Chapalang – All About Spices

Just like Chinese cooking, the South East Asian, really has no “one exact recipe” – there is always a different version of the same dish somewhere. The traditional emphasis across this region is on aromatic and lightly prepared foods, using a delicate balance of quick stir-frying, steaming, and/or boiling, supplemented with discrete spices and seasonings, including citrus juices and herbs such as basil, cilantro, and mint. For additional flavor, many cultures uses fish sauce, along with galangal, lemon grass, and tamarind. The SEA cuisines are often heavily influenced by the cuisine of neighboring countries and many still practices eat with their hand (right-hand, to be specific).

A huge variety of herbs and spices, curry pastes and condiments are integral parts of dishes across SEA. Dishes are often intensely flavourful and often accompanied by a sauce specific to each dish. One such condiment is Sambal. Sambal is basically a chili-based condiment or cooking ingredient. But to limit it to a definition would not do it justice. Throughout the diverse region, there are endless varieties of sambal, with pounded chilies mixed with any combination of spices and flavors. While it is often used as paste/sauce for cooking a vast variety of dishes, Sambal is also served as a dip for sweet potato chips, prawn crackers or raw vegetables.

The VianD named this section “Chapalang” (a Malaysian slang, meaning ‘a combination/mixture’) for two reasons. First, the dishes feature in this section are predominantly a mixture of the South East Asia nations. Second, The VianD does not really know of any exact recipe, just “agak-agak” (Malay word meaning ‘guess’) and uses different spices; thus “Chapalang”. Ha..ha Again, if it tastes good, looks good, who cares and why not, right ??


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