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LAKSA, rendang, kuih, nasi lemak; these are some of the Malaysian dishes that Anna Olson has tried and loves. Anna was in Malaysia as part of a tour to promote her new series, Inspired with Anna Olson. The series sees her exploring parts of Asia where she savours the flavours that this part of the world has to offer.

She’s visited Malaysia before and has had a taste of Malaysian food. But on her most recent visit, she had the opportunity to further explore Malaysian cuisine, learning that there’s more than one type of laksa. Her tour around Asia has allowed her to discover new things about Asian food, ranging from new ingredients like pandan, to new types of desserts, like kuih.

In her new series, there are two episodes where she meets up with two local chefs, Chef Ili Sulaiman and Chef Wan, to sample local dishes. She takes inspiration from them to cook up her own dishes while incorporating some of the local elements.

Here, Anna Olson shares 3 recipes, along with some tips.

1. ‘Inspired’ Chilled Chicken Pho Salad.

Chicken Pho Salad

This recipe takes inspiration from Vietnam’s noodle soup, beef pho. Anna opts to make hoisin sauce rather than use a pre-made one. If your hoisin sauce looks a little too thick to go through the strainer, don’t panic! Just add some water to help thin out its consistency. Other than the hoisin sauce, putting together this dish is really easy and shouldn’t take you more than an hour.

2. Shrimp and Coconut Risotto with Pickled Jalapeno.

Shrimp & Coconut Risotto with Pickled Jalapeno

It may not seem obvious, but this recipe takes inspiration from a Malaysian favourite: sambal. Instead of using sambal, Anna opts for some pickled jalapeno. Though it’s not quite sambal, the pickled jalapeno adds some heat to this dish.

Remember to use short-grain rice for this dish, so no basmati or jasmine. As tempting as it is to wash the rice, Anna says, don’t wash the rice! If you do, it results in the early release of starch, resulting in a congee-like texture, and that’s not what we’re looking for in a risotto. Also, when boiling the risotto, make sure that it’s a gentle bubble, and avoid adding salt and pepper during the reduction. To check if the risotto is done cooking, the risotto will be soft but firm in the middle.

Also, make sure to add the stock, bit by bit, to avoid making the risotto too watery. For the end product, you want the risotto to have some sauce left – so don’t cook it till it’s dry.

3. Steamed Carrot Cake with Sweet Potato Ice Cream.

Steamed Carrot Cake with Sweet Potato Ice Cream

Though the recipe for the steamed carrot cake is cake based, it’s actually inspired by Singapore’s carrot cake, or chai tow kway as most call it. In this recipe, Anna utilises the latest technique that she’s picked up: steaming. Instead of baking the carrot cake, she steams it with wonderful results. The addition of ginger and cinnamon in this recipe brings out stronger flavours.

As for the sweet potato ice cream, it’s inspired by Ube, also known as purple yam, that’s used in a variety of desserts in the Philippines. Even if you are not a fan of sweet potatoes, you will like this dessert. It’s not too sweet and has a creamy texture; you might even forget that it’s made from sweet potatoes.

For health nuts, this is a great alternative to ice creams found in grocery stores. If you’re planning to make a larger batch, do note that for every 250ml of whipping cream, add 15ml of skim milk powder.

Inspired With Anna Olson airs on Fridays at 9pm on the Asian Food Channel (Astro Ch 703).

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