Of Bentong Aunties & Rotis

Can you spot the t-shirt and undies stall at the corner below?

So, this morning, after dropping the sons off at school, I thought that it would be fun to try to become a Bentong auntie and walk around the morning market as it did look interesting when I passed it the last few times.

The market was pretty busy when I arrived. Numerous food stalls lined the street I was walking along. A flower stall caught my eye and made a mental note to stop on my way back. (Love, loveee flowers!!) The first stall I stopped by was crowded with ladies grabbing t-shirts and undies(!!). Have forgotten what the buying frenzy at the morning market is like. Quite fun to watch actually. You have seasoned aunties haggling like pros and the odd uncle who looks rather lost in the midst of excited ladies. 

Pardon, the rather blurry photo. Not any filter effects but the lack of Kopi-O and low sugar levels. 😛

There is a nice variety of food stalls for brekkie to cater to different taste buds – Nasi Lemak, Malay Kuih, Chee Cheong Fun, dumplings, economy fried noodles and other usual brekkie staples. But.…the thing that caught me attention was the Roti Canai stall. It was a simple stall for takeaways only manned by 2 friendly fellas, one expertly tossing and flipping Rotis in the large flat skillet and one handling orders, wrapping the hot-off-the-skillet Rotis with Dhall Curry or Sambal Sardin. It was the aroma wafting from the hot skillet that drew me to this stall, as if hypnotised. Heheh…

Do you know what the Rotis are tossed about and made into this? The Abang (Older brother in Malay) at the stall told me that it will make the roti softer.
I wish you could smell the lovely Rotis! Heavenly!

As I stood there waiting for my order, I overheard the loud friendly banter of two older uncles complaining about parking summons. I was reminded of how friendly and warm the people in smaller towns are. Something I grew up with but is sorely missing in larger cities where I used to live all my adult life. People are more courteous and helpful over here and there were many times when cars would just stop and let me and my kids cross the road.

Yeah…. I can get used to this. 🙂

School Transfer 101

In light of our recent move out of state, I thought I’d share a bit on the school transfer procedure (Malaysia’s education system that is). It was surprisingly less painful than I thought.

  1. Get Form P.U. (A)275 from your kid’s school. (See a sample of this form here
  2. Fill up all the relevant information needed. And you will need photocopies of your marriage certificate and your child’s IC or birth certificate. (3 copies each)
  3. You will then need to submit the completed form and copies of your marriage certificate to the school. The school will then proceed to type 4 copies of the form. This process can take anywhere from one day to a week as it depends on the school. For my kids, we managed to get the completed forms in about 3 days.
  4. Once you have your documents ready, go to the Jabatan Pendidikan of the district of your kid’s new school. Here, the officer will verify your documents, assign the new school and approve your transfer. (On your transfer form, you need to provide 2 different options.) Our school transfer was approved in about 20 minutes.
  5. After the Jabatan Pendidikan approves your transfer, you will need to go to the new school to hand over the transfer form together with the marriage certificate. The school principal will review your kid’s academic performance and assign the class to your kids according to their latest exam results. If your school transfer coincides with the new school year, your will be given a book list.
  6. You then need to go back to your kid’s old school to submit the approved transfer form and to collect report card, “kad kesihatan” and other records. These records need to be handed over to the new school.

Our school transfer process took slightly more than a week as the Jabatan Pendidikan officer-in-charge was away for a conference in Genting.

Tips on choosing a new school

  • Go to the Ministry of Education website and look at the list of schools in the area.
  • Do your research online. Look at the school’s website and Facebook to get some rough idea of the school.
  • Make friends with the locals and ask them regarding the best schools.
  • Pay a visit to the schools that you have shortlisted. It would be good to go with your child to allow him/her to get a feel of the new school.

This serves as a general guideline for school transfers and do note that there maybe slight differences as some schools may release the report card, “kad kesihatan” and other records even before the approved forms are submitted.

Hope this helps and good luck with your transfer!

 

The One About Nasi Lemak Party & Sambal Petai Recipe

Nasi Lemak condiments. Clockwise from the top: Cucumbers, Sambal Nenas (Pineapple Sambal), Sambal Petai, Kerabu Kacang Botol, Kangkung, Hard Boiled Egg. The small bowl is the dressing for the Kerabu.

Being the true Melaka Nyonya, our Nasi Lemak would not be complete without “kangkung” (water convolvulus). Thankfully, my IT dude friend and his missus managed to hunt down some. Made 2 different sambals to accommodate the non-petai eating diners. Decided to make a milder, sweeter Sambal Nenas for my non-petai eating friends and also for the friend whose sambal tolerance level is at the primary school.

Decided to make “Kerabu Kacang Botol” as well. Erm…. More like an experiment. Thankfully, my lab rats reviewed and the experiment was considered a success.

All plated and ready to go…into the tummy!

For a Nasi Lemak, the sambal can make or break it. Besides the fragrant coconut rice, the sambal is the highlight for most people, me included. One of my friends posted about my Sambal Petai and Nasi Lemak on her Facebook and I have had requests for my recipe. As a true blue Nyonya who cooks using the “agak-agak method”, I was like “Yikes! I really dunno how many grams of this or that.” So, I went off to the nearest supermart and got MORE petai and spent an afternoon “quantifying” my Sambal Petai.

