" 'Keo' Masak Belanda" - a simple but tasty and unique dish of aubergine and prawns.

The literal translation for the name goes like this: 'Keo or Kio' (Hokkien Chinese language) = Aubergine / Brinjal / Eggplant; 'Masak' (Malay) = cook; 'Belanda' (Malay) = Dutch.  Probably you may be confused with this mix and wonder about the origin of this dish.  I am not able to help much either but as far as I know, this used to be one of the dishes that my late mother often cooked and enjoyed.  I have been trying to find out from the people outside of my family if any has eaten or knowledge of it but so far have been unsuccessful. So, is it Eurasian, Nyonya, Penang food or my mother's creation?  I don't know yet.  Even my family does not know.

I had watched my mother cook this dish many times but did not take note of the exact ratio of each ingredient used. When I wanted to cook it later on, I had to recollect and experiment to put it all together. When my aunt tasted the final experimentation, she gave me the thumbs up and I was greatly delighted and encouraged because she was a great fan of my mother's cooking and her approval meant a great deal to me. My aunt is only eight years older and we grew up together under my mother's care after her mother (my mother's stepmother) passed away.  I was unable to understand her position then and treated her like a friend and sibling. When sibling rivalry occurred, there would be fights. However, now that we are adults, I have returned her to her rightful place as an aunt with due respect but the 'friend' part of it is still maintained.

Although the amount of shrimp paste is small but is actually what makes this dish.  In fact, it cannot be substituted with anything else. For those who are averse to shrimp paste, you may want to use fish sauce instead but the taste will definitely be different. I am using the long dark purplish variety of aubergine which is also referred to as brinjal and eggplant.  It is called 'Terung' in the Malay language.

"'Keo' Masak Belanda"
350g aubergine / brinjal / eggplant
150g medium prawns
6 pips garlic
1 shallot
1 fresh red chilli
1 fresh green chilli
10g shrimp paste
250g thin coconut milk
Cooking oil
1/4 tsp salt

  • Shell and devein prawns.
  • Mince garlic and shallot.
  • Slice chillies diagonally and thinly.
  • Cut aubergine into 5 cm (2 inches) lengths and then each piece into thick slices.

How to cook
  1. Fry aubergine in heated shallow oil over medium high heat until nicely browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  2. Scoop out some of the oil leaving behind just enough to saute the minced garlic, shallot and sliced chillies for a minute.
  3. Add shrimp paste, saute until aromatic and stir in prawns.  When prawns are nearly cooked, scoop out into a plate and set aside.
  4. Pour in coconut milk, add sautéed aubergine and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer until softened but firm.
  5. Return sautéed prawn mixture to the wok, mix well to cook over high heat for another minute. Season with salt.
  6. Serve with rice.


Cheesy Spinach Soup - an energising and nutritious soup for all ages.

Finding difficulty in persuading your growing child to eat spinach? Not surprising for there are many children who will try to escape eating vegetables if given a choice. However, most anxious and devoted moms will go to great lengths to ensure their children eat vegetables especially when they are packed with fiber, essential minerals and vitamins like spinach.

"I'm Popeye the Sailor Man. I'm Popeye the Sailor Man. I'm strong to the finish cos I eat me Spinach. I'm Popeye the Sailor Man." Singing this jingle may delight the child and work to get a few mouthfuls in but poor mom will wish for the child to finish the whole bowl.  I hope this soup will contribute to that wish.  I have created this recipe with pureed spinach and the cheese is portioned not to make it overpowering. It is easy and tasty enough for children to begin to develop a liking for this precious vegetable. It is also great for adults who have difficulty chewing, swallowing and digesting and for those who want something light and nutritious after workouts. In a nutshell, this soup is great for all ages.

Cheesy Spinach Soup
200g spinach (roots and dried leaves discarded)
100g tomato
2 pips garlic
1 shallot
2 thin slices ginger
1 sprig flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp ground brown rice
50g mozarella cheese
2 cups water
1 tbsp light olive oil
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt or less

  • Finely mince garlic, shallot and ginger.
  • Slice tomato into wedges.
  • Roughly chop spinach and parsley stems.  Finely mince parsley leaves.
  • Blend tomato, chopped spinach and parsley stems with some water into a puree.
How to cook
  1. Saute minced garlic, shallot and ginger in light olive oil over medium low heat for one minute.
  2. Add ground rice and stir for about two minutes.
  3. Pour in pureed spinach mixture and remaining water.  Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for eight  minutes.  Stir at intervals to prevent lumps from forming and to keep soup smooth.
  4. Stir in cheese, extra virgin olive oil, minced parsley leaves and salt for one minute.
  5. Serve hot.
** Ground rice can be substituted with unbleached flour or potato.

Add chopped or ground nuts for nut lovers.


Lamb Curry - lamb stewed in aromatic spices for a succulent and tender texture with a flavourful, rich and unforgettable taste.

There was an Indian family from my neighborhood in my little hometown back in Penang and I especially liked to visit them often during school breaks.  It was the aroma of spices from their house that invited me.  Amma prepared everything from scratch to make curries and manually too; roasting spices to grinding them and chillies on an old fashioned grinding stone.  She would also grate her own coconut and use a muslin cloth to squeeze out pure unadulterated coconut milk.  I was very much fascinated with her old fashioned coconut grater and I would offer to help whenever I saw her breaking coconuts.  It was fun as I felt like I was horse riding as I sat on the wooden seat holding the coconut over the grater but of course I did successfully grate everything properly!  

I guess some of that exposure has stuck with me and I roast and grind my own spices now too but have it easier though with my electric grinder.  I measure and seal them in packs of appropriate portions to freeze.  However, I do buy commercially prepared ones during emergencies and as for grated coconut and its milk, they are both easily available for purchase. I have put together and experimented with different types of curries and today will be sharing one of them with you and that is Lamb Curry.

Lamb Curry
Ingredients A
800g lamb shoulder (excess fat trimmed)
10g cinnamon stick
6 cloves
4 star anise
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tbsp oil
150 ml thick coconut milk
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp salt
  • Chop lamb into reasonably big cubes / chunks.
Ingredients B
100g shallots
4 pips garlic
20g ginger
  • Peel skins and finely chop together in a food processor.
Ingredients C
3 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin (jintan putih)
1 tbsp fennel seeds (jintan manis)
1 tsp ground black peppercorns
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp chilli powder
  • Mix all together
Ingredients D
250g ripe tomatoes
1 cup water
  • Slice tomatoes into wedges and puree with the water.
How to cook
  1. Saute cinnamon, star anise, cloves and curry leaves in heated oil over medium low heat for 1/2 minute or until aromatic.
  2. Add (B) and stir fry over medium high heat until lightly browned and aromatic.
  3. Stir in lamb and fry for 2 minutes.  Mix in (C) and stir fry for 3 minutes or until aromatic and a little oil breaks through.
  4. Add (D) and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour.  Stir to prevent sticking to the bottom towards the last 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover, add coconut milk and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add lime juice, cover, turn heat to low and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until meat is tender.  Stir at intervals.
  6. Add salt and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with bread or rice.
** Mutton can be used but simmer for extra 10 minutes or more before adding coconut milk.  The meat is tougher since it comes from adult sheep.


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