In the dream in flavors…



Sambal Tofu

I still remember those hot Friday afternoons when I rush home from school for lunch time, having worked so hard (WELL that’s how I viewed my teen life to be 🙂 ), knackered and super happy its finally weekend!

Malaysian school finishes earlier on Fridays to allow Muslims to observe their Solat Jumaat secara berjemaah – Friday prayers together with other people in the community.
In the northern states of Peninsula Malaysia, Friday is a day off, hence your weekend starts on a Thursday.

Albeit all the traffic jams caused, I often find myself mesmerized at the beautiful sight where you find people coming together in hundreds to join in the Mosques.

Likewise Fridays are a prayer day for Hindus too, and in our household, my mum would typically cook a scrumptious vegetarian meal comprising sambar, two vegetable stir frys and or a sambal dish and a must have deep fried dish.
Appalams (or papadams) , yummy finger licking array of pickles and my sister’s favourite plain yogurt (tairu) serve as glorious extras.

This sambal tofu recipe I’m sharing today is one of our family’s favorite Friday dishes.

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
― L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl


Main Ingredients

500g Firm tofu (I used Tofu King brand – Made in UK)
1 ½ medium white onions sliced – (keep a handful aside to add towards the end)
1 ½ large tomatoes chopped
1 clove garlic sliced
1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
3-4 tbsp. vegetable oil
120ml boiling water (Approx. 8 tbsp)
3 tbsp. sweet chilli sauce.
1 tsp. lime leaves chopped (if available) / 1 stick of lemon grass
Handful of coriander leaves chopped
Salt to taste

1-2 star anise
3-4 Cardamoms

Curry powders:
½ tsp. turmeric powder.
2 tsp. chilli powder (adjust to individual heat level as required).
(I use Rajah or East End brand)


Prepare ahead:

Cube the firm tofu, sprinkle some turmeric powder and salt and keep aside for 5 mins.
Deep fry these cubes in vegetaable oil till lightly browned. Watch closely and do not let them overcook.
Remove and set aside.





In a wok:

1. Heat oil, add spices to flavour the oil and brown the chopped garlic and sliced onions.
2. Next add the chopped tomatoes (you could also use tinned chopped tomatoes) and saute.
3. Add the ginger garlic paste, cover and cook for a few more seconds.
4. Add the turmeric and chilli powder, stir well, again cover and cook in the juices for approx. 15 seconds, before adding half (60ml) of the boiling water. Now cover and leave it to cook in medium heat for a few minutes till it thickens. Stir as necessary.
5. Add the lime leaves (if available) / lemon grass. Add the remaining boiling water, cover and cook in low heat for few more minutes.
6. You can now add the sweet chilli sauce, salt, and the handful of sliced onions you set aside earlier. Cook for a few more minutes, till the gravy thickens, now add in the fried tofu, lower the heat, coat well in gravy before serving.

Garnish with coriander leaves!

For a simplistic meal, serve with white boiled rice and sliced cucumbers.

Best wishes




Sprats – deep fried the mi-way

In season: July to April (UK)

Greater similarity to my favourite Anchovy or Ikan Bilis Besar…
I wanted to know how they taste like and seek out if they are compatible with an Asian recipe..
Specifically the Malaysian Indian (mi) way 🙂

I paid just ÂŁ0.94 for about 15 of these tiny fish at my local supermarket..


1 tbps. Ginger garlic paste
1 tbps. Red onion paste
Âź tbsp. Turmeric powder
2 tsp. Curry powder
Âź tbps. Chilli powder
Thinly sliced red onion and chopped corianders
Lemon juice
Salt to taste
Plain flour

(My recommendation: If available, Fish/Seafood curry powder would be a better option for its higher jeera content… I used Baba’s Fish curry powder)

I cleaned and scaled the fish -without removing the head.

Mix well and leave it to marinade for minimum of 45 mins before dabbing each fish with plain flour and deep fry these in vegetable oil for a few minutes.

The fish was full of flavour and had more of Mackerel like taste than Anchovy to me.
Simple, delicious and a crunchy  accompaniment to rice and dhall…..

And at such good value, I would definitely be buying again when they are in season again this year.

I found this Good Fish Guide from the Marine Conservation Society, pretty useful for information on sustainable approach to buying fish.

And hope you do enjoy this simple recipe..


Watercress Sambar

Ever since Channel 4 documented watercress as ‘the’ superfood, I have been trying to include them in our diet.

Research shows it contains more calcium than milk!
I’m in!

I only ever encounter them when they are included in a mixed salad bag and that would be the only time my family consume them.

Historically, salads were never really a big part of my Malaysian Indian diet. And I’m still not a big salad eater, nor the family.
A typical salad in my home would comprise cucumbers, pineapples, shallots and coriander leaves covered in light fresh coconut milk.
Anything leafy (other than coriander) would be joked as ‘goats’ food.

