To pound to a paste - Most Malaysian dishes start with a rempah, a paste pounded in a mortar with a pestle. You can blend the ingredients in a food processor but you won't get the authentic texture. When pounding, add tougher ingredients first (e.g. lemongrass stalk), then wet ingredients (e.g. onion), and get a good rhythm going.
To grind spices - Freshly ground spices are the motherlode of Malaysian cooking. Where possible, start with the fresh whole spice, and lightly toast it in a hot, dry pan until fragrant. Grind to a powder, either in a mortar, or in a small electric coffee grinder reserved for spices.
To clean squid - Gently grasp the head and twist it out of the body. Pull out the inner bone. Cut off the tentacles just above the eyes, and squeeze and discard the small sphere that pops out. Discard all but the body tube and tentacles. Peel the skin from the tubes, rinse and pat dry.
To make fresh coconut milk - Hold a fresh,
heavy coconut in one hand over a bowl, and hit it with a hammer on its
circumference, turning the coconut in your hand, until it cracks in
half. Drain out the juice (chill and drink later), and grate the flesh
on a coconut grater, or break into smaller, flatter pieces and use a
normal grater (hard work) .
Add enough hot water to cover the coconut
flesh, and leave to soak for 10 minutes. When the water has cooled,
squeeze the flesh through a strainer into a second bowl. Leave to stand
for 30 minutes. The coconut cream will rise to the top, leaving thin
coconut milk below. Add a little salt, keep refrigerated and use the