Sambal Belacan Flavored Chicken Burger with Bean Sprouts and Roti Jala
Now we continue our journey with a stop in Malaysia. Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia. It borders Thailand and Singapore on the pennisula, and makes up about a third of the island of Borneo bordering Indonesia and Brunei. It’s also just across the South China Sea from the Philippines and Vietnam.
With a locale like this (not to mention British colonization and Japanese occupation at various points in its history), the cuisine is bound to be interesting and delicious. So let’s skip all the upfront and jump to the food.
Malaysians typically eat 6 times a day, they’re like Hobbits in their love of food! With most of these meals you’ll find a unifying flavor and that is spice. Spice in the form of chili peppers makes the foundation of Malaysian cuisine. Dried or fresh, ground into a paste or diced in a sauce, peppers are pretty much always on the table.
My first attempt at making this burger overdid the peppers and had us guzzling milk to recover. Lesson learned, be thoughtful about the number and kind of peppers you use. I started with 15 Thai Bird Chilis, and ended with 5 Thai Peppers for a spice level that you notice but doesn’t cause pain.
The beautiful think about Malaysian cuisine is that it doesn’t stop at hot chilis, the heat is always balanced with a touch of sweetness. Like we saw in Indonesia, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) is used to temper the heat and adds a lovely and distinctive salty sweetness that, for me, really exemplifies the cuisine of this region. If you haven’t tried kecap manis, I strongly recommend that you do, it has a distinctive flavor for which I’m sure you will find lots of uses.
Malaysian also like their flatbreads or “roti.” Here I encountered Roti Jala, a turmeric seasoned lacy crepe-like dish. The first time I made this burger, I incorporated the lacy pattern, but I totally forgot to do so the second time, since it doesn’t change the flavor, I’d just go with a basic crepe. Then you can pick it up and kind of wrap the burger in the crepe – this keeps the sauces in and makes the whole thing less messy. Here’s a look at what the classic roti jala looks like.
Even with the crepe structure, this is probably best eaten as a fork and knife dish. The trick of making authentic Malaysian food is balance. This burger gets umami from the bean sprouts and chicken, eggy custardy flavor from the roti jala, sweetness and saltiness from the glaze and spiciness to tie it all together from the sambal belacan. Serve the extra sambal belacan on the side so folks can dip and spice it all up to their own taste.
1 pound chicken breast cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 Tablespoon Sambal Belacan (recipe below)
Kepac Manis glaze (recipe below)
Roti Jala (recipe below)
Sambal Bean Sprouts (recipe below)
Coat the chicken with the Sambal Belacan and salt. Grind chicken and form into four patties. Brush glaze over the patties. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan and fry patties until completely cooked through. Just before the burgers are done, drizzle a little extra glaze on the patties.
To serve, place 1-2 Roti Jala on each plate then put the cooked patties on top and top with a scoop of Sambal Bean Sprouts on each burger. Serve the Sambal Belacan on the side so your diners can add extra spice to their own tastes.
Sambal Belacan (can be made ahead 1-2 days)
2 ounces dried chile japonés
5 dried Thai chilis
3 shallots peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 Tablespoon tamarind paste
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 Tablespoon palm sugar
4 Tablespoons coconut milk
Soak the dried chilies in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain the chili peppers. Place chili peppers, shallots, garlic, tamarind paste and lime juice in a food processor and pulse until it forms a paste. In a small pan, heat the peanut oil over medium high heat. Add the chili paste and cook for 3 minutes. Add the palm sugar and the coconut milk (use the solids rather than the liquid if the coconut milk has separated), and cook for another 2 minutes.
If making ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve at room temperature with the burgers.
Kecap Manis Glaze (can be made ahead 1-2 days)
½ cup kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Juice of 1 lime
Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium low for 10 minutes. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate then heat to room temperature when you’re ready to use.
Roti Jala (can be made ahead same day)
1 cup coconut milk
1 large egg
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ cup water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sifted flour
½ Tablespoon ghee
Combine all ingredients except flour and ghee. Add the mixture to the flour and stir until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine strainer to remove and residual lumps.
Heat ghee in a nonstick pan over medium heat until melted. Pour enough batter to create thin crepe (or drizzle for traditional lacy effect). Cook until firmed up then gently flip to cook other side. These only take a few minutes to cook, so watch them carefully. This is enough batter to make 8 crepes.
Make these ahead and just keep them warm in the oven until ready to use.
Sambal Bean Sprouts
2 bunches of scallions chopped (or 2 spring onions), about 1 cup
1 ½ teaspoons ghee
1 ½ Tablespoon sambal belacan
1 cup bean sprouts
2 teaspoons kecap manis glaze
Kosher salt to taste
Heat ghee in medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and saute for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
©Copyright 2017 Linda Monach