Grilled cheese sandwiches have always been a hungry person’s best friend. Be it in the wee hours of morning or during late nights when you’re hit with a wave of sudden hunger pangs. This simple meal is a comfort and a life saver.
Grilled Cheese the Malaysian Way
Although we all love the classic grilled cheese sandwich, sometimes, you need a little creativity to take your grilled cheese game to the next level.
In this era of food innovation, many chefs from all over the world have created their own take on grilled cheese by adding some of their favourite ingredients native to their respective countries.
In lieu of that, why not look at how this American classic can level up to Malaysian taste buds. I present to you not just one but nine ways we can make grilled cheese a part of Malaysian culture. Ready to see some of the suggestions? Hold on! Prepare a grilled cheese sandwich first. It’ll make the experience more enjoyable for you and help you visualize how each ingredient can complement it.
1. Acar (Pickles)
So, the first ingredient that I feel, would definitely go well in a grilled cheese sandwich is our traditional Northern acar. However, don’t be going around telling people that any kind of acar can be used. The best match, in terms of flavour, would be the tomato chutney or acar.
In America, grilled cheese sandwiches are often eaten with a side dipping of tomato soup. The tartness of the tomato blends well with the sharp nuttiness of the cheese. It’s simple yet so satisfying.
Smear some acar on both slices of bread. A hint of red chili would be good too for those who love a little heat in their sandwich. Use either sharp cheddar or American cheese. If you have a garlic butter spread, smear some on the top and bottom of your grilled cheese sandwich. You will thank me later.
2. Salted Egg
2019 has been a year of the salted egg craze. It has taken over every single food chain in Malaysia with additions to their menu included of KFC’s salted egg fried chicken and McDonalds salted egg dips. Salted egg has long been part of our local cuisine and has evolved with time. Therefore, it is not a surprise that I honour it with a place in this list.
Now, mixing two strong flavours has always been a tricky art to master. Most people reported to have two results and both are undesirable. You either create something absolutely unspectacular or something very cloying. Therefore, after proper consideration, trial and error as well as trusting my gut feeling, check out recommendation below.
Instead of using the salted egg as a spread, use it as sauce to pour over your sandwich. Since both cheese and salted egg has that strong salty flavour, it is not wise to use strong smelling cheese that might clash with the richness of the salted egg. Opt for a milder flavour cheese like feta or brie.Toast lightly till the bread is crispy outside but still retain the fluffiness inside. Make sure the salted egg sauce is hot enough to ensure that the cheese will melt in your mouth with every bite.
Malaysians love spicy food. We don’t just like them, we love them! True, each one of us have different tolerance levels but when we see sambal on the table, we cannot resist the temptation from putting a dollop or two on our plate.
Sambal is known to have a very complex flavour mix. It can be sour, sweet and spicy at the same time. The one thing it is missing is the creamy factor. When I first thought of putting sambal in my grilled cheese sandwich, I was a little skeptical. I am not sure of what kind of cheese that I should use. Raclette? Gorgonzola? Feta?
Well, turns out, the answer is simple.
Use Swiss or American sliced cheese. Spread a little of the sambal on both slices of breads, place the cheese on top of the bread and microwave it for 5 minutes. The result is just amazing!
4. Chicken Curry
Leftover curries are just the best. You know what I mean, when the curry is extra thick and creamy and the meats you put inside have absorbed most of the curry. Yes, you do know! Really makes your mouth water.
Making a grilled cheese sandwich using leftover curries is pretty straightforward really. However, I have something that might just make grilled cheese sandwich curry your new favourite.
If your curry has any leftover meat, separate them from the gravy. Shred the meats into a floss-like texture. Make sure that the meat does retain its moist quality. Spread the shredded meat onto two slices of bread. Use a third slice and dip it into the gravy. Make sure not too long or it’ll become soggy and crumble.
If you are familiar of the TV show, Friends, you would have realised you are using the ‘Moist-maker’ technique which in fact, works in giving an extra hit of flavour. For the final touch, placed a piece of sliced cheese, cheddar would work fine, on top of the sandwich and let it melt in the microwave.
5. Gula Melaka and Bananas
Since Malaysians have discovered cheese, we have gone berserk and put cheese on everything that we love. Yes, I’m talking about pisang goreng cheese, popia cheese and other traditional foods that have included ‘cheese’ in their recipes.
