Malaysian cooking class with Zaida Ahmad

One of the hats I wear is as the occasional Food Editor for the Auckland Malaysian Society (AMS). AMS is a community group, staffed by a passionate band of volunteers who do a great job in sharing the culture of Malaysia.  Luckily, AMS committee members are incredibly patient with my very meager activity (*thanks Patric and Dorin!).

AMS is fortunate to have among its members, a fantastic cook in the form of Zaida Ahmad. And better still, Zaida shares her classic Malaysian recipes by holding several cooking classes during the year. These are homey dishes you are unlikely to find at Malaysian restaurants.

Recently, a group of 7 eager home cooks gathered at to learn how to make serunding ayam dengan pulut (chicken floss with coconut glutinous rice) and bingka labu kismis (pumpkin cake with raisins). I wasn’t familiar with these dishes, but some of the ladies recall serunding ayam being sold in grocery stores. It was an afternoon of sharing, fun and lots of laughter. The classes are held in an informal setting at Zaida’s lovely house in Orakei, with lots of warmth and humour.

Zaida is generous with her knowledge and there is plenty of food and refreshments to keep you fuelled. As luck would have it, Raya Puasa celebrations (marking the end of Ramadan fasting)  had recently ended, so we were also treated to a selection of homemade festive biscuits.

Making serunding ayam is a labour of love; the list of ingredients is somewhat daunting and it takes ~4 hours to cook. The ingredients are readily found in Asian stores (turmeric leaves can be difficult to find, omit if not available).

Serunding Ayam (courtesy of Zaida Ahmad)
1 kg shredded cooked chicken meat (boil in 500mL water for ½ hour)
500mL chicken stock (from boiling chicken)
2 cans coconut cream
3 Tbsp kerisek (toasted and ground coconut paste)
1 piece tamarind peel (this is the dried skin)
1 piece turmeric leaves, finely sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves
3 Tbsp sugar
2 onions
5 cloves garlic
15 – 20 dried chillies (soaked in hot water until soft, then drain and cut into large pieces)
5 stalks lemongrass (use frozen if fresh is not available)
5cm galangal (use frozen if fresh is not available)
5cm ginger
3cm turmeric or 1 tbsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsp coriander powder

Blend the onion, garlic, chillies, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, turmeric and coriander with 1 can of coconut cream and chicken stock until smooth.

Cook the sauce over medium heat, adding the 2nd can of coconut cream and tamarind peel. Add the chicken meat, sugar, salt, kerisek, lemongrass and kaffir and turmeric leaves.

Cook over medium heat for 4 hours, turning frequently, until dry. It must be very dry otherwise it will get mouldy. Store at room temperature in an airtight container. This can keep for many months.

Serve with pulut (coconut glutinous rice).

The serunding ayam is akin to chicken floss, absolutely delicious with a great spicy note. The slow cooking infused the spices through the chicken strands and you also get a lovely crispiness.

Zaida also showed us how to make bingka labu kismis, a delicious savoury pumpkin cake studded with raisins.

I am looking forward to the next Malaysian cooking class in November where Zaida will reveal the secrets to succulent otak-otak (spicy fish cakes). Come and join us by signing up for the AMS newsletter updates.

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