Kuah Nasi Dagang: An Introspection

It was on a Thursday morning when my mother decided that she and I should attempt to cook a traditional kuah Nasi Dagang Terengganu– which is not the simplest of tasks. It is so hard to get the dish right that most of the kuah Nasi Dagang sold at roadside stalls or even at high-end restaurants terribly miss their marks. Just ask any ‘Orang Tranung’ on how hard it is to find a kuah Nasi Dagang which tastes like the traditional, fondly remembered and possessively loved kuah Nasi Dagang. My mother was excited because the last time (and the first time) we attempted to cook the dish, it was very close to being right. I agreed to partake in the adventure, partly because I am fond of cooking, but mostly because I have always been obsessed with preventing old ancestral recipes from vanishing.

However, sometimes in my passionate crusade to preserve cultural heritage and thwart off revolutionisation, I run into a formidable foe; self-doubt. “What is the point of all this?” it asks, as I blended a few pre-soaked dried chillies to make ‘cili giling’ for the kuah. What is the point of preserving recipes someone found and proclaimed to be the staple food of your culture? What is the point of dedicating your life to protect and preserve yesterday? Why can’t the modern kuah Nasi Dagang, which can be tasty in its own rights– just very unconventional, be accepted as the new kuah Nasi Dagang? Is it blasphemy to revolutionise traditional cooking?

In fact, many ‘Orang Tranung’ who migrated out of Terengganu have already gotten confused about how a kuah Nasi Dagang should taste like. So why must we go the extra mile to find the right amount of jintan manis and the right amount of kerisik and wait for the long hours it takes to ‘mati air ikan’ (a process where you boil your fish with seasoning and other stuff for hours until the bones of the fish turn soft), simply to find the right recipe to recreate a dish and pass it down to the future generation? Is preserving an old recipe, a cultural heritage, that important? What even is the importance and significance of our cultural heritage?

“Our heritage is our identity,” my mind will chasten, trying to stifle my self-doubt. It is what sets us apart from others. It is the source of our integrity and principles. To thwart it, to replace it, to adopt something new and not ourselves will be to shed our sense of being and dress up in costumes; pretending to be someone we are not. To modernise the sacred recipes we inherited from our ancestors is to leave our heritage in dusty, dingy basements in favour of replacing it by purchasing something new, something different and exciting, but not us. In doing so, we forget ourselves. We forget how special our culture is. We forget to champion our culture and our country to make it a formidable presence on the international stage.

We abandon our Nasi Dagang and Ikan Singgang and Baju Kurung Pesak because we are bewitched by Kombuchas and Kimchis and pastas and oversized hoodies. Not to say that it is wrong for us to appreciate international food (I love pasta and croissants and British tea). But if we were to leave and forget our own heritage, our own identity, allowing it to quietly disappear and be extinct in favour of adopting someone else’s rule of life (a.k.a. lifestyle), then who do we become?

Thus, as I stir my kuah Nasi Dagang, waiting for it to ‘pecah minyak’, I ponder about how proud the French are about their croissants. And how devastating it is that neither my mother nor I have been able to cook Rendang Hati the way my late Nenek (my maternal grandmother) cooked it when I was younger. And how we never asked my late Jiddah (my paternal grandmother) for her Kuih Pa recipe. And how disheartening it is to watch a large fraction of Malay young adults obsessing about wearing their costumes right first and covering their aurat second (wear short socks that expose your ankles and short trousers that expose your knees) and how some of them simply do not understand the fault in it (“netizens are too negative” and “tak suka jangan tengok”). And how lucky I am to have grown up in the right environment under my parents’ care and to have chosen the right role model (my Atuk who was always trying to improvise and modernise things but still protected cultural heritage and taught me about the importance of it as he reads his daily Utusan Malaysia). And yes, I will dedicate my life to this cultural heritage and history preservation crusade that I have been fighting for since I was a child. And I will continue to proudly wear my hand-me-down Baju Kurung Pesak on Hari Raya– knowing that people of my age make faces at the sight of them because the Baju Kurungs were too out of date and not resembling Western or Korean dresses enough.

And so as we sat down for lunch, with the steaming hot pot of kuah Nasi Dagang placed at the centre of the dining table, I was relieved and overjoyed because everyone thought that the kuah Nasi Dagang turned out fantastic, authentic and finally right.

