The smell of summer is near. People looking cheerful and dawdling on streets like busy bees hopping from flower to flowers ignorant of their own importance in the pollination process. There are more organised outdoor events happening in individual towns. Luring not only the tourists, but to locals. Food, indefinitely a popular event; loved by people from all walks of life. Therefore, for the next few postings, I will be focusing on Malaysian kuih-muih. Originating from food stalls along the streets of Malaysia, kuih-muih is referred to as dainty finger food, either sweet or savoury, combining flavours from Malaysia’s multi-cultural society. First up, it is Kopitiam‘s popular karipap (curry puffs).
Curry puffs, or karipap in Malay, are a street food snack. These hot, savoury pies are a classic for tea time in Malaysia. Although commonly found in all stalls along the road side, each cooks them in a distinctive way. They vary with the pastries, fillings and spices. A road side stall can be well-known for their pièce de résistance. And, while the simplest and basic ingredients in the curry puffs are potatoes, onions and diced chicken breast, you can use any minced, chopped meat or vegetable filling that you desire. See how versatile this little snack is?
In Malaysia, I would not even dream about making these favourites. In the hot and humid weather, you really do not want to stand over the hot stove frying these little darlings. The best I have come across are always made by Malays. Part of my privilege growing up in a Malay community means that there are always delicious curry puffs at hand. They taste scrumptious, and affordable (given the amout of my pocket money then).
Hence, what is the best curry puff like? According to my sister, the best curry puffs are petite enough to finish in three bites. Literally!
Pastry: The pastry must be crisp and neither feel powdery nor oily.
Filling: Potatoes are soft, contrast with the crunchiness of the onions. The spices must not be overpowering.
What more can you say about curry puffs except to eat? To begin with, let us tackle and master the simple and straight forward recipe. Ready?
Curry Puffs (makes about 20)
For the filling:
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 onion, diced
generous bunch of curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 tbsp curry powder, mixed with enough water to form a paste**
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry the onions on slow heat until soft.
2. Add the curry leaves, cinnamon stick, star anise and curry powder and fry till fragrant.
3. Add the diced potatoes.
4. Add the chicken cubes and fry until the meat turns white.
5. Add in the water and seasoning, if needed. Cook until the potatoes turn soft and the mixture is thick and dry.
6. Turn off the heat and let the filling cool before using.
For the pastry:
400g plain flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
125 ml cold water (or more slightly more depending on the moisture in the flour)
1. Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Rub the margarine into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
2. Slowly, add the cold water into the bowl while massaging the combination together.
3. Divide the dough into 30g each. Roll the dough into flat thin circles.
4. Put a spoonful of the filling in the centre of each rolled out dough. Fold into half, covering the filling. Seal the dough by pinching the edges. Fluting the edges are a classic but failing this, there are moulds that you can buy.
5. Refrigerate the karipap for 30 minutes.
6. Heat oil in a work and deep fry the karipap in hot oil until golden brown and looks appetizing, depending on how brown you want them to be. Just not burnt. As an alternative, heat oven to 180C and bake the karipap for 20 – 25 minutes.
7. Serve with a beaming smile and enjoy.
**I blend make my own Malaysian curry powder which will be posted on the blog soon but you can use any shop bought curry powder.
For a quick version, puff pastry is used, while as much as I adore puff pastry, the best curry puffs are the ones made with margarine. It is not difficult, certainly worth the trouble and patience. The puffed spots on the curry puffs developed from using margarine gives an authentic look.
Once this is mastered and I am feeling confident, I will try attempting the spiral curry puffs. Hopefully, soon.