I do not claim to have a found an improvement to this Malaysian dish but I did found my way around the limitations in ingredients here in Quezon City. So it is good news that we can still enjoy this rich stew even if it is quite a search mission to get hold of some key ingredients.
The cooking style is definitely not familiar because instead of just chopping the aromatics, we need to blend or pound it into a paste. Also I did not let my beef go through the pressure cooker and just let it simmer in the electric stove. I do have a gas stove but I use the electric stove for stewing. The heating plate retains heat even if turned off so I just turn it on for 5 minutes and turn it off for 15 minutess through the 2-hour cooking time. The flavor slow cooking delivers is definitely worth it. A coal stove will also work wonderfully for this. Cook this the night before you intend to serve it to really get the most flavor, as with any old stew.
1 pc siling haba, seeds removed, chopped
4 pcs siling labuyo, seeds removed, chopped
2 medium red onions, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 tbsp finely sliced fresh lemongrass (or about 4 inches worth of the white part near the roots)
1 tbsp galangal paste (I found Thai Galangal Paste in Cherry Foodarama)
1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced
1 - 2 tbsp water, to thin the paste as needed
1/2 cup dessicated coconut, toasted dry on a pan
1/2 kilo beef brisket cut to chunks
1 cup coconut milk (or simply milk of one coconut - put all that milk in!)
2 cups water (as needed)
2 tbsp Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce (it's supposed to be Malaysian thick soy sauce)
2 tbsp regular soy sauce
2 tsp curry powder
8 asitaba leaves, sliced thinly (but it's really supposed to be lime and turmeric leaves. Asitaba tastes nothing like them but hey, those are the only leaves I can get in my front yard))
Pepper and patis to taste
In a mortar and pestle, combine first 7 ingredients and pound together until it becomes a paste. Otherwie, use a blender and whiz away to make a paste. Add water if necessary to thin the paste ito a manageable texture. Set aside.
Toas the dessicated coconut until golden brown. Grind to a paste or blend in the blender again. Set aside.
In a pan, heat oil in medium-high flame and add the flavor paste. Saute until it becomes very aromatic about 3-4 minutes. Add the beef and stir in for about 3 minutes more.
Add to the beef mixture the coconut milk, the water, the curry powder, both soy sauce and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Then add blended toasted coconut and asitaba leaves. Mix thoroughly, cover and bring to a slow boil.
Now lower the heat and you can go back surfing, wash the laundry or watch Sherlock Holmes and let it stew for about 1.5 hours or until beef is tender. Just make sure that you stir it occasionally, every 10-15 minutes so it will not burn at the bottom.
When it is done, it will be brown, thick and grainy from the coconut. Serve it with hot rice and cucumber slices.
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