Buah Keluak Fried Rice is the stylo-mylo new nasi goreng. Chef Malcolm Lee popularised the dish at his one-Michelin-star modern Peranakan restaurant Candlenut. Damian D’Silva also does a tasty version at his Peranakan-Eurasian diner, Folklore. There’s something about the inky rice coated in an umami, spicy, earthy, slightly olive-like paste that’s irresistible. A sunny side up egg on top is essential, so you can prod the yolk and let its yellow goo ooze sensuously all over that sedap black canvas.
Back in the day, making a buah keluak dish meant soaking and scrubbing the dusty black nuts from Indonesia, breaking a hole in their hard shells, scraping out the tar-like meat, and often, refilling the shells with said meat through the small hole you made earlier. This laborious process was enough to send any sane working woman fleeing from the kitchen.
Thankfully, cooking buah keluak is a less tedious affair these days since many dry goods grocers at wet markets sell buah keluak meat out of their shells. They are usually stored in the freezer, so try asking for them even if you don’t see them on display. If you prefer not to take your chances and fancy a jaunt to Tekka Centre, a garrulous shop vendor called Mr Seah (at #01-210, Blk 665), usually has a steady supply.
Like all Peranakan dishes, buah keluak fried rice begins with a rempah or spice mix. You can double or triple the recipe, fry the rempah up to step 5 (below), and freeze it in portions for up to two months. That way, whenever you have leftover cooked rice, a deeply-flavoured platter of delicious buah keluak fried rice is only a stir-fry away.
BUAH KELUAK FRIED RICE
Serves 1-2 pax
1 cup shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp belacan (fermented shrimp paste)
4 red chillies
3 tbsp + 2 tbsp cooking oil
¾ cup buah keluak meat
100g minced pork, chicken or prawns
2 cups day-old cooked white or brown rice
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 fried egg chopped coriander leaves, for garnishing
1) Make rempah by blending all the rempah ingredients into a smooth paste.
2) Heat 3 tbsp oil in a wok over high heat.
3) Add the rempah to the wok and reduce heat to medium. Stir-fry the rempah till it starts to release its oils. This will take about 10 minutes.
4) Crumble the buah keluak meat into the pan and stir-fry for another 5 minutes. Add a spoonful or two of water if the mixture seems to be drying out.
5) When the buah keluak meat is well incorporated into the rempah, transfer to a blender or use a stick blender to blitz to a fine paste.
6) Place the remaining 2 tbsp oil in the same wok and set to high heat. Return the rempah to the wok along with the minced pork, chicken or prawns. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the rice.
7) Stir-fry the rice vigorously till all the grains are coated in the rempah. Add the light and dark soy sauces and continue stir-frying till everything is evenly incorporated.
8) Taste and add salt, if necessary.
9) Transfer rice to a serving plate and top with a fried egg. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately.