MALAYSIAN’S are spoilt for choice when it comes to food. We have so much good food choices that makes it easy for us to overeat. Portioning food into small bites (tapas) allows us to savour food at its optimum level.

In Malaysian Tapas, cookbook author and food photographer Audrey Lim shows how some local favourites lend themselves well to the tapas concept, especially when paired with complementary beverages.

Here, Lim shares some Malaysian-inspired tapas recipes as well as some cooking tips and tricks.

1. Sand Ginger Chicken. Click here for recipe.

Sand Ginger Chicken (2)

2. Coconut Chicken Soup. Click here for recipe.

Coconut Chicken Soup

3. Sweet Potato Fries with Drizzles. Click here for recipe.

Sweet potato fries with drizzles

4. Pandan Cooler. Click here for recipe.

Basic tips on pairing food and drinks

According to Lim, there is no one particular pairing for each tapas. Try a dish with different types of drinks and when you find the one that suits your taste palette, that’s the one for you.

If the dish is spicy, it is best paired with something sweet and refreshing. If the dish is strong in flavour, it is always best to pair it with a more subtle drink so that it will not compete with the dish itself.

Substituting ingredients

Try new things and don’t be confined to the original recipe. Let your creativity flow and you may end up with a new recipe that everyone loves. If a recipe calls for coriander leaves and it’s unavailable, it can be substituted with Chinese celery leaves, instead. Of course, the flavour will be slightly different but that’s the heart of cooking. We need to step out of the box and be creative.

And there are, of course, some ingredients that cannot be substituted in certain recipes, e.g, Sand Ginger Chicken Wings. The flavour from this recipe is derived from the sand ginger. The sand ginger is different from other types of ginger and it has a sweet and earthy taste. You can still cook this dish using normal ginger but the dish will then be called Ginger Chicken Wings.

Advice to home-cooks

When choosing ingredients, pick fresh ingredients and learn about their benefits.

When buying utensils, buy what meets your needs and not on impulse.

When cooking, know the importance of using good natural cooking oils and the ways to use them effectively. Some oils are healthy if consumed without being heated but when exposed to heat, it loses its health benefits.

On presentation: You feast your eyes before tasting the food, so presentation has to be at par.

When ingredients are at hand, it makes cooking pleasurable. If you love Chinese cooking, make sure your kitchen is equipped with the basic Chinese ingredients such as soy sauces, spices (star anise, cloves), sesame oil, fragrant rice wine, cornflour, etc.

Finally, practice makes perfect. So, try out a dish many times, in order to improve.

Recipes and photos are courtesy of Audrey Lim. Recipes are from her cookbook, Malaysian Tapas, which is published by MPH Group Publishing and is available at major bookstores throughout Malaysia.

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