Home-made Pizza

My family and I love pizza, especially my little sister, Anisah. We used to buy pizza as a substitute for birthday cakes for we enjoy pizzas more than cakes.

Anyway freshly baked pizzas are expensive. We always wanted to make our own pizzas but, we thought that making pizza is not that easy.

However, one day, my mother found a pizza-dough recipe on the internet by Chef Fabio Viviani and she decided to try making her own pizza. And the pizzas turned out very well and they were very tasty. Since that day, my mother bakes our own pizzas because home made pizzas are much tastier and much, much cheaper than the ones that we used to buy.

Pizza-Ready
Mouth watering pizza.

My mother says that it is easy to bake pizzas, all you need are:

  1. Flour
  2. Yeast
  3. Cheese
  4. Marinara Sauce/ any other sauce which you prefer
  5. Your preferred topping (eg: olives, bell peppers, meat etc.)

Portions of the pizza dough
Portions of the pizza dough

Th rolled out pizza dough.
The rolled out pizza dough.

Grated cheese.
Grated cheese.

Sliced olives, bell peppers and dried tomatoes.
Sliced olives, bell peppers and dried tomatoes.

After rolling out the dough and arranging the toppings onto the dough, bake the pizzas in the oven.

Pizza-Oven2

You can even use a toaster oven to bake the pizza!
You can even use a toaster oven to bake the pizza!

When the pizza is done, carefully take the pizza out of the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool. Serve and enjoy…

Yay!
Yay!

>>Click here for the recipe<<

Yoghurt Cupcakes

We usually get hungry by the time we finish performing our Tarawih prayers during Ramadhan. So we always prepare something to eat after the prayers. It is somewhat a tradition in our family; without it, Ramadhan is not complete as so to say.

We usually have something like cakes, ice cream, jellies, pudding, bubur kacang, bubur jagung, boiled chickpeas and others.

Yoghurt Cupcakes!

Yoghurt cakes are very easy to make. It is said that the yoghurt cake is the first cake recipe that most French children are taught due to the easy directions.

And since my mother uses lots of yoghurt and olive oil in her cooking, she loves baking this cake. On top of its delicious taste, it is also a very healthy cake because this yoghurt cake uses lots of yoghurt and olive oil. A good extra virgin olive oil will gives the cake an extra fruity flavour.

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The aroma which fills the air as the cakes are baking in the oven tortures us as we are fasting…

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This fluffy and light cupcake is irresistible. You’ll go from one cupcake to another

If your oven is not working well and you can’t make cakes then you can pour the batter into cupcakes cups arranged on a cupcake tray and bake them, creating cupcakes like we did.

Tortilla

We had been making our own tortilla for almost a year now. Tortillas are very, very expensive in Malaysia and we can’t find the cornmeal tortilla from the supermarkets.

P/S: Choosing the right brand of cornmeal is important. Different types of cornmeal can affect the taste, texture and even the colour of the tortillas.

Tortilla

To make tortilla, we use flour, cornmeal, butter and salt.

P/S: It is best to use a 1:1 ratio of wheat flour and cornmeal because too much cornmeal will make the Tortilla taste very dry and the dough will be hard to knead but if we put to much wheat flour, the Tortilla, well, won’t taste like Tortilla!

Clockwise from the top: Cornmeal, Butter, Salt, Wheat Flour.
Clockwise from the top: Cornmeal, Butter, Salt, Wheat Flour.

Making tortillas is like making normal bread. Just that you don’t have to rise it two times. After you’ve flatten the dough, fry them on a hot griddle.

The Tortillas are ready... The colour of the tortillas may vary. It depends on the type of the cornmeal. The tortillas in the picture  are the first few tortillas that we made. We tried a different brand later and the colour of the tortillas were 'yellower'.
The Tortillas are ready… The colour of the tortillas may vary. It depends on the type of cornmeal you use. The tortillas in the picture are the first few tortillas that we made. We tried a different brand later and the colour of the tortillas were ‘yellower’.

To store the tortillas, wrap them up firmly with a kitchen paper and aluminium foil or keep them in a zipper storage bag to avoid the tortillas from getting dry. (From our experience) the tortillas can last for 2-3 days outside the fridge.