So…. here’s my recipe.

The photo that made me write this post. 🙂

Sambal Petai

Ingredients A

11 fresh red chillies

35 shallots (“Bawang Merah”)

20 candlenuts (“Buah Keras”)

Ingredients B

3 cups petai

2 large yellow onions

400 ml tamarind juice (“Assam Jawa”)*

1 ½ tbsp salt

6 tbsp sugar

Oil

*made from 3 tbsp tamarind paste + 400ml water

Method:

  1. Blend ingredients A into a paste.
  2. Half and slice yellow onions into strips.
  3. Heat up oil and once the oil is hot, sauté the blended paste. Keep stirring consistently to avoid burning the paste.
  4. Once paste turns a darker red, add in petai and onions.
  5. Add the tamarind juice.
  6. Add salt and sugar to taste.

Tips:

  1. Use the food processor with a chopper function.
  2. Soak the candlenuts to soften them before blending them.
  3. If the paste looks watery, drain the excess water with a sieve.
  4. Use more oil when cooking the paste. Spoon out excess oil once the sambal is ready by allowing it to sit for about 10 – 15 minutes.
  5. Add birds eye chillies (“cili padi”) if prefer a spicier version.

 

Clockwise from top left: Fresh red chillies, shallots, yellow onions, petai (halved), candlenuts, tamarind paste.
Pardon the smokey effect…Left is what the raw sambal paste looks like. The right is when the sambal paste is ready for the next step.
After putting in the tamarind paste, petai and yellow onions. On the right is what it looks like once the sambal is done.

 

Good Luck and Happy Cooking!

How Do I Love Thali, Let Me Count The Ways

For those who know me well enough, you will probably know by now that I love all things spicy and count Indian food as one of my favs. There is nothing I like better than a lovely vegetarian “thali”. Best enjoyed with all five of my digits, washed down with a nice frothy Teh Tarik Susu Lembu.

For those who are not in the know, the word “thali” actually means plate. (Hindi/Nepali: थाली, Tamil: தட்டு) It is essentially a round platter that is filled with several smaller little bowls (called “katori”) with food that is salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy. These little bowls are usually arranged around the bigger platter with some rice or chapati in the middle. Whether rice or chapati or even “puri” is served would depend on the region or restaurant that is serving the “thali”. Some restaurants I discovered would serve their “thali” on a banana leaf. Totally love “thali” on banana leaf as the aroma of the banana leaf enhances the whole thali experience.

Typical dishes of a thali are rice, roti, curries, vegetables, yoghurt (“tairu”), pappadums, pickles, “rasam” (Indian soup) and some places also serve salty fried chillies. (My fav!)

Recently, out of the blue, Son No. 2 decided that he wanted a thali. This was quite an unusual request as he is very loyal to his Roti Telur (Flatbread with egg). His “thali’ came with curried long beans, stir fried beansprouts, Sambal Taufu, Dhal curry (“sambar”), cucumber “salad”, fried bitter gourd and rasam. Oh yes, pappadums too.

Clockwise from the top: Sambal taufu, cucumber salad, curried long beans, stir fried beansprouts, Dhal curry, rasam and fried bitter gourd in the middle.
Clockwise from the top: Sambal taufu, cucumber salad, curried long beans, stir fried beansprouts, Dhal curry, rasam and fried bitter gourd in the middle.

Am usually not a fan of bitter gourd but the crunchy fried bitter gourd at Kari Kepala Ikan Raub* in Bentong, Pahang is probably one of the best I have tasted. I am a huge fan of their Sambal Taufu as it has just the right amount of onions and chillies. Actually, most of the dishes I have tried at this place is seriously yums.

So, why to I love “thali”?

Is it the Dhal curry that I instinctively drown my rice with?

Or is it because of the cucumber and onion raita that is the perfect match for firey sambal?

Or is it because of that mushy spinach that I love with a maddening passion?

Or the salty fried chillies that are so addictive?

The answer is “All of the above”. It is the various elements that make the “thali” oh-so-delish. All the different tastes, textures and flavours.

And one of the best part about “thali” is the huge portion that we just have to share it with our dining companions. And to share a good “thali” with great company is totally priceless!

 

*Kari Kepala Ikan Raub

No. 52, Jalan Loke Yew, 28700 Bentong, Pahang

09-223 3551 | 012-900 2351 | 016-320 8766

Are You A REAL Vegetarian?

I was an on and off vegetarian for some years before I decided to become a full-time vegetarian. My journey as a vegetarian has been a rather easy transition with so many delish eats available at all hours of the day in Malaysia.

