I have great memories of the mamak lunches I are regularly during my full-time office days in bangsar. The mamak closest to my office was literally a skip and a hop away from my workplace, and the vegetable selection was on enough rotation for me to not get bored. One day, out of the blue, there was stir fried beetroot. Stir fried beetroot! I had never seen it in a mamak before. I didn’t even know Malaysia had beetroot at all!
The mamak kept it on their rotation menu ,and seeing its maroon magnificence as one of the vegetables of the day would bring delight to my entire week. So crunchy, sweet and earthy… and fried with mustard seeds, freshly grated coconut and curry leaves, my Malaysian introduction to beetroot was a landmark experience that has stuck with me for eight long years. To the best of my ability, I would love to allow it to live longer and further out through you.
I’ve always been one to munch on curry leaves when they are cooked into a meal, whereas most people I know acknowledge the leaves as a contributor to aroma and leave them on the side of their plate. I’m glad I’ve left no leaf uneaten: from my Healing Diets studies, I’m learning that curry leaves are highly nutritious: rich in vitamin C and A, calcium, folate, and a unique substance called carbazole, which has antimicrobial, antioxidant and free-radical scavenging abilities. Nowadays, whenever I see friends leave curry leaves aside, I tell them about their benefits, and the leaves disappear into their mouths!
One thing I’m adding into this dish is mung dhal. I’ve been eating this delicious little bean at the neighborhood mamak for years without ever knowing what it was. I just asked the matron of the mamak for its name just a few weeks ago. I then spotted it at my next visit to The Hive. I was so excited that I told the shop manager, who pointed to the jar containing mung beans and said, “did you know mung dhal is the same as this, just with the skin peeled off?”
Mung Dahl comes from… Mung Beans?
SIMPLETON’S MIND BLOWN.
Soaking the dahl overnight softens them and makes them ready for frying. I let them air dry for a few hours before cooking. They’ll still be moist and sticky, but drying them at least a little bit will make for a safer cooking experience. If you don’t have time to air dry your mung dahl, either dry them slightly with a reusable kitchen towel, or be extra careful about placing wet beans into hot oil. It may splutter a lot!
As for mustard seeds, I have also learned – from the recipe on the label of a jar of curry, of all places – to fry them in oil first until their skins pop open. Doing this makes them less bitter, more nutty, from blah to omaigaaahh. A little bit of mustard seed goes a long way.
One of the reasons why I decided to share this recipe is because I recently was asked by a blog reader if any of my recipes were free from garlic and onion. Being a freak for both, it would be safe to say that none of them are. This recipe finally changes that, and it was the perfect candidate. All its complementary flavours are the culinary equivalent of #squadgoals, and does not need to be enhanced by onion or garlic at all. If you still wish to add them in however, who’s to judge?
This recipe has great perks. It’s a breeze to make, ingredients are easy to find, and there’s a whole lot of it you can make in one go (one medium-sized beetroot, once shredded, looks like it can feed an army). It’s great to quickly whip together as a side dish for large gatherings. If using it in food preps, be mindful that coconut goes bad quite quickly and lasts in the fridge for a maximum of 3 days. If you wish for it to last a few more days, it would be a good idea to omit the coconut , and bump up the beetroot by say, another 50-100 grams.
Enjoy the deep, bright hues of this unique dish that brings healthy mamak-style vibes to your home.
15-MINUTE MAMAK-STYLE BEET AND COCONUT STIRFRY
An aromatic side that is easy on the eyes, this crunchy stirfry inspired by the Indian Muslim cooking culture of Malaysia is ideal for beginners in the kitchen, and those who are looking for palatable ways to incorporate more colours into their diet.
- 350g fresh beetroot
- 1 cup freshly grated old coconut flesh (kelapa parut)
- 2 tablespoons mung dahl, soaked overnight in water then drained and left to air-dry until slightly moist and sticky
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 6-7 branches curry leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp sea salt / Himalayan pink salt
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- Juice of 1 calamansi lime (limau nipis) (Optional)
- Step 1 Peel and grate beetroot.
- Step 2 Heat cooking oil in a pan on medium heat.
- Step 3 When oil is hot, put in mustard seeds, soaked and dried mung dahl, and garam masala, and stir around for 2 minutes until the mustard seeds crack open and mung dahl turns golden brown.
- Step 4 Strip curry leaves from branches and throw into the pan. Stir around for 30 seconds, until leaves start to turn brittle and transclucent. Do not wait until the colour of the leaves start to turn dull.
- Step 5 Add beetroot, coconut, salt and optional lime juice. Stir around for 2 minutes.
- Step 6 Serve immediately as a side with rice, couscous or in a wrap.