Ask anybody from this country about Negeri Sembilan and its food, I bet most will associate it with "masak lemak cili api". Being 100% originated from Negeri Sembilan (born and raised), masak lemak cili api is indeed my favourite dish to be eaten with plain rice. If you only want to cook one easy yet heavy dish either for lunch or dinner, I would propose you to cook masak lemak cili api because it is very simple. For your info, masak lemak cili api can be cooked with a lot of different ingredients and they usually come in pairs. Among famous pairs are chicken + potatoes, prawns + long beans, duck eggs + pucuk ubi, pucuk paku + anchovies, yam + anchovies, pisang muda + salted fish, salted fish + pineapple, just to name a few. Listing all those ingredients made me salivating with hunger because I could imagine how each of them taste... but the most famous pair and my most favourite among all is daging salai (smoked beef) + belimbing buluh. Another option for belimbing buluh if it is not available is bacang as they are both soury.
Cooking the dish is very easy because once you already know the basic, the rest is for you to decide and explore. The 3 main basic ingredients required are real tumeric, coconut milk & cili api. Adding lemon grass would be better but it can be considered optional. I have been asked by several aunties who came from other states on how Negeri people cook the masak lemak because it tasted different from what they cooked at home and the key points here are:
- to use real tumeric instead of tumeric powder
- to skip using onion or shallot in the cooking
Last Tuesday I managed cooking masak lemak daging salai with belimbing buluh, thanks to a colleague, Alya Iswani who gave some of the fruits from the tree in front of her house. We went back to Seremban during the weekend so Bee bought the smoked beef from Pasar Tani. I only knew that smoked beef is only easily available in Negeri Sembilan but not in KL when I started working here. Previously I thought it is easily available anywhere. Anyway, let me share with you how to cook masak lemak cili api with smoked beef and belimbing buluh in original Negeri Sembilan way...
INGREDIENTS (2 - 4 pax)
- 1 thumb size of real tumeric
- A number of cili api according to preference
- Coconut milk
- Thin slices of smoked beef
- Belimbing buluh
1. Crush belimbing buluh lightly with mortar and pestle to take out the juice. Throw away the juice.
2. Crush tumeric with cili api and salt into tiny bits using mortar and pestle.
3. Put the crush tumeric & cili api with smoked beef and belimbing buluh in a sauce pan.
4. Pour the coconut milk into the sauce pan.
5. Light the gas, leave to cook and stir occassionally.
See, it's that easy but the result is oh so yummy :-D If you want it to be a lot easier, just blend the tumeric with cili api using a blender and use a box of coconut milk instead (my mom won't approve that though). Similar steps are used for any other combinations by changing the beef to chicken, prawns, etc. Happy Trying!
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