As a vegetarian, I get many amusing and sometimes rather annoying remarks thrown my way. One of the remarks is that am not a full-time or “real” vegetarian since I eat garlic and onions. I once got kinda miffed at someone (a HUGE meat eater, no less!) who told me that am not a REAL vegetarian as I was happily chomping on garlic and onions. I tried to tell this person that I have not touched meat for some number of years but this person still insisted that am not a true vegetarian. You see, in Malaysia, Chinese who are vegetarians are mostly Mahayana Buddhists and they do not consume garlic and onions. Due to this, it is a common perception that all Chinese who are vegetarians cannot eat garlic and onions or to qualify as a vegetarian, one must refrain from consuming garlic and onions.

Hence, why I am inspired write this post to shed some light on the different types of vegetarianism. Basically, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat. Meat covers the usual beef, chicken, pork, lamb, seafood or anything with a life that moves, eats or makes noises. However, there are different classifications due to the different food combinations that the individual decides to consume. So, here are the different types of vegetarianism.

vegetarianism-101-2

So, which vegetarian are you? Not that it really matters as at the end of the day, what matters more is that you made a conscious choice of a non-harming lifestyle. Whether you are a REAL vegetarian or not, at least you know that you are not harming any living creature to feed your gastronomic need.

 

A Near Miss?

may-you-protect-us-uninterruptedly-with-your-enlightened-activity-and-watch-over-us-during-the-three-periods-of-day-and-three-of-night-1

I was driving home with my kids tonight when something totally unexpected happened. As I was turning off into our exit along NKVE, there was a huge trailer on the next lane to my right. Suddenly, there was a loud noise that sounded like an explosion. It was so loud that I actually felt a stab of pain in my chest. I was shocked naturally and was so worried that the trailer would lose control and crash into us. I was oddly calm and switched to the lane to move further away from the trailer.

Thankfully, the trailer didn’t crash into us and I didn’t lose control of my Batmobile from the utter shock. As we were approaching the Setia Alam toll, Son No. 1 said that it’s amazing that I was still driving steadily. I told him that Protector was protecting us. We immediately said a prayer of thanks to Dorje Shugden. Later, the kids told me that they saw a strip of thingy flying out from under the trailer tyres on the road. They seem to think that one of the tyres exploded. I can’t say for sure as I did not see it. Hey, I needed to focus on the road and calm my racing heart, right?

Tonight, I am reminded again how fortunate we are to have a Protector in our lives.

Sambal Belacan 101

sambal-belacan

So, what’s a Sambal Queen blog without a post on sambal, right? Here’s my “Sambal Belacan for Dummies”.

What is Sambal Belacan?

Besides being my fav thing that I cannot live without, it is essentially a chilli paste made from fresh red chillies and roasted shrimp paste. There are several different versions of this all-time favourite. Cooking, like art, is pretty much subjective and largely depends on the cook’s interpretation of the dish.

The Sambal Belacan I learnt is a family recipe I learnt from the best Sambal Belacan maker in the whole wide world. (Ok, am allowed to be biased a bit, no?) This is my late grandmother’s recipe that has never failed me. It has just 3 ingredients – Fresh red chilies, roasted belacan (shrimp paste) and freshly squeezed lime juice. Oh yes, my grandma’s recipe also has a heart full of love.

When I became a vegetarian, one of the things I missed is good ol’ fashioned Sambal Belacan. After much experimentation with several vegetarian belacan powders, I finally found a real decent one that my mother-in-law found in Ipoh.

How to make Sambal Belacan?

If you ask any Nyonya for their recipes, they will tell you that they agakagak. This means that you will probably NOT get anywhere with Metric System in a Nyonya’s kitchen. This agakagak method of cooking comes from many years in the kitchen watching the veteran cooks at work and experimenting in our own kitchens. I am blessed to have been able to watch 3 great cooks at work – my late grandmother, my mum and my mother-in-law.

So, here’s my Sambal Belacan recipe.

Ingredients

  • Fresh red chilies
  • Vegetarian belacan powder
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste (Optional)
red-chilli-1599323
Fresh red chillies

Method

  1. Wash the chillies clean and dry them.
  2. Fry the belacan powder over VERY low fire until fragrant. (Enjoy the lovely smells! :D) MUST keep stirring. Whatever you do, do not leave this unattended.
  3. Allow the fried belacan to cool.
  4. Put all the red chillies and belacan powder into a chopper/food processor or you can do the good ol’ fashioned way with a “lesung” (pestle and mortar).
  5. Pound until fine.
  6. Squeeze some lime juice over the sambal paste before serving.

 

Limau Nipis
“Limau Nipis” (Calamansi) 

Tips

  • Best lime to use is “limau nipis” (Calamansi) or “limau kasturi(lime). In a pinch, lemon works as well.
  • If it is too spicy, try adding a pinch of sugar to douse the heat a little. BUT if you are really a kindergarten chilli eater, best to remove the seeds before making your sambals.
  • When pounding the chillies using the “lesung”, the trick is to put one chilli at a time and some belacan to prevent the chilli from splattering on you. If the paste gets a little watery, add more belacan. Keep adding chillies and belacan alternatingly.
  • If you must use a food processor, please do not use those blenders that need water to be added to work. This is not recommended as you don’t want a runny sambal belacan.
Limau Kasturi (Lime)
“Limau Kasturi” (Lime)