Bid your instant noodles goodbye: these chefs show how you can whip up feel-good, delicious and quick recipes in your kitchen
The movement control order means we’re all probably spending a lot more time in our kitchens than normal, but before you reach for yet another packet of instant noodles, check out what these top Malaysian chefs are cooking at home. Their tips and easy recipes use ingredients you probably already have (with the exception of caviar and truffles, perhaps!) to create something truly comforting and delicious.
1. Darren Teoh’s tempeh sandwich
Darren Teoh, chef at Dewakan, is making his tempeh sandwich with a budu mayonnaise. “It’s quick, delicious and protein-rich. I find joy in taking something unassuming like tempeh and making it special.”
Start the day before by pickling a Japanese cucumber. Mix 10 tbsp of mirin (or brown rice syrup if you don’t have mirin) with a pinch of salt and sugar, and warm up the mixture in a saucepan. Slice the cucumber into small rounds and sprinkle with salt. Place in a pickling jar, pour in the cooled pickling liquid and leave overnight.
The next day, make the secret sauce: budu mayonnaise. Dissolve 1 tsp of budu sauce (or belacan, if you don’t have it) into 1 tsp of hot water and mix with 3 tbsp mayonnaise. Cut the tempeh into thick strips and season with chilli powder and salt. Shallow fry the tempeh, and let it rest once cooked.
To assemble the sandwich, line a baguette with lettuce, add the tempeh and pickled cucumber and top with the budu mayonnaise. Finish with a sprinkle of furikake (Japanese seasoning mix) if you have it.
2. Chef Wan’s pantry essentials and leftovers
Chef Wan of De.Wan in Kuala Lumpur is busy cooking for his family at home these days. “My dad will stock up on staples like rice, noodles, pasta and canned food like sardines, tuna, baked beans, tomato paste and chickpeas,” shares his son, Chef Riz, who’s also on the team at De.Wan.
Leftovers can go a long way, even for chefs. Chef Wan always prepares an extra serving or two, especially when he’s cooking up a gravy-based dish like curry, assam pedas or even sambal belacan. “The leftovers can be eaten over the next few days with capati, lempeng and cucur. Any extra sambal can also be used to stir-fry vegetables or added to a nasi goreng kampung.”
3. Christian Recomio’s potato rosti
Christian Recomio, chef-owner at Sitka in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, is cooking a classic potato rösti with crème fraiche. “Being from the highlands of Scotland, the potato is king. In times of need we search for comfort but, let’s face it, we all have a little bit of time right now so we can add some class and effort.”
Grate 1kg of large potatoes into a bowl and salt heavily, squeezing out as much moisture as possible. Add a touch of oil to a heavy-based pan that can comfortably fit the potatoes, then pack them in and fry over medium heat for around 20 minutes on each side until crispy. (To turn, put a flat plate over the pan, flip the rösti over, then slip it from the plate back onto the pan).
Boil a few eggs, peel and slice in half when cooled, then serve with wedges of rösti. Add generous amounts of creme fraiche, Philadelphia cream cheese or good-quality mayonnaise. If you happen to have anchovies, capers, or even caviar to hand then you can really luxe it up.
4. Chef Jack Yeap’s egg sandwich
Jack Yeap is executive chef of Indigo at The Blue Mansion, Penang. His favourite lockdown meal is a nostalgic take on a classic school lunch: the soft-scrambled egg and cheese sandwich.
“Bread freezes well, so it’s easy to stock up on in lockdown. Toast it up and spread with a bit of good butter.” Jack uses sourdough or brioche but says any bread will do. Gently scramble two eggs, then assemble the sandwich: bread, eggs, ketchup, sharp cheddar, bread.
To make it a bit more special, Jack suggests adding flavours like caramelised onions and truffle oil, portobello mushroom, bacon and Gruyere cheese, smoked salmon and avocado, or sliced Wagyu beef and confit garlic. And if you happen to have some Iranian caviar or a Perigord truffle to shave over, he says, even better!
5. Makissa Smeeton’s masak lemak zoodles
Makissa Smeeton, co-owner of plant-based restaurant The Hungry Tapir in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, opts for masak lemak zoodles, a vegan take on the classic nasi lemak, for her lockdown meal. “I’ve given it plenty of variants to suit whatever people have in their kitchen. It’s a very flexible recipe.”
Blend 7 shallots, 3 garlic cloves, 4 tsp of fresh or ground turmeric and 3 lemongrass sticks into a paste. Heat your pot with cooking oil over medium heat, add the paste, and let it fry until the oil is hot and spitting. Add 7 tbsp of coconut cream and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
“Stir in the cooked pasta, noodle or zoodle (zucchini noodles) of your choice, mixing it well and with love! Add a dash of Lihing rice wine (or white wine) if you’d like, and season with salt and pepper. To jazz things up you can throw in tempeh, mushrooms, tomatoes or whatever makes your soul happy. Garnish with basil, pine nuts and nutritional yeast and you’ve got yourself a hearty vegan meal.”
6. Melba Nunis’s meatball stew
Chef Melba Nunis is the authority on Kristang cuisine, and now runs a supper club in Bangsar. Her go-to lockdown dish is inspired by her grandmother’s stew.
“My grandmother, Mama Rosa, made the best stew. It is the ideal dish for these times because the ingredients can be substituted with whatever is on hand. If you don’t have corned beef, you can use sausages or luncheon meat. Even the vegetables can be substituted with whatever you have. It’s quick to cook, tasty and very satisfying. You can also portion it out and freeze for future meals.”
“For the meatballs: mix 500g minced chicken or pork, 1 tin of corned beef, ½ tbsp ground cinnamon, ½ tbsp ground white pepper and 1 egg yolk together. Shape the mixture into 30g rounds, place on a plate or tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When ready to cook, heat 1 tbsp of cooking oil in a flat frying pan over medium heat and brown the meatballs – do not crowd the pan. Once they’re golden, remove and drain off excess oil.
“For the stew, heat 2 tbsp of cooking oil over medium heat in a deep pot. Add the onion, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and stir-fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the water, stock and pepper and bring to a boil. Mix in the carrot, potato and pasta and allow to it cook for 6-8 minutes, until the vegetables and pasta are almost tender.
“Next, add the breadcrumbs, meatballs, cabbage or cauliflower and cook for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the stew is thickened. Garnish with sliced spring onions. I like to serve this with a dish of sambal and steamed rice, but it is just as good on its own.”