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Smoked beef recipe, By: Erna Dyanty

Fat-free Malaysian Food: Daging Salai/Smoked Beef Recipe

By: Erna Dyanty

When we think about Malaysian food, you start imagining satay dipped into spicy peanut sauce, roti canai pan fried with enough ghee to last you a decade, teh tarik loaded with condensed milk, sambal tumis ikan bilis swimming in at least two inches of oil and the warm steaming nasi lemak cooked in a gallon of coconut milk. Is there anything on the Malaysian list of food that can be gorged without feeling a tad bit guilty?

Steamed vegetables, a healthy way of cooking

Steamed vegetables, a healthy way of cooking

Hey, you’d be surprised to learn that there are just as much low-fat-calorie dishes here in Malaysia and throughout Southeast Asia. You just haven’t found them yet. Our low-fat meals are usually prepared through cooking methods such as smoking, grilling, steaming or boiling. No excessive oil is used in preparing food this way – sometimes there isn’t any oil at all.

This month we will support all your good intentions and New Year’s resolutions, by offering you some low fat Southeast Asian recipes. We start off with Smoked Beef!

Daging Salai/Smoked Beef Recipe

The art of smoking beef isn’t exclusive to the western kitchen, it is also a method widely practiced here in Malaysia. This is especially done in Malay cuisines in the state of Negeri Sembilan, which is about an hour south of Kuala Lumpur. In the old days, there were no refrigerators to keep meat from turning bad. Storing meat was a task back then. With high humidity levels in Malaysia, it becomes a perfect breading ground for bacteria, causing meat to rot faster. Therefore, smoking fresh meat was a method adapted to keep fresh meat longer.

Smoked beef recipe, By: Erna Dyanty

Smoked beef, By: Erna Dyanty

The concept of smoking the meat wasn’t just for the purpose of storage, it was also to prevent from wasting so much good meat. Usually, a whole buffalo or cow would be slaughtered during an auspicious event, such as a wedding, Raya Haji, circumcision ceremony or to celebrate the completion of the recitation of the Quran. The meat that will be distributed throughout the village would be given either fresh or smoked. This way, it gives the option of keeping and using portions accordingly.

The method of smoking meat for this recipe is simply starting up a barbeque with a handful of dry coconut husk and charcoal. A grill goes over the burning coal and the meat is then layered onto the grill. The traditional way takes a few hours. I grilled my choice of meat on a grilling pan over the stove and covering the pan with a tight lid to allow the smoke to accumulate. I seared the meat till I saw visible charred marks then I transferred the half cooked meat into a foil wrap to keep the juices in. It doesn’t have that nice smoky scent from the coconut husk but given that I live in an apartment – this works for me.

Although this recipe calls for thick coconut milk, the amount mention here is just enough to serve a family of 4. If you really want to earn extra points and less calories, go for reduced fat coconut milk (get it at your Asian store). This recipe does not have any oil accept the natural oils from the coconut milk and meat.


200 g of thinly sliced smoked beef
2 sticks of lemongrass
4 bird’s eye chili crushed
3 inches of fresh turmeric crushed
½ cup of water
1 ½ cup of thick coconut milk
½ of an asam gelugor (substitute for 1 tbsp of tamarind juice) and salt to taste.

How to make Daging Salai

  1. Begin with adding ½ cup of water and ½ cup of coconut milk to the pot, with all the ingredients except the smoked beef, tamarind juice and salt.
  2. Let it start to boil over low heat and stir continuously.
  3. Once the broth as boiled, pour in the thick coconut milk, you can add the meat and adjust the salt and tamarind juice to taste. If you don’t want it to be too hot, just take the chili out before adding the beef.

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