The tortillas taste good with Chili Con Carne. They can also be cut into wedges and baked in a moderate (180°C/ 350°F/ Gas mark 4) oven to be turned into tortilla chips! You can also make enchilladas using the Tortillas.

Not to forget. The tortillas can also turn to be tacos!The picture shows an open taco.
Not to forget. The tortillas can also be turn to into tacos!
The picture shows an open taco.

My First Bread

Since I was little, I had always dreamed of baking; breads especially. My mother enjoys baking and used to bake quite often. Anyway she stopped baking for years because she was afraid that we might go into the kitchen and burn our hands by touching the hot oven.

And I would always read my mother’s recipe books, dreaming of baking them and imagining how good they will taste and what an excellent baker I’ll be.

The latest bread that my mother baked... Cinnamon Bread! They taste super delicious.
The latest bread that my mother baked for breakfast … Cinnamon Bread! They taste super delicious.

Now that we are old and sensible enough to not rush in the kitchen and touch the oven to see what’s baking in the oven, my mother resumed baking and we had a lot of fun. I usually help my mother to prepare the ingredients and after that I would watched how my mother knead the dough.

One fine day, my mother allowed me and my sister to bake bread! How excited I was; specially when my mother let us do everything by ourselves. After all since now that my mother bakes our own breads almost everyday, I did not think that it is too hard to bake my own bread.

Preparing the ingredients was easy and so was the mixing. But bread making needs kneading; and when I reached that stage, I was afraid that I might not be able to knead the dough the way it should be done and the dough will not rise. And when my mother came to check the dough after ten minutes of kneading, she told me that the dough was not soft enough because I didn’t knead it well; and so I had to knead again.

Next I put the dough in a bowl, covered it with a damp cloth and let it rose. When the dough had risen to twice of it’s original size, I knocked it down and shaped them into nine small buns, two rolls and a heart before letting them to rise again. When I lifted the cloth, I was thrilled to see that the dough had risen and was looking good.

The buns looking good before being baked  in the oven.
The risen buns look good before I bake them in the oven.

Now the time had come for the buns to go into the oven. When the buns were ready, I opened the oven door and the hot air rushed out as the delicious smell of bread swifts together.

I carefully took the buns out of the oven and carried them onto the dinning table. While the buns were cooling down on the wire rack, I rushed to grab the camera and took some photos of my first bread.

Étonnant! The buns turns out marvellously!
Étonnant! The buns turns out marvellously!

That night, we had the buns that my sister and I baked for dinner. They were surprisingly tasty, although mine was a little hard to chew as I didn’t knead the dough properly.

At last I had achieved my dream of baking a bread; and I’m now dreaming to bake even fancier breads and pastries like the ones my mother bakes. Home made bread are far more tastier from the ones from the bakery and bread making is so much fun.

A splendid supper...Two of my sister's breads are on the left side of the wire rack while the rest are the ones that I bake.
A splendid dinner…Two of my sister’s breads are on the left side of the wire rack while the rest are the ones that I bake.

Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru

Ramadhan is not complete without Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru. Though there are a lot of stalls selling Bubur Lambuk claiming that it is the original one; there’s only one place where you can find the really original Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru apart from the Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru … ‘Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru’. Cooked by the famous Kak Sham, no one can beat her in cooking the Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru…

Tens of packets of the famous Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru.

My little brother (second from right) and I (right) were looking at Aunty Sham while she packs some fresh and hot Bubur Lambuk.

Here’s how to get there:

Click for a clearer image…

The stall (with a red canopy) is the second stall from the right, located on the opposite side of the Al-Islam Specialist Hospital (AISH)

So if you love to have Bubur Lambuk for iftar like I do, please try the delicious Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru today… Even though Kampung Baru is packed with Bubur Lambuk sellers during Ramadhan, we have stop buying from other stalls even when Aunty Sham’s Bubur Lambuk is sold out because none of the bubur that we had tried can match Aunty Sham’s.

Click here for more information about Bubur Lambuk and here for more photos

Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru

On the 2nd day of Ramadhan 1432 H, my family and I went to our favourite place to buy bubur lambuk… ‘Bubur Lambuk Kak Sham’ in Kampung Baru. The bubur bambuk at Aunty Sham’s stall are cooked by Aunty Sham who is a good friend of my mother. The stall sells the best and the tastiest bubur lambuk in Kuala Lumpur.

