Britain-based Malaysian chef Norman Musa learned to cook out of necessity. As a child, he paid his dues peeling and dicing potatoes for the curry puffs that his parents sold at their Butterworth stall. But it was when he was a student in the UK that his hunger grew.
Craving food from Malaysia, he learnt how to cook from his mother over the phone. Now he can’t stop. He’s collected all his mother’s recipes in a series of cookbooks. He also runs two restaurants in the UK - Manchester and York - and an extremely popular monthly supper club in London. Despite his late mother’s good natured ribbing about his culinary prowess, the UK’s current reigning Young Asian & Oriental Chef has certainly made a name for himself. And when it comes to promoting the national cuisine, Norman probably ranks among the most passionate.
Cook like Norman Musa!
Last month, he was back in KL to launch Chef Norman’s Malaysian Curry Powders. Formulated for meat and fish dishes, the handy 50g packets will soon be available worldwide.
“It took me a year to get the blend of spices right,” said the affable chef at the launch. Working with an artisan manufacturer in Puncak Alam, he ensured that each spice is roasted separately to retain its oils before being ground into the aromatic powder. Norman reveals: “The secret lies in balancing the aroma, texture and spiciness, while maintaining the subtlety of flavours without being too over-powering.” The ground curry powder contains ground chilli, coriander, cumin, fennel, cardamon, star anise, turmeric and cinnamon.
Unwilling to cram supermarket shelves with his product, the chef prefers to stock them in small independent grocers and retailers. They are also on sale via his website. Upcoming projects comprise extending the range of his series of spiced chocolates to include fruit flavours and working to launch Malaysian flavoured ice creams. His range of pureed pastes – among them ginger, galangal and lemongrass – was launched at London’s Specialty Fine Food Fair. His updated third edition of Malaysian Food will be out at the end of October.
As Mercy Malaysia’s UK Ambassador, Chef Norman will be leading a team of his faithful fans on a Mount Kinabalu charity climb in the same month, too. To top it off, in January 2014, he’ll personally conduct a Malaysia-wide road trip for tourists to savour, first-hand, Malaysian street food. “I never sleep, or rest enough,” he admits, with a laugh, when asked how he keeps going. While it may have been necessity that drove him to cook his first dish, it’s his all-consuming passion that drives him now.
Chef Norman Musa’s Malaysia Curry Powder Recipes
Spaghetti Goreng Berempah/Curried Seafood Spaghetti
Recipe serves 2
2 litres water
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp cooking oil, to boil spaghetti
4 Tbsp cooking oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 king prawns
1 squid tube, scored and cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp Chef Norman Musa’s fish curry powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
100g spinach or pak choy
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
Chopped chillies and fried shallots, for garnish
1. Place 2 litres of water, salt, and cooking oil in a saucepan, and bring to boil. Add the spaghetti and boil for 5 to 10 minutes until spaghetti is cooked. Drain and briefly rinse under cold running water. Set aside.
2. Heat up half of the 4 Tbsp of cooking oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Sauté chopped shallots and garlic until fragrant.
3. Add in the king prawns, mussels, and squid. Cook until the king prawns turn pink and the squid curl up. Scoop out the king prawns and squid to avoid overcooking them. Leave the mussels in frying pan.
4. Add the remaining cooking oil, curry powder, water, salt, and sugar. Cook for a few minutes until oil separates.
5. Reduce heat to low and add in the cooked spaghetti, spinach, king prawns, squid, and soy sauce. Stir well and turn up the heat to medium. Cook until the spinach wilts and the spaghetti is coated in curry paste. Remove from heat. Garnish with chopped chillies and fried shallots before serving.
Kari Ayam/Chicken Curry Recipe
Recipe serves 4
10 shallots (or 1 onion)
6 garlic cloves
3-inch ginger root
200ml cooking oil
200 g potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 star anise
2 cinnamon barks, cut to 2-inch length each
2 pandan leaves, tied into knots (or 3 stalks curry leaves)
50g Chef Norman Musa’s meat curry powder
100ml water (to mix with curry powder)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
100ml tamarind juice
1kg meat (chicken on bones, beef or lamb, chopped into chunks)
150ml coconut milk
1. Blend shallots (or onions), garlic, ginger with 50ml water until pureed.
2. Heat cooking oil in saucepan on medium heat and fry cut potatoes until crispy. Set aside.
3. Using the remaining oil, saute the blended ingredients with star anise, cinnamon barks, and pandan leaves until fragrant.
4. Add in the curry powder mixture and 100ml water. Cook until the oil separates. Add in salt, sugar and tamarind juice.
5. Add in the meat and 400ml water, and cook until the meat is three-quarters cooked.
6. Add in coconut milk and fried potatoes, bring to a boil and cook for further 5 to 10 minutes on low heat until the meat is properly cooked. Serve immediately.