Yes, we all know that grilled cheese sandwiches is a savoury dish. However, cheese also goes well with bananas. I think you know where I am getting at. It’s time to make a dessert version.
Sliced some bananas and grill them on a pan. Take them out. In the same pan, make your own gula melaka syrup by putting some honey and shaved gula melaka. The smokiness of the grilled bananas will be infused into the syrup. Next, prepare your cheese sandwich as per the usual combo of bread-cheese-bread.
Now, the fun part is, you can opt to put the grilled bananas on a third slice of bread placed in the middle or on top. Either way, placed the sandwich on the pan and toast until the cheese melt. If you choose to placed the bananas on top, quickly transfer it on top of the sandwich and drizzle the syrup on top. If the bananas are placed in the middle, drizzle the syrup on top and you’re done.
6. Telur Goyang
What better way to start your Sunday mornings with a cup of steaming hot Kopi’O and toast with half-boiled egg. Drizzle a little soy sauce and sprinkle some black pepper and you are set for the day.
I’d like to include those Sunday morning perfection into a meal that can boost your happiness and motivation with just one bite, acting as a reminder that the Monday Blues can be turned into a Sunday Funday, if you wish to.
Adding telur goyang or sunny side up egg in a grilled cheese sandwich is nothing great or different. However, I’d like to make sure my grilled cheese sunny side up sandwich looks appetising enough. So what you need to do is make a hole in the middle of two breads. Butter both breads and take only one slice and placed it on the pan. Make sure the butterside is at the bottom. Break an egg in the middle. Sprinkle some salt, pepper, chilli powder and let cook for 3 minutes.
Take the second bread and placed it on top when you can see egg whites have cooked thoroughly. Make sure the yolk is peeping through the hole. Next, a handful of shredded cheese, parmesan or mozarella would do the trick and sprinkle on the the hole on top till the yolk is covered fully. Let cook until the cheese melted and you are ready to enjoy it.
7. Torch Ginger Pesto
As I’ve said earlier, mixing two strong flavours are usually frowned upon. It is risky territory So, most people, I think would steer clear from this one.
Torch ginger pesto with its combination of herbs and chili is one dish that we all would agree tastes both pungent and fragrant at the same time. What would it taste like if we added it to our grilled cheese sandwich?
Use Butterkicap’s bunga kantan pesto recipe to prepare the paste. Next, lightly smear one slice of bread with the paste. Put a slice of bread over the top then spread melted camembert over it. Add another slice of bread before finally laying a slice of cheddar as the crowning glory. Put it in a microwave and let the cheese melt.
The subtle creaminess of the camembert balances out the sharp flavour of cheddar so it will not fight with the richness of the pesto spread. It’s a weird but wonderful sandwich.
My inspiration of using pekasam is with aim to recreate a Malaysian steak and cheese sandwich. Of course, it is not technically a grilled cheese sandwich but hey, it’s too good to leave out. To make a grilled cheese pekasam sandwich, remember to use only daging pekasam.
Shred enough pekasam meat for one sandwich into fine pieces. Put a sprinkle of sugar and mix it in a pan on medium heat to create a homemade floss. Make your classic grilled cheese sandwich, put a few tablespoons of floss on top and you’re ready to eat. I like using a strong cheese such as gorgonzola for this particular combination as it gives an extra sharpness of flavour that I enjoy.
9. Condensed Milk and Milo
Finally, the last combination includes condensed milk and Milo. Both are Malaysian household staples.
Most Malaysians have associated to the good old days of their childhood with these two ingredients. A decadent treat often involves making a sandwich of generous amount of condensed milk covered a heaping of Milo powder. Enough of a sugar high there for any kid to conquer the playground. Such memories!
Make a classic grilled cheese sandwich with American cheese. Drizzle a bit of condensed milk on top and sprinkle with as much Milo as you prefer. Done!
Start the Grill, Cut the Cheese
So, what do you think about my suggestions and recommendations? Are you brave enough to try some of the more exotic combinations?
Don’t forget to share with me your results by placing #butterkicap when posting your pictures online. Would love to see if you are able to recreate things that I mostly enjoy experimenting with alone #lonelyfridaynights.