Malaysia is a melting pot of different cultures, different ethnic backgrounds and inevitably, this brings out an eclectic mix of cuisines, rated as one of the best in the world. One such cuisine that remains ever so popular amongst Malaysians is 'Mamak' cuisine, best found in 24 hour cafes and restaurants. Alas, not many Malaysians even know the origin of Mamak, which found its heritage in Malabar, amongst the Malabaris who made their voyages within the Far East and rooted a big settlement in Malaysia. Neither is this fact known to many Malabaris in Kerala.
Given my ancestry, Mamak food is our everyday food at home. Better than restaurant, and certainly more varied and spiced than what most Malaysians knew. First time when I cooked Malabari food and presented to my husband, he was shocked to find out that the so-called Mamak dishes are stuff that he finds in Kerala! Such is tradition. It lasts through generations and generations, and the palate is never changing. There is one example of how diverse the countries might have been, but what is famously known as Murtabak in Malaysia is actually known as Keema Paratha in Kerala, (or erachi porotta) a fact that I only discovered last week!
Sometimes, I do have a 'Conflict of Country-neither here nor there' as I have lived in England for so long, yet the tradition of Kerala and Malaysian food have always intertwined in our daily choice of food. Just like I cannot live without my Scottish oats porridge in the morning and scones for tea, I still yearn for some Mamak food ever so often that I usually would follow my heart's desire and cook it fresh at home. Murtabak as I knew it, or Keema Paratha as The Husband is accustomed to it, is one of Malabar dishes that we both savour with delight.
I am not surprised if most Malaysians do not know how to make Murtabak from scratch, but I will certainly be surprised if a Keralite can't do a keema paratha! Also, the Malabar paratha (porottha) is way different than a North Indian paratha, though both version taste just as delicious.
For Malabar paratha, there is a art to tossing and spinning the dough until it becomes a really thin layer. Murtabak is simply upgraded from the plain paratha by filling it with spiced minced meats and fold the sides into an envelope. They are tasty and very filling on its own or could also be served with yogurt or dhal curry.
For the dough
2 cups plain flour
3 tbsp ghee
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup water (approximate)
3 tbsp warm milk
Mix all the ingredients except the water. Add the water gradually whilst kneading the ingredients into a sticky dough. Divide into small balls and oil the dough balls with some ghee. Keep aside in a container for at least 4 hours.
For the meat filling
250 g minced lamb
1 medium sized onion
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 chopped tomato
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
a pinch of salt
few twigs of curry leaves
1 cinnamon bark
few cloves and star aniseeds
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
3 tbsp oil
Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves and aniseeds until fragrant. Add in the chopped onion, tomato, ginger and garlic. Fry until onion turns golden brown. In a bowl, mix the turmeric, coriander powder, paprika and cumin with few tablespoons of water to form a paste. Add into the pan and fry for few minutes.
Add the meat and well coat with the spices. As the meat will produce some water, simmer on low heat until the meat is well cooked and almost dry. Add some water accordingly if the meat becomes too dry. Cook for about 30 minutes. Add the garam masala and chopped coriander leaves just few minutes before turning the hob off. Cool the filling prior to use.
Assembling the Murtabak
After about 4 hours, take out the dough balls. Using oiled hands, stretch the dough, toss and spin on air (this takes a bit of expertise but do-able) until it becomes a circle and as thin as a tissue paper. Drizzle some oil on the dough. Beat an egg (optional) and spread the egg on the dough before putting the meat filling on the centre of the circle. Fold the edges into an envelope so a rectangle is formed.
Heat a skillet and spray with some oil. Fry the murtabak until golden brown on both sides.
Serve warm with dhal or yogurt and pickle. Enjoy!
Note: Submitting this recipe to Malaysian Muhibbah Monday, hosted by Sharon from testwithskewer and Suresh from 3hungrytummies.