Special Feature

MERDEKA SPECIAL: Tun Mahathir’s Favourite Food - Daging Bakar Cicah Air Asam

by Lisa K. Photography FriedChillies on Thu, August 30, 2018

In 2007, Tun Siti Hasmah wrote a simple essay about Tun M’s favourite dish! So, as the closing recipe for our #Merdeka #MakanMuhibah special, we’d like to celebrate our Independence Day with our Prime Minister Tun Mahathir’s favourite food.

Tun likes his Daging Bakar well done, done well

Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah wrote “Tun’s love for favourite food started early – primarily from his sister’s home cooking. Among the many dishes his sisters cooked for him, Daging Bakar Cecah Air Asam was his favourite.

Buffaloes grazing in open fields were a common view in Tun Mahathir’s hometown. For the dish, buffalo meat would be sliced into medium sized chunks, marinated only with salted turmeric powder before grilled over a slow wood fire. The grilled meat is then cut into small slices and eaten dipped in sliced chilli and tamarind sauce. Tun loves his meat well done.”

The simple essay continued with “Daging bakar can also be eaten with rice and curry at mealtimes. This dish is common for picnics as it is easy to prepare. That was how Tun first came to love it. His sisters would make daging bakar enough for him and his schoolmates.

This favourite dish of Tun’s became so widespread that it made regular appearances even at Malaysian Embassy luncheons and dinners abroad. Tun appreciated their efforts and always made a point to taste every one. The best preparation in recent memory has got to be when the dish was prepared with premium Argentinean meat, grilled to perfection – it took a kampung dish to a whole new level! – SH

It actually ended with an “SH” which we believe were how people wrote typewritten essays in past, ending with their initials – Siti Hasmah.

Relationship #goals. Picture courtesy of santauweb.blogspot.jpg

Tun’s secret to long and healthy life – stay physically & mentally active AND don’t eat too much. There is a viral photo of Tun at seated at a dining table just before mealtime. You can see how little rice he eats. The big guy practices what he preach! Can you imagine just eating a few bites of your favourite dish and not finishing it up?? I…JUST…CAN’T… Tun has strong will power for sure.

Picture courtesy of SAYS.com

Here is FriedChillies' take on Daging Bakar Cecah Air Asam. We hope you like it as much as we do. Tun, if you’re are reading this, we are dedicating this recipe to you. Say Hi to S.H for us too grin
This Daging Bakar was so good and we are super proud of it

Daging Bakar
500g beef tenderloin, cut in to 3 – 4 chunks
¼ tsp. turmeric powder
½ tsp. salt
A little oil

Air Asam
Ingredients A
3 shallots
4 chilli padi, mix green and red
3 big red chillies
2 tbsp asam jawa + ½ cup warm water
1 ½ tsp. toasted belacan, adjust to taste
2 tbsp. gula melaka, adjust to taste

Ingredients B
2 shallots, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 green chilli padi
Lime juice


1. Mix turmeric, salt and a little oil. Rub all over beef chunks and marinate for an hour.
A little turmeric powder goes a long way. If you put too much, you won't be able to taste the beefy-ness

2. Blend all ingredients A until slightly fine, not too liquidized. It should look like runny sambal belacan.
This consistency is purely personal preference. I prefer it to be slightly thicker so more sauce will stick to the meat as you dip

3. Mix in all the bits from Ingredients B and adjust seasoning to your liking. It should be sour, spicy and slightly sweet.
Play around with lime juice, salt and sugar until you get that perfect taste to your liking

4. Grill beef over charcoal, on a pan or in the oven. Cook it until desired doneness. Medium well is best.
OK since we don't have a garden we grilled it indoors on a grill pan and it was really smoky but worth it. If you don't have a grill pan, you can grill it on a non-stick pan, covered with a lid so the beef chunks cooks faster.

5. Let the cooked beef cool down slightly before slicing into bite sized pieces. Serve with air asam.
If you cut the beef while it is still hot, all the meat juices will flow out, resulting in dry pieces of beef. Always rest the meat for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Look at that BEAUTIFUL pink meat. This is local batang pinang (tenderloin) FYI.