Boasting robust sweet, spicy and sour flavours, these signature dishes will have your loved ones begging for seconds.


In a world obsessed with fusion delights, it’s reassuring to see authentically-made Asian dishes holding their own. One yummy example is the culture- and flavour-rich Malay heritage cuisine.

We’ll always be game to tuck into traditional favourites such as ayam penyet (smashed chicken), sambal udang (spicy prawns) and puteri seri muka (glutinous rice with pandan jam). However, fearing that the recipes are complicated, many of us are willing to give these a try in our own kitchens.

But did you know that these dishes are pretty easy to whip up as long as you follow the directions? If you’re ready to add Malay cuisine to your cooking repertoire, here are three tasty recipes to get you started. Follow the clear instructions and in no time, heavenly smells will be wafting from your kitchen.

Ayam Penyet [smashed chicken]

Serves 4 to 6

To serve with the dish
8 tomatoes, cut into quarters
10 slices of cucumbers

For the rice
5cm knob ginger, peeled and finely sliced
9 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
3 chicken stock cubes
750ml water
3 pandan leaves, knotted
Vegetable oil as needed
Salt to taste
1 kg jasmine rice, rinsed and drained

For the chicken
A whole chicken, rinsed and cut into quarters
2 tbsps coriander seeds, soaked for 10 minutes and drained before use
10 bulbs of garlic, peeled and crushed
5cm knob ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric
Salt to taste

For the sambal
12 large red chillies
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
20g belacan [dried prawn paste]
1 tomato, diced
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste

1. To prepare the rice, heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and sauté until lightly brown and fragrant. Add remaining ingredients, except rice, and sauté thoroughly.
2. Transfer sautéed ingredients to a rice cooker. Add rice and cook until tender.
3. Bring chicken to the boil in a large pot over low heat until tender. Drain.
4. Combine coriander seeds, dried chillies, garlic, ginger and ground turmeric in a blender and process into a paste.
5. Spoon paste on chicken and mix well. Marinate overnight or at least 1 hour. Fry chicken only when ready to serve.
6. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry chicken until golden. Drain well and set aside. Lightly smash fried chicken with a pestle or the back of a cleaver before serving.
7. Prepare sambal by combining all ingredients in a blender and process into a paste.
8. Serve rice with sambal, cucumber and cut tomatoes.


Pepes Ikan [spicy grilled fish]

Serves 4 to 6

5 limes, juiced, plus more to garnish
2 to 3 tbsps coconut milk
1 turmeric leaf, finely sliced
Salt to taste
2 banana leaves to wrap the fish, softened over open flame
1kg mackerel
Toothpicks, as needed

Ground paste
500g grated coconut
10 red chillies, sliced
5 chilli padi/bird’s-eye chillies, sliced
3 stalks lemongrass, ends trimmed and cut into short lengths
2.5cm knob galangal [blue ginger], peeled and sliced
2.5cm knob turmeric, peeled and sliced
2.5cm knob, ginger peeled and sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2.5cm piece belacan [dried prawn paste]


1. Preheat oven to 210 deg C.
2. Prepare ground paste by combining all ingredients in a blender and process into a paste.\
3. Add lime juice, coconut milk and sliced turmeric leaves. Season with salt to taste.
4. Lay out banana leaves in a perpendicular manner.
5. Place mackerel on a sheet of banana leaf then coat with ground paste. Wrap mackerel with banana leaf and use toothpicks to secure the parcel.
6. Place parcel in a steamer and steam for 15 minutes over low heat.
7. Remove from steamer and place in the oven for 5 minutes.
8. Serve with warm rice and lime halves on the side.



Kuih Bingka Suji [Semolina Cake]


Makes a 25cm cake

10 pandan leaves, cut into short lengths
1 litre water
½ tsp green food colouring
5 medium eggs, lightly beaten
280g castor sugar
320g coarse semolina
200ml coconut cream
½ tsp salt
160g ghee or butter
150g plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tsps rose or vanilla essence


1. Preheat oven to 190 deg C. Line a 25cm square or round cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
2. Put cut leaves into a blender with water and process. Strain and measure out 800ml pandan juice. Stir in green food colouring, if using, and set aside.
3. Beat eggs and castor sugar in a pan until well combined.
4. Add semolina, coconut cream, pandan water and salt. Mix thoroughly, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick.
5. Remove pan from heat and mix in ghee or butter, flour and rose or vanilla essence. Stir to a smooth consistency and pour mixture into prepared tin.
6. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch.
7. Cool cake thoroughly before cutting.

Recipes adapted from The Many Flavours of Malay Cooking by Rita Zahara.

Photos: The Many Flavours of Malay Cooking

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