The Malays (Malaysian Muslims) however include ‘ulam‘ (types of herbal leaves) in some of their dishes. Nasi Kerabu being one of them, is best served with traditional ulam.

Part of my aspiring #EatSeasonably project. Watercress is now widely available in shops and are best consumed between months of April to September.

After a few trials, these mustardy, peppery leaves worked really well with lentils!

Thinking I actually invented this super dish, seriously I was over the moon!
I soon realized through google search, some people have trialed this out way before I did.

The shock!

Nevertheless, I took gratitude for managing to include ‘the superfood’ in my family diet (regularly enough) increasing their well-being in long run. I just wonder if that should feel much much greater than the innovative me?  🙂

watercress sambar

A simple recipe:

100g split lentils (washed)
1 clove of garlic
3 small shallots (sliced)
1 big tomato
1 packet of watercress (mine weighed about 45g)
3-5 curry leaves (fresh is best)
1 tsp. ginger garlic paste
3 tbsp.  vegetable oil
Hot water

½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. mustard seeds
Âź tsp. fenugreek seeds
2 dried chillies
Âź tsp. asafoetida powder

Seasoning / Curry Powders
1 tsp. mild curry powder / ½ tsp. chilli powder depending on preference.
½ tsp. turmeric powder
Salt to taste


  1. Cover lentils with water (approx.. two cups), add turmeric powder, garlic and tomato. Cook on medium. Takes approx.. 15mins.
  2. In another saucepan, heat oil. Add the spices and curry leaves. Then add shallots and brown it. Lower the heat, add watercress and coat in oil (I use low heat and stir constantly so nutrients are contained and not lost unnecessarily). Add ginger garlic paste. Continue cooking for approx. 20 seconds.
  3. Stir in the cooked lentils. Add curry/ chilli powder. Stir and cook for approx.. 1min.
    Then cover in hot water. Approx. 2-3 cups (depending on the type of sambar broth (thick/light) you would like).
  4. Add salt. Cover and boil on low-medium for approx.. 5-10 mins. You are looking to cook the watercress slightly and taking away the raw smell and taste of your other ingredients.

Serve with white boiled rice and perhaps salmon fishcakes or curried banana peppers? My family loves either combinations!

Would love to know what you think of this fusion dish…X

Curried Banana Peppers

Baby group day today, this day every week my boy gets to meet other babies in the village. Stealthily I choose to catch up on this blog instead.. 🙂

My excuse; well it’s pouring heavily outside and I was feeling the cold a lot more today than I normally do!

Banana peppers (well I think that’s what they are called) – a little culinary gem I found in Britain !
These are not fiery nor sweet. Has a mild taste somewhat cross between cayenne chillies and bell peppers (or capsicums as I call it)

This site has interesting information about peppers: Know your Peppers

Makes up as a tasty complementary peratal (stir fry) or dry curry dish to go with Dhall or Sambar…

Every so often I trial out different variation to the typical combination of food I cook (i.e. Sambar with Potatoes Peratal (similar to Bombay Aloo) is one of the classic combinations you will find in an Indian origin household). An attempt to keep tastes interesting for the family. This is one of them…. 🙂

Ingredients (For 3-4 People)

415g Banana Peppers (Approx. 9 pieces) deseeded
2 small shallot sliced
1/2 medium tomato
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 inch ginger chopped
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. mild curry powder
125ml hot water
125ml coconut milk
3-5 curry leaves
4-5 tbsp. vegetable oil


1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. cumin
Salt to taste creamcilibanana pepperscreamcili

Method (all on medium heat setting)
1. Heat oil on medium, add spices and curry leaves.
2. Add in shallots, garlic and ginger, fry till aromatic. Add in peppers and tomato. Coat well in oil. Cover and leave it to cook for 30 seconds.
3. Add turmeric and curry powders. Stir and cover for 30-1mins.
4. Add water, stir and cook for 2-3mins (or till peppers are 1/2 tender, add water as necessary).
5. Add coconut milk, cover and cook for further 3-mins, stirring regularly. Peppers should be fully cooked and 3/4 mushy in texture). Season with salt. creamcili

Banana Peppers Peratal
Curried Banana Peppers

Salmon fishcakes with Creme au Chili

A simple amuse bouche with an experimental crème au chili, I served yesterday…
Loved the sophistication touch, a rare happening in a household with two babies.


Salmon fish is fairly new to our diet, having been introduced to this fish when I first came to reside in Britain. I delight in its earthy taste and steaky flesh. Works best as starter food for young children too, definitely a better option for purees comparatively to famous cod.

This time for the babies,  I used the flavoursome stock from boiling the salmon to make a nice clear soup. Simple add some green peas and cracked pepper, slow boil it further 15mins.

Salmon Fishcakes with Cream Cili Dip