AWESOME ASIAN BITES FOR YOUR NEXT SOIREE. The mastermind behind Bali’s much lauded Sarong and Mama San restaurants, Will Meyrick shares some of his favorite small bite recipes from his new cookbook, Sarong Inspirations.
Regular readers of this magazine should already be familiar with Bali-based chef Will Meyrick, who provides us with tantalizing recipes from around Southeast Asia in every issue. Meyrick has finally come out with his first full-fledged cookbook, titled Sarong Inspirations, and its an impressive tome that any serious foodie interested in Asian cuisine should consider adding to their library. Meyrick has Scottish roots but is often billed as an Australian chef since Sydney is the first place he made a name for himself in the restaurant scene. But it was only later, after many years of traveling throughout Asia, that he settled in Bali and created the highly successful Sarong and Mama San restaurants, which cemented his reputation as a brilliant purveyor of jazzed-up takes on authentic Asian cuisine.
The lavishly-illustrated Sarong Inspirations is chock-full of recipes that Meyrick has collected and refined during his travels through
Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and many other countries throughout Asia over the last 14 years. In the introduction, Meyrick states, “The aim of Sarong Inspirations is simple. It’s to enable the average amateur chef, or passionate foodie with a penchant for trying new things, to be able to create restaurant quality Asian dishes at home. You don’t need a star by your name to follow our recipes, just a little time and patience.”
In addition to its instructional aspects, the book is also filled with colorful stories from Meyrick’s travels throughout the region and enlightning anecdotes about how he was able to obtain his authentic recipes. He details his interactions with everybody from humble street chefs to Laotian royalty in his quest for the most amazing flavors he could find. In order to give reader’s a taste of what the pages of Sarong Inspirations has to offer, Meyrick has chosen some of his favorite canape dishes from the book, which illustrate the ease and utility of the recipes in the book. Meyrick says, “They’re all easier to prepare than you think, but pack an impressive punch for predinner cocktails when you’re entertaining at home. The quantities in the recipes can easily be increased depending on the number of guests.” And just like in the book, each recipe comes with a “Meyrick Twist” that takes the authentic flavors of the dish and adds a dimension that is uniquely his.
I was inspired to create these light, mostly raw canapes after watching some fishermen in Jimbaran Bay, Bali, eating a Balinese variation with local herbs served in a banana leaf in one of the beachside markets. I decided to adapt the concept to include high quality grade tuna with a local variety of the edible betel leaves, which are derived from the pepper and kava families. At Sarong I use Balinese sambal matah to add a fresh and very clean spicy edge to the tuna. These unique bites not only look great when served but will elicit questions about the betel leaf, a point noted in Vietnamese culture where there is a saying that ‘the betel begins the conversation’, referring to the cultural tradition of chewing betel leaves in formal or socially awkward situations to break the ice.
4-5 betel leaves
100 grams sashimi grade tuna
1 small bird’s eye chilli, chopped
3 small shallots, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely julienned
1 large red chilli, julienned
1/2 small bunch lemon basil,
1 pinch fried shallots
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons sambal matah (see recipe box)
1 tablespoon bumbu pasih (see recipe box)
6 lemons, juiced
Take a frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and raise the heat until the oil is very hot and almost smoking. Sear the tuna on all sides, making sure that the tune is just cooked to rare. Remove from the heat and allow to stand until cooled to room temperature.
Cut the tuna with a sharp sashimi knife into 5mm cubes. Mix the sambal matah and bumbu pasih together in a small mixing bowl and add the tuna, gently combining until evenly coated. Finely chop and add in the remaining ingredient (apart from the lemon basil, betel leaves and the fried shallots) then continue to mix. Taste and make any necessary adjustments to seasoning then add in the lemon basil.
Prepare the washed betel leaves and trim the stem, place onto the serving dish and gently spoon the mixture onto the betel leaves in small mouth-size portions. Sprinkle the fried shallots on top for presentation and serve immediately.
The Meyrick twist
This can also easily be turned into a great salad by adding in some deseeded green tomato wedges and making the seared tuna cubes slightly larger. Try substituting the tuna for chicken for a change – either way you’ll have a fantastic summer dish in the making with this recipe.
50 grams shallots
25 grams lemongrass
10 grams red birds eye chilli, seeds intact
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
20 ml coconut oil
This is a Balinese raw spice mix: light, spicy and 89 clean. Finely chop shallots, lemongrass and chillies. Combine with shrimp paste, lemo juice and coconut oil. Use your fingertips to lightly mix together with the oil. Serve immediately.
• 60 grams long red chilli
• 12 grams peeled garlic
• 56 grams shallots
• 25 grams turmeric
• 25 grams ginger
• 30 grams candlenuts
• 50 grams fresh tomato
• 2 grams coriander seeds
• 5 grams fried shrimp paste
• 50 grams vegetable oil
• 6 grams tamarind pulp
• 1 salam leaf
• 15 grams lemongrass
Peel the ginger and turmeric. Pound the coriander seeds to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. Chop all ingredients, keeping the tomato, lemongrass and salam leaf to one side. Pulse the rest of the ingredients in a blender until you have a smooth consistency for a paste.
