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.

A Tribute to Abah.

He was a man who spoke not of his worries or the pain and anguish which torments his heart. He would, at times, act upon his anger when he felt upset. Alas, he was only a human.

He was a man who spoke wise words, leaving cryptic messages and short-sentenced advices. When I asked for the reason behind the words he said, most of the time he wouldn’t explain them, only saying; figure it out.

After he left, I started to see the things which had been tormenting him—the things which he had been trying to keep away from us so as to keep us away from the pain he felt. After he left, I started to see the reasons behind some of the words he said—the reasons as to why he told us to stay away from certain acts and to not trust certain hearts. Or the reason as to why he always reminded us to hold onto our faith in Allah for Iman is not something a father is able to pass down to his children.

The past eleven months have been a wild ride for me. With the mast of my ship, which was the reason as to why I could sail for so far, gone and the compass, which guided me through turbulent waves, lost; it is often that I find myself pulled into ferocious storms.

And it had been maddening.

But with every tragedy which one braces through come lessons which one can learn from. Such as the art to tell apart between glitter and gold, or the art to recognize wolves in white fleece, or to understand why you must always treasure and stand together with the ones who are not going to jump out of a sinking ship without you. And these lessons learned are the seeds which grow into valuable experiences, experiences which will build your own map of the world so you can stand up for yourself and also help others sail through the seas which are uncharted for them—like how others have helped you.

To Abah, thank you for all of the sacrifices you’ve made for us which we’ve never known and perhaps will never know. Thank you for all of the wise words you’ve spoken, for always reminding us to read and learn and hold onto our Iman. Thank you for the quiet mornings we’ve spent over books and breakfast—this will always be something which I will miss.

To Abah, happy birthday and may Allah bless you always.

رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ

He was a man who knew of many things on so many fields from science to technology to social behaviour. There were times, though, when he didn’t know the answer to our questions. And he would admit it—never feigning intelligence.

Pesanan Terakhir daripada Abah…

Suatu hari, ayah saya mendapat satu panggilan telefon dari gurunya, Ustaz Uthman El-Muhammady.

“Karim, Al-Buti sudah tiada”, ujar Ustaz Uthman. “Tetapi kita jangan takut kerana perjuangan mesti diteruskan.”

Kira-kira lima hari kemudian, sedang ayah memasuki sebuah masjid untuk memberi pencerahan tentang ancaman kepada Agama dan Bangsa di Tanah Air kita, telefon di dalam poketnya berdering. Nama anak kepada Ustaz Uthman tertera di skrin telefon.

“Pak Cik Karim… ayah sudah tiada.”

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Lima tahun kemudian, pesanan terakhir Ustaz Uthman inilah antara pesanan terakhir yang ayah saya sampaikan kepada saya dengan aliran air mata yang tidak dapat ditahan.

Harimau mati meninggalkan belang, manusia mati meninggalkan nama. Moga-moga nama pejuang Agama, Bangsa dan Tanah Air ini dapat memberikan inspirasi kepada kita semua untuk meneruskan perjuangan sehingga ke akhir hayat seperti yang telah dilakukan oleh Allahyarham A. Karim Omar.

Al-Fatihah.

NaPoWriMo: Poem #8, A Little More About Us

I wrote this poem as a comment to my sister’s poem, NaPoWriMo Poem #7: Siblings.

While Ali have a nick in living up stories,
Anisah sends us to the world of fantasies,
Poems are things Kaman sure can handle,
I prefer to spend my time solving puzzles.

Kaman prefers a good country beat,
Fah likes it when she can goes strumming to the beat,
While Ali would like a catchy song to sing,
Jazz and country rock sure is my thing.

My First Live Performance in a Radio Show

Yesterday, 6th March 2014, my family and I went on air on eWana.FM Kuala Lumpur through their night show, ‘Bila Larut Malam’ or ‘When The Night Falls’ with DJ Nizal Mohamad or Uncle Nizal as we call him.

When Uncle Nizal informed my father that he wanted to interview my little brother, Ahmad Ali, Ali was very, very excited. He could not wait to make a live appearance on a radio show. Later, Uncle Nizal re-informed my father that all of us would appear on the radio show! It was kind of exciting for me as I had never appeared on a radio show before. But I was also very nervous as I was not sure what should I say in the show. What if I get nervous and my tongue gets tangled upon answering a question.

We were also going to sing a song by Dawud Wharnsby Ali titled, ‘Alhamdulillah’ with only one and a half day to practice! I was seriously nervous and afraid that I might not be able to sing it well. As we practiced the song, I didn’t manage to fulfill my mother’s expectations. My voice was too soft and I can’t hit the right note. I practiced again and again that night. It was very hard but at last, I manage to improve my singing and almost got a sore throat. My mother noted my improvement the next day and I felt so proud.

I was really excited as we drove closer to the studio. I wasn’t nervous at all. However, when we entered the radio conti, my heart climbed up to my throat, butterflies flew into my stomach, I grew nervous all of a sudden. I seriously thought that I did so bad and awful during the show. However, after the show, my mother told me that I did great even though I was quite nervous.

