Malaysian Monday 85: No-name spicy potatoes

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Tuesday everyone! (Sorry, it was Monday when I started typing this). Ready for another installment of Malaysian Monday? Today’s dish has no name. Oh alright, it probably has a name, I just don’t know what it is. But if you describe it to a Malaysian, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. Since potatoes are a major ingredient, I’m calling it “Spicy Potato Fry”.

My friend Suresh, who incidentally is hosting the next Muhibbah Monday round-up, called it Ikan Bilis Masak Kentang, or Spicy Anchovy and Potato Stir Fry. Even thought I like anchovies, the version I remember from my university days contained tempeh instead. I’m guessing the tempeh was probably cheaper for the canteen management.

As a poor student, I ate a LOT of this stuff. Our canteen had a system where we could choose from a variety of side dishes to go with a plate of rice, and we paid according to what was on the plate (and the size of the plate). Meat or fish cost more than vegetables. The pricing system was pretty erratic though, it depended on who was behind the counter. Boss Lady never let you get away with anything, her husband, the Boss Man, was a softer touch and if one of the workers manned the counter while the bosses were on a break, he’d wave us on for the bare minimum if he was in a good mood :).

To cook this dish, you don’t need many ingredients and none of the steps are actually difficult, but it is a little bit time-consuming. Like many Malaysian dishes, the ingredients themselves can be changed to suit your palate, and measurements are fast and loose.

Here’s how I made the dish, using a mix of traditional and non-traditional techniques and ingredients :)

Start with 3 potatoes (I used Dutch Cream), a 250g block of tempeh and about 1 cup of raw peanuts. Peel the potatoes, slice into thin matchsticks, rinse in a bowl of water, drain well through a sieve and pat dry with kitchen paper. Make sure the potatoes are really dry. The washing process reduces the excess starch and stops the potato from sticking to the pan.

Slice the tempeh into matchsticks and set aside.


Toast the raw peanuts either in a dry frying pan or use the less traditional route of the oven. Remove from the oven when the skins start to peel. Rub the peanuts between your fingers, then use this trick to get rid of the skins - take the tray outside and either sift gently in the breeze, or if there isn’t a breeze, blow gently on the peanuts so that the skin floats away. Easy right? We would only buy raw peanuts when I was a kid, and my job was peanut sifter, a task I have handed on to MC Junior. It’s a fun job but the pay is peanuts (couldn’t resist could I?).

Then prepare the chilli paste. I used 3 long red chillies, 2 garlic cloves and a candlenut (optional). Deseed the chillies if you’d like it less fiery, or increase the amount for more heat. Pound the ingredients into a paste in a mortar and pestle (traditional), or use a blender (not so traditional). Have some white vinegar, fish sauce (optional), salt and sugar handy for the cooking process.

Heat a wok on medium high heat and fill with enough vegetable oil to deep fry the ingredients. If you do it in a few batches, you won’t need too much oil. I started by cooking the potatoes first (a few handfuls at a time), then lightly browning the peanuts, then the tempeh (again, a few handfuls at a time). Take each batch out and drain on kitchen paper. You should end up with three piles - fried potato, peanuts and crisp tempeh.

Drain any excess oil out of the wok, and lightly wipe off any bits with a wadded up kitchen paper. The wok should still be fairly clean. Return to heat and if needed, add a tablespoon or two of oil. Fry the chilli paste until fragrant, then add a splash of vinegar to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons). I also added a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce, which isn’t a traditional ingredient but adds a little bit of depth to the dish. Next add sugar to taste (I used about 2 heaped tablespoonfuls). Stir well. The paste should be shiny and slightly sticky.

Add the potatoes, peanuts and tempeh and stir to coat. Stir constantly to stop the mixture sticking and reduce heat if necessary. If it’s all going too fast and starting to catch, add a drop or two of water but not too much as it’s meant to be dry rather than “saucy”. Taste to check seasoning and add salt. It should taste quite sweet, spicy and a little salty too.

When all the ingredients are heated through, dish up and serve with steamed rice. It is meant as a side dish to go with other dishes as part of a meal.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget there’s still time to get in for the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up, so send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com, who blogs at 3 Hungry Tummies.


Jennifurla said...


Marcellina said...

I haven't check in for a while. These potatoes look delicious! What a gorgeous photo of you little helper!

Heavenly Housewife said...

What a yummy dish, i love everything peanutty, if only Mr P wasn't so horribly allergic to it!
*kisses* HH

Ameena said...

I love this! I think anything fried like this will inevitably be divine. Thank you for sharing!

Divya Yadava said...

OOOOOH..matchstick potatoes with a spicy sauce. I have to try this - it sounds absolutely delish.

Beth said...

This looks really good. And I love your little peanut sorter!

grace said...

what a truly unique preparation! the pay is peanuts--ha. you're such a card. :)

3 hungry tummies said...

Hehe I love the title :) perfect to go with beer too!
WIll let you know about the popiah party :P

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

This dish always a favourite in my family.

Jill Colonna said...

Wow - look at that dish. You always cook up so many treats for us and this is another winner. I'd love to try this and le crunch from the peanuts must be wonderful!

shaz said...

Jennifurla - it sure is :)

Marcellina - thank you, she's also very cheeky.

Heavenly Housewife - oh no, poor Mr. P.

Ameena - no problems, thank for visiting :)

Divya Yadava - hope you do and I'd love to hear how it goes.

Beth - the peanut sorter was quite efficient, all things considered.

grace - I knew you'd pick that up!

3 hungry tummies - yes please!;)

Malay-Kadazan girl - so simple too ya?

Jill Colonna - it is. I'm also really partial to the flavour of tempeh.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Fast food and I won't have many pans or containers to wash ;-). I am going to link your resepi to my blog tonight. Hope you don't mind.

Deeba PAB said...

Oh yes please Shaz. This is much deliciousness in no name potatoes. I am fascinated by the process. Mmmmm it lah {as my sis would say!}