Does food define home for you? It took moving thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean from Malaysia to the United States for me to realize how much I look for home in what I eat and cook. Now that I also call my husband's home state California my home, the food on my plate is a mishmash of both of our cultures.
One of the first Malaysian dishes I cooked in my American kitchen using local vegetables is beetroot rendang. Let me tell you what rendang is. It's a dry curry made with an intense spice paste and coconut milk that's usually cooked with meat. My fascination with all the new produce I was discovering at that time gave me the idea to make a plant-based rendang with beetroot during my first spring here.
Then when autumn came, I made rendang again with pumpkin and the recipe was featured in the beautifully illustrated print food journal Comestible. I was so excited when the publisher Anna Brones made pumpkin rendang for Thanksgiving! You can still get last year's autumn issue (pictured below) and do check out the new issues too.
This autumn, I decided to share the recipe with you here as part of the Virtual Pumpkin Party hosted by Sara Cornelius of Cake Over Steak (read my interview with her!). Remember last year's pumpkin craziness when I shared a sweet rice dumpling recipe? Well, it's back, and the love for autumn's most iconic produce rages on!
Don't miss all the pumpkin recipes by my talented food blogger friends! And if you want another pumpkin recipe with a Malaysian flavor, try pumpkin laksa (spicy noodle soup). I also have more squash craziness for you below...
A Gallery of Squash: Photos from the National Heirloom Expo
As I'm writing this post, my mind is on the Northern California fires and my heart goes out to all the people who have lost so much in this tragedy. Just a few weeks ago, we were in Santa Rosa for the National Heirloom Expo at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. I took a bunch of photos of the different kinds of squash out there and I'd like to share some of these photos with you.
Malaysian Pumpkin Curry (Rendang)
First published in the 2016 autumn issue of Comestible. A vegetarian version of the Malaysian meat-based dry curry made with pumpkin or other winter squash like kabocha and butternut. Also try making it with beetroot (recipe here). Serves 3 to 4.
4 large shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tender midsection only, chopped
1-inch ginger, peeled and chopped
1-inch galangal, peeled and chopped (optional if difficult to find)
3 dried red chilies, seeded and soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, then
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 lbs (900g) pumpkin (or other winter squash like kabocha and butternut), peeled and
cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cinnamon stick
1 to 1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup (120ml) full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon tamarind paste or apple cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted until lightly brown
In a blender or food processor, add shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, dried chilies, and all the ground spices and blend until you get a smooth paste. If necessary, add water 1 tablespoon at a time to get the paste moving. A thick paste is what we want so don't add too much water. Get the ingredients to incorporate as much as possible but don't fret over chunky bits.
Heat up the oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring often, until the oil and paste are emulsified, about 10 minutes.
Add the pumpkin cubes and stir well to coat with the spice paste. Add the cinnamon stick and enough water to cover the pumpkin. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook until pumpkin is fork tender and the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your squash.
Stir in coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt, and bring to a boil. Then reduce to medium heat, stir in the shredded coconut, and cook until the mixture is quite dry and thick, another 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning according to your preference. Serve warm with rice.