Belacan – Malaysian Fried Dough
I have to admit that I know nothing about Malaysian food and going to a restaurant for only one aspect of a particular ethnic cuisine, is probably not the best representational situation for learning. But I was on a whirlwind tour of discovering and experimenting with multiple fried dough offerings. And as far as I have able to determine thus far, most historical and ethnic cuisines have some form of fried dough within their pantheon of culinary offerings. And thanks to my incredibly knowledgeable and resourceful friend, we stopped at Belacan Grill on the off-hand chance that this unknown cuisine which could include Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Chinese and Nyonya foods.
I was anticipating heavenly aromatic dishes — obviously well-spiced — and by and large, I was not disappointed. We asked specifically which items were fried as we didn’t want to fill up on unnecessary courses and were directed towards two offerings from their appetizer menu; Roti Canai, a flat bread, and Curry Puffs. Technically, the flat bread was grilled and not deep-fried, but therein lies my slippery slope for it was obviously pan-fried and in so much butter as to be riding that fine line of griddled versus fried. Very flaky and rich from the butter, the warm roti canai was served with a side of thin, chicken broth-based spicy sauce – more like a red curry soup. The texture was soft and fluffy, happily consumed on its own although enhanced with the spicy condiment.
Three-inch long curry puffs were shaped in the half-round, empanada-like moon shapes we had been consuming all evening long. The pastry for the casing was so flaky as to begin to split apart under the influence of the hot frying oil. Not too thick to overwhelm the flavor of the stuffing which was considerably more spicy than the flat bread sauce. Here, savory potatoes dominated the contents but with bits of chicken meat coupled with redolent heat of a spice that kept going. This was just a little beyond my normal spice threshold, but I quickly adapted. Our biggest complaint was the fact that the oil in which these puffs were fried was obviously a bit on the old, burnt side of acceptable. The puffs themselves were not burned, but a detectable rankness prevailed. I have no doubt that someone just going to the restaurant for a single meal and ordering multiple other dishes would probably not notice, but considering this was the fifth different experience that evening, we were becoming that much more aware of oil qualities in the preparation of these dishes. It is a minor complaint, but a distraction nonetheless.
2701 190th St., Ste 100
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
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