Chef Badrol Mohd Noor enjoys modernising Malay food with unique twists

  • Food
  • Saturday, 02 Jun 2018

Dishes from PJ Hilton chef Badrol Mohd Noor. Photo: The Star/Art Chen

In person, chef Badrol Mohd Noor is a commanding figure – a man who seems certain of his way in the world and isn’t afraid to go where few have gone before.

Part of this confidence could stem from the fact that he has cooked for some of Malaysia’s most eminent personalities, like Malaysian royalty and even our current Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad!

He says that a few years ago, he used to cook for the Sultan of Pahang. “I am from Penang and the sultan loves Penang food like fish head curry, mee mamak, rendang mamak and laksa, so I would cook and prepare it for him.”

Badrol is now the Malay chef at Hilton Petaling Jaya and is used to cooking all sorts of Malay food. Although he could easily stick to age-old tried-and-tested Malay recipes, true to his adventurous personality, he prefers to add his own unique twists to classic Malay dishes, going against the grain and fusing different influences and elements that he feels would work together.

“I prefer to modernise recipes, because it offers something new that people haven’t tried before,” he says.

Like his dish of ayam dara bakar putih dengan kerabu pegaga, which sees an aromatic, spice-rich roast chicken stuffed with the traditional fresh, vibrant Kelantanese salad of kerabu pegaga in what proves to be a light, flavourful union.

Chef Badrol Mohd Noor.

Badrol says he was inspired to create the dish because some of the people he cooks for – like Dr Mahathir – are really into healthy food, and the roast chicken-vegetable salad combination is healthy and makes for a filling meal.

“I got the inspiration from him and I’ve modernised this dish because some people like modern Malay food,” says Badrol.

Badrol’s dish of salmon rangup bersama sos jeruk mangga berkrim, meanwhile, sees its origins in the traditional Malay dish of fish percik. In this incarnation, crispy, perfectly cooked salmon (traditionally not a fish native to Malaysia) forms the bedrock for a meal that is complemented perfectly by a slightly spicy, creamy sauce. It is an interesting, totally new exploration of flavours.

As Badrol himself is also a fan of healthy food, this dish is right up his alley. “I wanted to mix these East-West elements and modernise the dish, while also keeping it healthy, because that’s the kind of food I like to eat,” he says.

Then there is his dish of rendang itik salai dengan pucuk manis, which is a play on the more traditional daging salai which is common in Negri Sembilan, where smoked meat is king. Although itik salai is also offered in the state, Badrol says his version is slightly different as he fries up some duck skin to add a crunchy element to the meal.

“You can deep-fry the skin, it’s very crunchy and goes well with rendang. And the pucuk manis offers a bit of freshness,” he says.

There’s only one dish that remains close to Badrol’s heart, one which he simply does not want to modernise, tweak or adapt in any way, and that’s daging masak hitam.

The dish is a traditional accompaniment in most nasi kandar restaurants in Penang and Badrol has fond memories of frequenting these eateries as a child growing up in George Town. The dish features tender, limber chunks of beef in a thick, dark kicap lemak manis base that is rich and flavourful and ever so slightly sweet.

“If you go to nasi kandar restaurants anywhere in Penang, you can find this. It’s very nice to eat with plain rice or bread and makes a great dish for Hari Raya, with some ketupat and lemang,” he says.

ayam dara bakar putih dengan kerabu pegaga, Malay food


Serves 4

For the kerabu pegaga

150g pegaga leaves

20g bunga kantan, sliced finely

20g red onions, sliced finely

20g lemongrass, sliced finely

2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced finely

20g dried prawns, sliced finely

5 cili padi, chopped finely

20g grated coconut

30g kerisik

10ml lime juice

salt to taste

For blending together

4 shallots

4 cloves garlic

10g ginger

20g galangal

4 stalks lemongrass

For cooking

30g butter

2 turmeric leaves, sliced finely

100ml coconut milk

salt to taste

1 whole spring chicken

To make kerabu pegaga

Clean the pegaga leaves thoroughly with water and drain till the leaves are dry. In a clean bowl, add the pegaga leaves and all the other ingredients and mix evenly.

