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January 13, 2024

Interview with Joan Dolly Chung

If you’re craving delicious Malaysian, Indonesian, or Singaporean cuisine, the solution is just a jar away. We’ve created our interpretation of the spicy Sambal paste, entirely from Bulgarian ingredients but with a traditional Asian taste. Cooking Southeast Asian dishes in Bulgaria is not an easy task. When one of our Instagram fans wrote to us, we understood that we were on the right track. So, we made an interview with her. Read our interesting conversation below, and find out the unique recipe she crafted for all of you.

What’s your name?

My name is Joan. Joan Dolly Chung. Joan Dolly Chung Zie Wei is my full name – yes, it is legit and my whole full name appears in my passport, and all my official documents and it drives many institutions here in Bulgaria crazy with my long name.

Интересно интервю с Джоан Доли Чунг - Chilli Hills

Where are you from?

I am from a small place called Sibu, located in Borneo, the Malaysian part. In short, I am a Malaysian.

How come you live in Bulgaria and how long you have been living here?

I live here in Bulgaria because I managed to marry one of your many good-looking men who happened to be ‘stranded’ for a while for work in Malaysia, and as things turned out we figured out that we wanted to start our family here in Bulgaria.

How do you find ingredients for your cooking?

Cooking southeast asian dishes here in Bulgaria is no easy feat. But somehow, I manage to familiarise myself with the products in the supermarkets here, so in time, I know where to get my stuff. For example, I buy my many different types of soy sauce from Mandarin Supermarket; coriander from Billa Supermarket near Sofia University; some southeast asian spices from Zoya.

Describe your cooking style. 

My cooking centres around my wok. Me and my wok are inseparable. My wok produces dishes all the way from southeast asian to Italian, Indian, Spanish and Japanese.

Do you cook Bulgarian dishes- what’s your favourite?

I rarely cook Bulgarian dishes. I leave it to the professionals – there are so many amazing restaurants here in Sofia. My favourite dish is none other than “purjeni kartoffi sus sirene” .

What’s your favourite Chilli Hills product and which do you use most?

I can’t say which is my favourite.

It is akin to asking, which one is my favourite child (When I do have children someday)? Birdseye (The Piri Piri Chilli Pepper spice mix) I use for Malay dishes; Cayenne (Red Hot Chilli Pepper) for Chinese and Indian dishes as they have that smoky note that’s very different from Birdseye; Cayenne Powder for intensifying the bright red colour of my dishes; Cajun (spice rub) whenever I feel like having seafood-by-the-bag (New Orleans specialty) or simply Fresh Chilli Paste: Habanero Red when doing stir-frying noodles or rice Indonesian-style.

Запасите на Джоан с любими пасти - Самбал и Саламурика
Joan’s favourites chilli pastes – Sambal and Salamurika
Лют пипер Хабанеро и Джоан в действие
Habanero Chilli powder and Joan in action.
Малка част от шкафа с подправки на Джоан.
A little part of Joan’s spicy shelf.
Фенове сме как готви Джоана - разкош в чиния с бърдсай (люта чушка пири-пири)
We’re in love with Joan’s cooking – her gorgeous plate with Dried Birdseye (the Piri Piri chilli pepper)

Asam Pedas Recipe (Malaysian Sour and Fiery Hot Prawns Stew with Brinjals)

This dish is one of the many typical Peranakan (descendants of Malaya / Singapore born Chinese) dishes, usually prepared without recipes, using agak-agak (estimation) method. A favourite amongst Malaysians and Singaporeans, this dish is both spicy and sour at the same time, with that slight pungent taste imparted from turmeric. The recipe I have for you, is crafted with ingredients readily available here in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Asam Pedas Recipe (Malaysian Sour and Fiery Hot Prawns Stew with Brinjals)


To be blended in a blender:

4 pips garlic

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/3 big tomato

1/2 medium red onion

grated skin of 1 lime

juice of half a lime

1 tablespoon of fish sauce if you have, Maggie Unisos if you must

4-8 Chilli Hills Birdseye (The Piri Piri Chilli Pepper)*

*Place the amount of the dried chillies preferred (4 is nicely hot, 8 is crazily hot and causing burning sensation in the stomach region after consumption) in a small pot, breaking each chilli into half, and fill with some water, around 2 cm depth of water as measured from the base of the pot. Bring to boil, and turn off the stove, set aside and let it cool. Fish out the now hydrated chillies out of the pot, squeeze out as many seeds out as possible from the chilles (you don’t want that) and put the chillies into the blender.

1 medium size brinjal

200 – 250g prawns (without shells; with shells, the amount can be up to 300g)

the other 1/2 red onion, cut in quarters

the other 2/3 tomatoes, cut into chunks

3 – 4 teaspoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

fish sauce to taste

salt to taste


Blend all the 7 ingredients intended for blender, set aside.

Cut the brinjal into half, then each half into large chunks (roughly 12 pieces). Either: Deep fried in very hot oil until soften, or steam for 10 minutes. If deep fried, drain excess oil from the brinjals and set aside.

In a pan, pour the blended ingredients in, and pour in some water to rinse the blender, and pour into the pan the remaining residue of the blended ingredients. Cook with low heat stirring frequently for the water to dehydrate from the sauce mixture. When the sauce thickens, add in oil, and stir again.

When the mixture is bubbly, add in the steamed/deep fried brinjals, onion and tomatoes, stirring frequently. When the tomatoes soften, add in sugar, stir briefly and add prawns cook till done.

Along the way, if needed, add some water so that the thickened gravy does not stick to the pan.

Season to taste with fish sauce or salt, dish out hot and serve it with boiled plain white rice, the outcome of the dish should be saucy, but not soupy. Enjoy!

**Note: teaspoon and tablespoon used in this recipe are the ordinary teaspoon and tablespoon used in the household for meals; not the American teaspoon and tablespoon measurement used solely for baking and cooking.

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