of your diet. My prayers for you both.

      Your late grandma had been chewing sireh since 17? … Perhaps sireh and areca nut , both being great stimulants have a positive role on “ memory retention power” in the elderly.. who knows…
      May be I should consume both. Ha ha. Have a wonderful day AL and datin.

  7. I can imagine how delicious this fish curry would be, tempting & flavorful! I love your blog's new header. Tempting picture, have you shared this recipe on your blog?

    1. hi ambreen. glad you like my smoked fish recipe.
      My header pic is called "Layered cake"
      I have not published it as yet. I am sure i will let you know.. you will be notified if i do. have a nice day dear

  8. မဂၤလာပါ
    l'll cook as your SFinCmG& reply you HOW DOES IT FEEL.

  9. This smoked fish looks great... Nice to know more about Malaysia

    Event: Dish name starts with O

  10. Wan! remember my late grandma be so 'hip hop' chewing betel nut!

  11. nice pics interesting customs

  12. curry sounds absolutely inviting...lovely post dear
    Tasty Appetite

    1. hi jay and thank you. sure is delicious. have a nice day dear

  13. delicious. this is my favourite. happy independence day :)

    1. thank you honey bee. have a nice day. glad to know you

  14. Love the betel leaf holder - love the unique recipe

  15. How can I say no to a Malaysian recipe, with coconut milk, asam and chilies, this is so exciting. My kind of dish and love it.

  16. ¸.•°`♥✿彡

    A foto é maravilhosa... deve ser muito saboroso!
    Boa semana!

    1. thank you and glad to know you from brazil

  17. Wonderful post... love the look of the recipe:)

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. hi and thank you tahnia- please to know you

  18. owh! drooling looking at this kampung style cooking!!!!

  19. Mir gefällt was ich hier sehen und auch lesen kann, komme wieder irgendwann...

    Lieben Gruß und genieße den Tag

  20. Hi Wan! :) How are you? I missed you and your great blog! :) Craving to read more healthy and delicious recipes from here!

    Smoked fish in coconut milk gravy? I would love to taste this ASAP!:) And I am so sure, this is another favorite, because we love coconut milk on any dish, especially on fish. Thanks for sharing us again one of your traditional dish Wan! :)

    Keep it up! Keep us healthy through your blog! :) Have a nice day! ) Hope you're always fine too! :) God bless! :)

  21. whoah this weblоg іs gгeat i really like
    stuԁying уour articles. Stay up thе good woгk!
    You reаlize, many рeople аre ѕеaгching round for this information, уοu саn
    aid them greatly.
    my web page > Graphic Design Vancouver

  22. Sorry lama tak melawat sibuk dengan baby.
    Belakang rumah parents ada pokok sireh dah bertahun-tahun tumbuh dan banyak dah dipetik untuk pertunangan dan hantaran kahwin.
    Sedap lauk ni.

  23. Good day! I simply would likе to οffeг you a bіg thumbs up
    foг your eхсellent іnfoгmatiоn you haνe гight here on thiѕ
    post. I'll be returning to your web site for more soon.
    Here is my weblog - Main door designs For home

  24. Thanks for the information,I love Asian food, check out to my Asian recipe blog