A few weeks ago, several bloggers and writers attended a dinner at Koreatown’s Pappa Rich, which served as an introduction to the world of Malaysian food, as well as Chef Christina Arokiasamy. The Seattle-based chef was recently named the Malaysian Food Ambassador to the U.S., and now she’s working hand in hand with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation to give everyone a “taste of Malaysia”. She is the face of a cuisine that has made its way up to the top of popular food trends as determined by a survey of 1,200 chefs under the National Restaurant Association. And so, there we were–entranced by Chef Christina’s silky sweet personality and her ability to tell entrancing stories about her lifelong experiences with food, including a family lineage in the spice trade. She, and the dishes served during that evening, were the inspiration for a braised lamb shank dish with a foundation of Malaysian flavors and spice.
Korean and Peruvian were two of the other top trending cuisines on the NRA list, and L.A. has both of those down. Malaysian…not so much. With Chef Christina at the helm of the Malaysian Kitchen Program, the goal is to introduce this city and the rest of America to the true fusion of the culture’s cooking, which includes influences from China, India and Thailand, as well as products that will make it easier to replicate Malaysian dishes at home.
The evening’s event included a demo led by Chef Christina during which she prepared Chili Sesame Prawns with Curry Leaves. This recipe featured Lingham’s chili sauce for a bit of sweet heat in the sauce. We sat down to several appetizers, including Malaysian Mango Salad with a chili-lime dressing, and my favorite, Roti Canai. The pan griddled bread was a mix of crispy and fluffy, and it held up well after a dip in a bowl of soft potatoes tossed in coconut curry sauce. Standout dishes for dinner included Beef Rendang Sliders braised in the coconut lemongrass sauce, Curry Laksa noodles with shrimp, eggplant and bean sprouts, and the Sambal Shrimp wok-tossed in sambal belachan. The spicy, dried shrimp paste at the root of the dish pleasantly lingered with each bite. Kaya Toast and Chendol rounded out the meal as dessert. The first was a mix of creamy and very sweet coconut jam over a slice of toasted, buttery white bread. The second dessert was a bowl of shaved ice drizzled with a rich, shiny palm nectar and pandan jelly. Let’s be honest. The Chendol was the end-of-meal winner.
Everyone went home with a gift bag, which included a copy of Chef Christina’s book, The Spice Merchant’s Daughter, bottles of Lingham’s chili sauce and sriracha, plus a package of Asian Meals’ Malaysian Lemongrass Curry Sauce. The ingredients in Chef Christina’s demo were very familiar to me, and with a few of the imported ingredients now available in stores, her words of encouragement to try new Malaysian-inspired recipes at home stayed in my head. That packaged sauce formed the foundation of the sauce in this braised meat and vegetable dish. It’s main components are coconut cream powder, onion, and lemongrass, as well as a variety of spices–coriander, galangal, ginger, turmeric, chili.
This is definitely a spicy batch of braised lamb shanks, not only from the chili in the packaged sauce, but also the cayenne pepper and serrano pepper. There’s also a bit of smokey heat from paprika and a earthy hint of black pepper. If you’re sensitive to a little heat, the cool crunch of scallions and aromatic cilantro leaves may alleviate the burn, although your best bet would be a dollop of plain Greek yogurt right on top. Now that I have Chef Christina’s book on hand, there will be more time to explore her food stories and recipes.
- ¼ cup flour
- 4 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 pounds lamb shanks, trimmed
- ¼ cup grapeseed oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced ¼" thick
- 2 medium carrots, sliced ¼" thick
- 4 medium red potatoes, cut into eighths
- 1 serrano pepper, seeds removed, thinly sliced*
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1" nub garlic, peeled & grated
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 box Malaysian Lemongrass Curry Sauce
- Cooked rice, for serving
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
- Mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add the lamb shanks, and toss well to coat all sides.
- Pour the grapeseed oil into a large pan, and set over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add both lamb shanks, and brown thoroughly on all sides.
- While the meat browns, toss the onions, carrots, potatoes, serrano pepper, garlic, and ginger into a slow cooker.** Sprinkle the coriander, curry powder, turmeric, cumin and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt over the vegetables, and top with both lamb shanks. Pour the broth into slow cooker, and set to cook for 4 hours.
- During the last hour, add the Malaysian Lemongrass Curry Sauce. Once the lamb is done cooking, remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bone, and carefully break into chunks. Season to taste, then serve over cooked rice, garnished with scallions and cilantro.
**You don't need a slow cooker for this dish. Use a Dutch oven or large braising pot to sear the meat, then add all of the remaining ingredients to the same pot. Transfer to the oven and cook at 300 degrees, following directions as indicated above.