Winter is finally breathing its cold last breaths, and as spring’s rejuvenating air sweeps steadily across Great Britain, it is a time for a little self reflection. This is the time of year when many of us look in the mirror and ask: how the hell did I get so fat?
With New Year’s resolutions long since shrugged off and cast aside like so much laundry hung on a treadmill, now is the time when we all start to panic at the prospect of fitting into our summer clothes, having lost none of the weight we so responsibly packed on to hibernate through the long, harsh winter. Some of us may still be able to taste a lingering air of sherry and Christmas cake in our mouths when we first wake up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – festivities aren’t festive without plenty of good food and drink – but of course, most of us could do with a healthier lifestyle, especially as bikini season (or banana hammock season for the fellas) fast approaches.
And besides, as the weather changes, so do tastes – hearty, fattening winter fare like stews and sausages seem less and less appealing as the days grow longer and warmer. It’s a season of revival and newness, a season for lighter, livelier food, a perfect time to start eating more Malaysian cuisine.
A lot of Malaysian cuisine is based around fresh vegetables and seafood, and learning a few simple Malaysian recipes is a perfect way to utilise wonderful seasonal produce to make lighter meals. Take assam laksa: it uses fresh mackerel as its base, so it’s chock full of omega 3 and vitamin B12, and it makes good use of one of Britain’s most abundant, affordable fish. It’s a really lovely and satisfying supper for cool spring evenings – hot, but not heavy.
Some of Britain’s most delicious vegetables are coming into season, and Malaysian cooking is a perfect way to harness their bright, sweet flavours and nutritional value. Purple sprouting broccoli makes an amazing stir-fry, garnished with a few chillies, some garlic, and Malaysian seasonings like kicap manis, sambal, and belacan. Likewise, asparagus is a fantastic addition to a mee goreng, and Jersey Royal new potatoes are beautiful in a Malaysian curry – especially with some fresh prawns or mussels thrown in.
No discussion of spring produce is complete without a mention of lamb, and there are all kinds of lovely, healthy ways to prepare this wonderful meat using Malaysian ingredients and recipes. Rub a few lean lamb chops with belacan, kaffir lime leaves and a touch of chilli, then pop into the grill- this makes a simple but hugely flavourful dinner. Or why not make a lighter version of the classic lamb curry, kari kambing, by omitting much of the oil and replacing the coconut milk with yogurt.
Malaysian cooking typically uses an arsenal of pungent herbs, spices, and seafood to achieve strength and complexity of flavour, and so it doesn’t rely on animal fats and simple carbohydrates as much as a lot of Western cookery. With fresh British produce and a fully-stocked Malaysian larder at your disposal, you’ll be frolicking in skimpy swimwear with confidence by June (or maybe July). And the food is so good, you won’t even miss all the extra calories.
Cross posted on Malaysia Kitchen.