It looked extremely appetising, and I was drawn to the fusion of flavours that I had not expected from a Malay dish.
Daging masak hitam is popular in the northern states of Penang and Perak, and is usually served during sahur or iftar during Ramadan. This dish may be included as part of the Hari Raya spread, but it is usually reserved for the family meal, while guests are served rendang.
This recipe was first published in Flavours magazine, and it was the simplest one in our archives. One of the more traditional recipes in our collection had called for a slow simmer of the meat for two hours, all the while stirring continuously and topping up with teaspoons of plum juice, or asam boi, to keep the dish from burning.
However, instead of extracting the juice from a salted plum or asam boi, this recipe calls for tamarind pulp or asam jawa that you can just add to the pot and allow it to disintegrate on its own.
In this recipe, I sautéed the ingredients and then braised them in a pressure cooker.
This took a huge load off my shoulders because I didn’t have to stir constantly and worry about the dish burning or the meat not being tender enough.
The main seasoning ingredient for this dish is kicap manis, which also contributes to its darkness. Looking at the plate, it is easy to assume that it is just a meat dish cooked in dark soy sauce and forget the chilli that is camouflaged by the dark colour.
The sweet soy sauce, however, provides a deep caramel flavour that complements the spicy heat of the blended chillies.
This is by far, the simplest recipe that anyone can prepare when unable to balik kampung for Hari Raya.
Serve it with ketupat or nasi impit and it will truly be a Raya dish that you would want to cook every year.
DAGING MASAK HITAM
500g lean beef, sliced to about 1cm thick
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 stalk curry leaves
3cm cinnamon stick
5 buds cloves
5 pods cardamom
1 tbsp ground fennel
1 tsp ground cumin
5 tbsp kicap manis
20g tamarind pulp
½ cup cold water
¼ tsp salt to taste
5 bulbs shallots
3 cloves garlic
10g dried chillies
½ cup hot water
Grind the spice blend into a fine paste. Heat oil in saucepan and temper the curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom until fragrant.
Then add the spice blend, fennel, cumin and tamarind pulp and sauté further until fragrant.
Add the sliced beef and sauté until lightly cooked. Stir in kicap manis, water and salt to taste, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours until gravy thickens. Alternatively, braise in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes, then depressurise and reduce gravy until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and serve.