Uncle Nizal told us that they will air a repeat of the show at 6PM Malaysian time (+8:00 GMT) today and so I am really looking forward to hearing it because I want to hear how did I do yesterday by myself. To any of my dear readers who wants to hear the repeat, please visit ewana.fm today at 6PM Malaysian time (+8:00 GMT).

When the Night Falls – Ahmad Ali Karim & His Family of Bloggers

From Ahmad Ali’s Weblog:

I’ll be on-air together with my parents and siblings at 11p.m. with DJ Nizal Mohammad in ‘When Night Falls-Bila Larut Malam’ on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

This is the first time I’ll be on-air in a radio show!

For international listeners, please note that time stated is 11pm on March 6, 2014 (Malaysian time) which is +8:00 GMT.

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Announcement! My Little Brother is 10

After reading the comments on my favourite blogger, Helen Ang’s post titled, ‘Announcement‘, I felt the need to write this post.

First, I would like to thank Aunty Helen for being very responsible by telling her reader that every body need to mind their language now since my 10 years old little brother is reading her blog.

User-generated-content (i.e. your comments) must endeavour to comply to a Universal rating, particularly those Dapsters who like to curse and swear. And the same standard applies to me too.

My family and I really appreciate and respect Aunty Helen’s concern that adults should not curse and swear in front of children. Since children look up to adults; it is just fair that adults show good examples to the children. Moreover, I believe that cultured adults do watch their language, even when they are angry.

However, I can’t stop laughing when I read various comments posted by her readers about my little brother. It seems that people find it so unbelievable that a 10 years old boy reads and writes about politics and is an active blogger.

So, I dedicate this article to my little brother, Ahmad Ali Karim and share with you some cute pictures of him 😀

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Aunty Helen said that Ahmad Ali Karim is not the ‘nasty Ali Karim’. Ahmad Ali Karim is a young boy who had been brought up by a cultured and well-mannered pair of parents, who hate bad and harsh words.

By the way, I am very familiar with Ali Karim’s style of comments since he (or she?) tried to ‘harass’ me with his rude words. My little brother could not be ‘creative’ enough to write those comments because he do not understand those words.

Read the full thread of his comments by clicking the picture. He is quite a coward actually. He can't even answer to me the question I asked him which is simply, Siapa Ekstremis? and why?.
You can read his comments by clicking the picture. He is a coward, actually. He was not happy with my opinion of who is actually the extremist but dare not answer my question of “Siapa Ekstremis? and why?” Instead of answering, he again condemned JAIS and others.

Read Ali Karim’s comments and compare them with the articles written by Ahmad Ali Karim at his blog.

When my elder sister, Aiman and I went to school, we were stunned to hear our friends using the words ‘aku’ and ‘engkau’ or ‘kau’ on regular basis. Our parents told us not to use those words and only use ‘saya’ and ‘awak’ as ‘aku’ and ‘engkau’ are rude words and not to be spoken by well-mannered people.

Then we started to learn more and more harsh and rude phrases like, “kepala otak kau”, “padam muka” and so on. As naive and innocent children, all those words and phrases absorbed into our minds. Our concerned mother told us that it is really rude to use those words and phrases. Even if our friends use them, we must not follow them. Allah loves those who speaks politely and so as Muslims, we have to show good behaviour to others.

To those who doubt the fact that my little brother writes his own articles in his blog, please read his blog from the beginning and see how he improves over the years. Writing needs a lot of practice and keeping an active blog like my little brother’s is not easy. He need to work real hard and be very disciplined. There are times when we need to give him a push to motivate him.

Well, Ahmad Ali and my elder sister, Aiman Amani are both great writers. One advantage that Ahmad Ali has is that he had been trained by our mother since he was very young to brush up this talent.

My mother taught us to read at a very, very young age and yes, we have lots and lots of books at home. My little brother wrote his first short story titled, ‘The Pink Elephant’ when he was 3 years old because he saw his big sisters were writing stories. He begged my parents to let him start his own blog when he was 5 years old; because our eldest sister Aiman who was 13 years old at the time, has started her blog.

So his writing gears had always been running and have not gone rusty because everyday, those gears are polished by new tips and information which makes his writing becomes better and better.

My elder sister on the other hand has not been trained to write as early as Ahmad Ali. Anyway, once she started, she can write very professionally and is way better than mine. You can read her blog here: Aiman Amani’s Weblog

This is Ahmad using the Microsoft Power Point at 5 years old.
This is Ahmad using the Microsoft Power Point at 5 years old.

I’m sad and sorry to see how some adults think about children and have no respect for their intelligence. Why can’t children be taken seriously and be taught to think intellectually since they are young?

Helen Ang's Blog Comments- Announcement

We always have intellectual discussions at home. We discuss politics and current issues. My father also took us to lots of seminars, book launches, talks and we met and had the chance to speak to great writers, journalist, lawyers, politicians, ulama’s and wonderful people who helped us grow wiser.