Driving along Kampung Baru during this holy month, we will be be greeted by bubur lambuk stalls on both sides of the road. But some may not be very tasty and there are others that does not taste like bubur lambuk at all. So, if you are wondering how tasty the famous bubur lambuk from Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru is but do not have the time to join the very long queue for the free bubur lambuk, just drop by at Aunty Sham’s stall. Aunty Sham and her family are some of the main chef cooking the bubur lambuk year after year at the mosque.

Here are some pictures that my father took:

Aunty Sham stirring the BIG pot of the extremely tasty Bubur Lambuk...

Aunty Sham allowed my little sister and I to stir the BIG pot of Bubur Lambuk! Isn't that grand!

Aunty Sham also allowed my sister to stir the BIG pot of Bubur Lambuk!

The BIG pots with Bubur Lambuk.

The unbeatable Bubur Lambuk...

Packing...

The packed Bubur Lambuk...

Aunty Sham's stall's banting.

Aunty Sham's stall is located infront of the Al-islam Specialist Hospital...

Food Wastage

According to Wikipedia, food waste is “any food substance, raw or cooked, which is discarded, or intended or required to be discarded”.

People usually waste their food by:

  • Throwing away left over food.
  • Not finishing the food in their plates and throw it away.
  • Storing food until they expire and end up throwing them.

The things that usually lead people to waste food:

  • Buying without thinking.
  • Buying over their needs.
  • Not choosing their food properly.
  • Ordering too much food when eating out.
  • Putting too much food in their plates.

Food are the third largest waste counted behind paper and yard waste on the first and second place respectively. 18 million tonnes of edible food, end up dumped in landfills. It is estimated that the total amount of food wasted in the United States and Europe could feed the world 3 times over! In the United States of America, the total amount of food wasted have increased up to 50 percent higher since the year 1974. One of the high factor of this dramatic rise is that up to 40 percent of produced food end up in landfills. 2 billion food could be fed for a year with the amount of the United States alone throws away each year. In the United Kingdom, 8.3 million tonnes of food are thrown away by house holds annually. City dwellers generally waste most food in the United Kingdom. 1.2 million tonnes of food is thrown away in its packaging. If we stop wasting food, the carbon impact would be equal to taking of 1 in 4 cars of the UK road.

Food Waste Info Graphic

How To Make Ketupat Nasi (Rice Cake)

Ketupat nasi or rice cake is one of the most popular Malaysian traditional foods. What is so special about ketupat is; it can be eaten at any time of the day and in a lot of ways such as with rendang, satay, lontong, soto and so on.
To make traditional ketupat nasi can be rather difficult for a beginner especially to weave its casing. Well, one can buy ready made casings but they are very expensive. And it is always fun to weave the casings ourselves.
I used to find it very hard to weave ketupat casings. But I did not give up. Last, last Thursday, I gave it another try. It was very hard and confusing at first but at last I made it! And you can too but first you have to get some young coconut leaves to make the casing.
First weave the ketupat casing using young coconut leaves. Remember to clean the leaves before weaving them. Next, fill up half of the casings with rice and boil them in lots of water.
When they are cooked, cut them into cubes and serve them with rendang or anyway you want.
If you want your ketupat to be tastier, add some salt then your ketupat will be so tasty that you can even eat it just like that.
So, what I learnt from learning to weave ketupat casing is never to give up and always try and try again.

Buying Keropok Lekor

Yesterday, I went to a Keropok Lekor shop in Bukit Tokbeng, Terenganu . On the way we went on the longest bridge in the east coast of West Malaysia.

I saw two women rolling the Keropok Lekor dough using machines. Usually I see people rolling the dough using hands. Rolling the Keropok Lekor dough using hands will make the Keropok looks nicer and tastier. The Keropok Lekor shop also sells fish crackers.

We have to queue to buy the Keropok Lekor. I love the outer layer of the Keropok Lekor.

Today, I went to another Keropok Lekor shop. This shop sells the original Keropok Lekor. They were rolled using hands. It was very delicious.