To make spring chicken

Blend the shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal and lemongrass together till it forms a paste.

In a kuali over medium heat, add butter. Add the blended ingredients and stir-fry till crispy (garing).

Add the turmeric leaves and coconut milk, cook till the mixture reaches a boil, then add salt to taste.

Remove the sauce from the heat and leave to cool. Marinate the chicken in the sauce for at least two hours.

Stuff the kerabu pegaga mixture into the chicken’s cavity and roast chicken at 180°C for 40 minutes.

Serve hot with rice.

rendang itik salai, modern Malay food


Serves 4

For blending together

2 large onions

4 cloves garlic

2 inch ginger

2 inch galangal

2 inch fresh turmeric

2 stalks lemongrass

For cooking

5 tbsp oil, for frying

6 tsp chilli paste (cili boh)

2 tsp aniseed powder

2 tsp cumin powder

2 tsp coriander powder

4 tbsp kerisik

1 tbsp asam jawa, mixed with 50ml water

1kg smoked duck breast

200g pucuk manis

120ml thick coconut milk

salt and sugar to taste

2 turmeric leaves, sliced finely

a few pieces duck skin, deep-fried till crispy

To make

In a blender, blend all the ingredients for blending till it forms a paste.

In a kuali on medium heat, add oil and fry chilli paste and blended ingredients until aromatic and slightly dry.

Add the aniseed powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and kerisik and stir to mix evenly.

When the mixture is evenly distributed, add the air asam jawa (tamarind juice that remains after you remove the tamarind seeds from the water) and cook until the gravy dries slightly.

Add the duck breast and pucuk manis and stir until gravy coats the meat and vegetable.

Then add thick coconut milk, and on low heat, keep stirring the mixture until the liquid evaporates and you get a dry-ish rendang.

Once it dries up, add salt and sugar to taste. Remove from the heat, garnish with sliced turmeric leaves and duck skin and serve hot.

salmon, modern Malay food


Serves 2

For the crispy salmon

240g salmon fillet, skin on

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp olive oil

For the pickled mango cream

3 tbsp cooking oil

2 stalks lemongrass, chopped finely

15g fresh turmeric, sliced

3 cili padi, sliced finely

50g pickled mango (jeruk mangga)

50ml coconut milk

salt to taste

2 asam keping

4 shallots, sliced thinly and deep-fried

To cook

Marinate the salmon with salt and pepper. In a frying pan, add oil and put salmon in skin-side first. Fry till the skin is crispy. After 4 minutes, flip the salmon over till it is half cooked. Remove from heat.

In another pot, heat up cooking oil and fry lemongrass, turmeric, cili padi and pickled mango till aromatic. Add coconut milk and salt to taste. Cook till the sauce thickens up. Add asam keping and stir evenly. Serve with the crispy salmon and garnish with shallots.

daging masak hitam, modern Malay food


Serves 4 to 5

4 tbsp cooking oil

5kg large onions, diced

3 tbsp chilli paste (cili kasar)

2 cinnammon sticks

3 pieces star anise

3 cardamom pods

2 cloves

2 stalks lemongrass, pounded lightly

1 pandan leaf

5kg beef tenderloin, cubed

10 tbsp kicap lemak manis

1 tbsp asam jawa, mixed with 50ml water

salt to taste

To cook

In a large pot on medium heat, heat up oil and fry onions till soft and slightly crispy. Add chilli paste (you can add more if you want it spicier). Fry until the chilli paste is cooked. Add the spices, lemongrass and pandan leaf and stir to coat evenly.

Add beef and cook until it is slightly tender, then add the kicap. Once meat is completely tender (about 25 minutes), add the air asam jawa. Then add salt to taste. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and serve hot.

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