We do not watch much TV; in fact when we were younger, all that we watched were videos that our dad bought for us or taped such as ‘Adam’s World’, Barney, ‘Magic English’, ‘Sesame Street’ and some others. And I’m at lost when my friends talk about Siti Nurhaliza or Justin Bieber. And my little brother does not watch Ben 10, Upin dan Ipin, and BoBoiBoy; and would not wear a Ben 10 or any superhero T-shirts.

He reads a lot since he was small. And he reads good books.

I’ve always found it weird when my friends could not think of anything interesting to talk about other than ‘hot, juicy gossips’. That could be one of the reasons why I do not have much friends of my age. I had always been considered as weird for not knowing the names of popular singers and their songs.

Ahmad Ali and Uncle Nasha.

Just because my little brother is a blogger, reads some political blogs and writes about politics, it doesn’t means that our parents do not keep an eye on us. I dare say, that the contents of what ‘normal’ teens read about are more worrisome. We are under our parents surveillance for 24 hours and our parents are very strict on what we read and they approve Aunty Helen’s blog.

My cute little brother at a FedEx office in Palo Alto, California when he was three years old. For some unexplainable reasons, my little brother really loves FedEx when he was younger.

Our parents train us (force us to be exact) to think intellectually and talk mostly of useful things. Our brains are stuffed with important issues everyday. And apart from learning Mathematic, English and the usual stuff, we, including Ahmad Ali were taught the basic of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia; such as Article 3(1), Article 11, Article 153, Article 160 and so on. That is why Ahmad Ali always uses those articles in his writing. And he is even familiar with certain important cases like the ‘Che Omar Che Soh’ case that is usually wrongly interpreted by the Pakatan.

We are lucky because we are also able to get the advises from Uncle Naser Disa, who is an expert in Constitutional Law of Malaysia and Uncle Azril Mohd. Amin, who is an expert in the Human Rights issues.

Ali and two of his many lawyer friends.
Ahmad Ali with two of his many lawyer friends.

Life is not only about having fun, money and fame. As Muslims, we carry three responsibilities in life which are, to make ourselves good, help others become good and make the world good, clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah. And so we must use each and every second that we have to do good things.

We also learn to choose friends. Make friends with the people who can help to make us a better person and not those who will just waste our time and turn us into bad and useless people.

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My father’s friends always take my little brother seriously. Ahmad Ali is in deep discussion with Ustaz Ismail Mina after a meeting.

To the commentators on Aunty Helen’s blog who are wondering how the 10 years old Ahmad Ali Karim is able to write those articles on his blog, my answer is talent, lots of reading, hard works, great parent and with Allah’s help.

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And that is 1272 words (minus captions and quotes) Aunty Helen!

Please Read:

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I Am A NaNoWriMo Winner!

I tried to write a novel before but could never finish one. Firstly, I did not know how to use wonderful words to make my readers see what was going on in my story by detail. Secondly, I failed to make the readers of my book feel the emotions of my characters through the story. What’s worst was that I could not even tell my stories. I had great plot ideas but I can’t put them in words. My elder sister always said that my stories are more like a synopsis of a much longer story.

When my eldest sister introduced me to NaNoWriMo, an annual writting program where we have to write a 50 000 words fiction in a month, I was not so keen of joining. How in the world can I possibly write a 50 000 words novel; what more in a month.

NaNoWriMo 50k words per day

But my big sister, who can be very forceful if she wants something, had insisted me to join the challenge.  And 15 minutes before the 1st of November, I decided to join the Young Writers Program where I can set a lower word count goal. I joined with the goal of 30 000 words.

Because it was a last minute decision, I did not have a plot idea for my story and so I decided to write a prequel of the play which my little sister and I wrote. It was not that easy to write a 30 000 words story in a month. It was very stressful.

Each time we went out, my siblings and I brought along our books. Some curious friends, relatives and even strangers asked what we were writing. When we told them, they usually said something like, “You’re crazy. That is impossible to achieve.”

I used these three pens to write 30 000 words. The two pens on the right served me from the very beginning of their lives to the last drop of ink.
I used these three pens to write 30 000 words. The two pens on the right served me from the very beginning of their lives to their very last drop of ink.

Yes, I had a hard time writing my story. After I wrote the first 6000 words of my story, I started to see the light at the other end of the tunnel. Then, I decided to add a subplot to the story. And halfway through the second week, my subplot became the main plot.

When I reached 20 000 words, the light at the other end somehow vanished and my characters were despaired. They were left in total darkness; after all, they were locked up in a dungeon.

It was on the 27th of November when I reached my goal of 30 000 words but my story is not even close to its end yet. Now I understand what my elder sister meant when she said that my stories were only like a synopsis in the past.

It was very hard to reach my goal of 30 000 words in a month. The lack of sleep, the stress we have to face, but it is not impossible to do it. Now I am looking forward to join NaNoWriMo again. And the next time, I am going to set a higher goal.

By Aeshah Adlina
By Aeshah Adlina

Aeshah Adlina’s Weblog’s 5th Anniversary

Wordpress anniversary

A great thank you to all of my loyal readers who had been following my blog. It had been a long journey in blogging. I would also like to thank Uncle Awang Goneng for inspiring me to write; may it be writing fictions or non-fictions. And most of all, I would like to thank my father who had inspired my life since I was small.