Last week I bemoaned, among other things, Kuala Lumpur's lack of reasonably priced avocadoes. They're drowning in the things just a stone's throw away, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Why, I wondered, was no one importing any of those green buttery orbs into Malaysia?
A couple of days later an EatingAsia reader (you know who you are - many thanks!) alerted me to the presence of cheap avocadoes at KL's Chow Kit market. Dave and I immediately cancelled our plans for the following morning (um, sleeping in and walking the hound) and headed over to Chow Kit for a look. Eureka! At the back of the market's fruit section we found mounds of avocadoes at the low - I mean real low - price of five to six ringgit per kilo (about 80 US cents a pound).
Someone came up with the bright idea of raiding Sumatra's avocado crop,to Kuala Lumpur's advantage, long before I did. We chatted with, and purchased avocadoes from, five different vendors -they and their fruit all hailed from either Medan or Aceh. In addition to avocadoes, they were selling salak (aka 'dragon's eggs', or 'snake fruit' - for it's scaly, thin brown skin). Salak is revered in Thailand, loved in Indonesia, and coveted in Malaysia, but it's one tropical fruit I've not developed an affection for, and not for lack of trying.
Heading back to the car, we struggled under the weight of seven kilos of avocadoes (not to mention a few other goodies, which will receive mention in a future post). Dinner that night, taken on the couch with a few beers and a favorite HBO series, was chips and an embarassingly large bowl of first-rate guacamole. The next night, an avocado, cucumber, and tomato salad. Monday lunch: diced avocado with yogurt, lime, and cilantro. Today's snack, an avocado and chocolate shake. Tonight's black bean and chipotle burritos will be garnished with - what else? Tomorrow ... a moisturizing face mask? Is it possible to eat so many avocadoes that one gets sick of them? Dunno, but I'm gonna put it to the test. There's still four left in the fridge and, over at Pasar Chow Kit, plenty more where those came from.
Life is good.
This recipe is mostly for those whose only exposure to guacamole has been in Asia - there are some pretty weird versions proffered in 'Tex-Mex' and Mexican restaurants over here. In my opinion, when it comes to guacamole less is more. Forget the ground cumin, the pickled jalapenos, the chili powder, the garlic powder, and Tabasco sauce. Guacamole should be all about the avocadoes; other ingredients, added in small amounts, should be tart, piquant, and/or fragrant and play off the avocadoes' sweet butteriness. This recipe is adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time, and is better if allowed to sit for 30-60 minutes before serving. It's great with chips (not Fritos!), of course, but also makes a fine salad dressing when mixed with thin, natural (unsweetened) yogurt and a wee bit of good extra-virgin olive oil. I could also see it stirred into scrambled eggs.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Fresh hot green chilies to taste (about 1 jalapeno or, to substitute, 1 or 2 of the long, curly green chilies that abound in Malaysian markets)
4 thick green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped
1 ripe but firm medium tomato
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
3 medium-large (about 88 grams) ripe (soft) avocadoes
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
1. Hold the chile(s) over a gas flame or place them under an electric broiler, turning occasionally, until they soften and are charred in spots. Fine chop or mash, using a mortar, and set aside.
2. Chop the tomato into small bits. Finely chop the green onions.
3. Cut the avocadoes into two halves, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork (or, if you have a stone pestle and mortar, pound the flesh) to a rough paste. Some like their guacamole smooth as a milk shake; I prefer mine unevenly textured, with plenty of chunks.
4. In a bowl, mix avocadoes with chiles, tomato, green onions, and cilantro. Taste and season with salt, then add the lime juice 1/2 tbsp at a time, tasting after each addition.
5. Serve or set aside, with plastic wrap placed directly on the guacamole's surface. If you're keeping it for more than thirty minutes, place in the fridge.
Avocado and Chocolate Shake
This is, I suppose, a tarted-up version of the Indonesian es apokat (avocado 'shake'). My first encounter with es apokat was at Minang Salero, a nasi Padang joint in KL's Sentul area. It was delicious, but too sweet, really ... and I couldn't taste the avocado. In my quest for an es apokat that would take advantage of, rather than mask, the flavor of the main ingredient - and cut down on the sweetness - I substituted plain milk and a couple spoonfuls of sugar for sweetened condensed milk. I also punted the off-the-shelf chocolate syrup that's added just before the shake is served, stirring in a bit of melted semi-sweet chocolate instead. If you prefer not to go the chocolate route, fresh strawberry puree (the first avocado shake I ever tasted was in Hanoi: avocadoes, milk, and strawberries - fantastic!) would serve very well instead.
For one big glass:
flesh of one medium to big avocado
2-3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 cup milk (whole or low-fat, or a mixture - but whole is really best)
2 tablespoons melted semi-sweet chocolate (or ice cream topping, thinned with a bit of milk)
8 ice cubes
1. Place avocado flesh, milk, sugar, and ice cubes in a blender. Blend for a good long time, to break up the ice and froth up the drink.
2. Pour into a tall glass - chilled, if you like - add the chocolate, and swirl it into the drink.