Add the oil and fry out the paste with lemongrass, tomato and salam leaf. Cook for 20-25 minutes in a saucepan on a low heat, stirring continuously to release all the natural fragrances and flavours. The paste is ready when most of the natural moisture has been released and the consistency is of a dry paste with a film of oil on top.
Rice Paper Rolls
If you get the ingredients right these can be among the best Asian style tapas you’ll ever serve to anyone, and vegetarians will love the tofu stuffed version. Without the right herbs and fillings though, the results can be bland and uninspiring. When travelling through Vietnam I came across a wonderful honey-glazed chicken that was very similar to Char Siu pork and, seeing as Vietnamese cuisine shares a lot of similarities with that of the Southern Chinese, I decided to use soft shell crab, which adds an extra texture and crunch to the rolls. The char siu pork is easily obtained from a Chinese roasting house, or follow the procedure as detailed in the recipe for char siu pork ribs in the grill section of this book.
• 2 Vietnamese rice paper sheets
• pan of warm water
• 1 soft shell crab
• 50 grams char siu pork neck
• 1 sprig thai basil
• 1 sprig lemon basil
• 1 sprig mint
• 2 red shiso leaves
• 1 pinch somen noodles
• 1 small cucumber, cut into 10cm batons
• 4 butter lettuce leaves
• 1/2 carrot, julienned
• 1/2 cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
• 1 egg
Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the somen noodles for no longer than a minute.
Refresh immediately in ice cold water. Do not let the noodles sit in the water as they will absorb liquid quickly, so remove immediately and twist into small piles on a side tray. Cover with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature.
Take the flour, egg and Japanese breadcrumbs and place on three separate trays. Cut the soft shell crab into quarters and roll in the flour, transfer to the egg wash then the breadcrumbs, making sure that you have a thin crust of breadcrumbs (rather than clumps as this will make the crab very difficult to roll).
Shallow fry until golden.
Take a damp kitchen towel and lay it out on a chopping board. Then take one of the Vietnamese rice paper sheets and dip into the warm water for just 20 seconds: you will need the rice paper roll to still hold its shape.
Lay out the sheet on the damp cloth and cut each end of the rice paper circle to make a rectangular shape. You will find the rice paper naturally starts to become softer on the damp cloth as it absorbs moisture. Add the butter leaf lettuce on top of the rice sheet and start to layer the ingredients. First place the shiso leaf followed by the somen noodles, deepfried soft shell crab, pork, cucumber, carrot and add a small drizzle of mayonnaise along the centre of your roll.
Place a layer of Thai basil, lemon basil and mint on top and start to roll the rice sheet tightly taking care not to tear the sheet. The rice paper will stick naturally. You’ll end up with a roll approximately 8-10 cm in length. Slice it in half on a diagonal slant, pull out some of the crab from inside the rolls for presentation purposes and transfer to a serving plate.
I recommend serving with side dishes of red nahm jihm mayonnaise and nuoc cham for dipping, both of which you’ll find recipes for in my new book.
The Meyrick twist
As our family is living in Indonesia, we sometimes have to be sensitive to the use of pork, so we use char siu chicken as a substitute and the results are still fantastic. If you’re looking for a vegetarian option just remove the crab and pork and add in golden fried tofu.
This knock-out Asian tapas-style dish is a super quick recipe to prepare. The marriage of the tender butterflied prawns and the crunchiness of the sesame seed coating is a winning combination. This is ideal summer eating, simple, light and with virtually no preparation time needed.
5 medium size prawns, shelled with tails left on
1/2 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup wheat flour
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
soy sauce for dipping
1 small chopped chilli
1 wedge of lime
1 red chilli, julienned, to garnish
Take three large kitchen trays. On the first one lay out the flour, whisk the eggs with a fork and pour into the second tray and in the third mix the sesame seeds together.
Wash the prawns and butterfly with a sharp knife, evenly coat each prawn in flour and transfer to the egg mix, coat in the egg mix and place into the sesame seeds. Make sure that each side of the prawn is well covered in sesame seeds. Prepare a frying pan with a shallow measure of oil and fry the prawns on both sides until golden.
Pat off any excess oil with kitchen paper, serve immediately with a side dish of soy sauce and chopped bird’s eye chilli and garnish with red chilli on top and serve with a fresh lime on the side.
The Meyrick twist
Instead of using the soy sauce for dipping try substituting with a red nahm jihm mayonnaise. You can find the recipe for a great one in my book.
Sarong Inspirations is available in leading bookstores throughout Southeast Asia and online through www.willmeyrick.com. You can also follow chef Meyrick as he heads out across our very own Indonesian archipelago – by plane, boat, car and rickshaw – in search of the country’s culinary pulse. www.facebook.com/chefwillmeyrick www.twitter/MeyrickWill
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