I have always loved kangkung (water convolvulus). Even as a kid who hated vegetables, kangkung was the only green veggie I would eat without protest. But I digress.
As you can see, my kangkung stems are split into two. I know, it is rather unusual for many. It was my late grandpa who taught me that by splitting the kangkung stems into halves, it will taste nicer. And he was RIGHT!
No, I didn’t forget as I cut and cooked kangkung on that very day, the same way he taught me many years ago. With just garlic and some salt. Yes, nine years on and I still miss him.
In loving memory of my grandpa who left us on 23/09/2006.
Took this last weekend while I was making a batch of sambal petai. I really like the vibrant colours of the half cooked petai with the big onions. And the smells from the combo of chillies, onions and petai is out of this world!
Simply because… this could be the first half cooked sambal petai wallpaper in the world. 🙂
Nyonyas are famous for their kuehs. These are sought after as desserts for any meals, tea time, snack time, weddings and even funerals or wakes. When served at wakes and funerals, the bright colours such as red and yellow will be replaced with a more sombre blue colour, usually derived naturally from “bunga telang” or Butterfly Pea Flower.
As memory might fail me one day down the road, am gonna compile a list of well-loved Nyonya kueh.
A good kueh genggang has layers that you can peel one by one. It’s creamy flavour comes from the “santan” or coconut milk, flavoured with “pandan” (screwpine leaves). Some people call this “Kuih Lapis” but not to be confused with the Indonesian Kuih Lapis. Both are layer cakes but the Nyonya variety is steamed layer by layer, while the Indonesian version is baked.
One of the few that I like as it practically explodes in your mouth with “Gula Melaka” (palm sugar), leaving you in Gula Melaka ecstacy. The white bits covering the pandan green balls are grated coconut flesh. Totally love this with lotsa grated coconut. This is also known as “Buah Melaka.”
Good Ondeh-ondeh is soft and slightly chewy and the Gula Melaka must be liquefied and has almost like a caramel like taste.
There are 3 types of Kueh Kochi – the white, the green and the black. The white and green (pandan flavoured) variety are the 2 commonly seen ones while the black skinned one is Kueh Kochi Pulut Hitam (My fav! Yums!!) is less common as the skinned is made from black glutinous rice. The skin should be soft and slightly chewy with the consistency almost like melted mozzarella. The filling is desiccated coconut cooked with “Gula Melaka” and should be moist and. It’s wrapped in banana leaf, giving it an extra lovely aroma.
*Pulut Seri Kaya*
This is has a layer of “kaya” (egg and coconut jam) on the top and “pulut” (steamed glutinous rice) at the bottom. A nice combination of textures and flavours – smooth, creamy “kaya” with soft, chewy slightly saltish “pulut”. Some people may call this “Seri Muka.” I love those traditional Pulut Seri Kaya with pretty blue “Bunga Telang” decorating the pulut.
This almost forgotten kueh is made from pulut, grated coconut and black-eyed peas, wrapped in “daun nipah.” The aroma from the leave lends this traditional kueh its flavour. It mainly sweet, coconut-y from the grated coconuts, with a slight hint of saltiness. I love how the slightly mushy peas complements the grated coconut’s creaminess and the slight saltiness of the steamed glutinous rice. One of my favs but pity it’s not easily available in my area. But then again, could be a blessing in disguise that I can’t get it here or I will be eating this all the time. 😀
This looks like little Nasi Lemak packets. But when you open it, it has grated coconut cooked in “Gula Melaka” on top of blue and white steamed pulut. The fragrance from this kueh comes not only from the coconut and “Gula Melaka” but also from the banana leaf it is wrapped in. Somehow everything with banana leaf tastes and smells good! A good inti is one that is not overpoweringly sweet but has a nice coating of Gula Melaka making the inti somewhat moist, fragrant and sweet.
This is one of my top favs as it has both sweet and salty layers. The top layer is the white salty layer while the bottom layer is a fragrant sweet kaya layer. My perfect Kueh Talam should have an equal portion of salty, “lemak”white top layer and a beautiful pandan-scented sweet green bottom layer. It should be soft but not mushy.
This kueh gets my vote for the kueh with the funniest name. Bokwa is actually the equivalent of the Malay word “berkuah” (loosely translated as “with gravy”)”Apom” or also called “
“Apom” or also called “apam”, is similar to the Indian version of “apam”. Like its Indian cousin, the Nyonya’s “apom” has its signature blue streaks of “Bunga Telang”. The “apom” is made from fermented rice batter, traditionally made with coconut water left to ferment mixed with rice flour, to create that fluffy “apom” texture. A good “apom” will not have a smooth surface but one with many little holes and the cross section of the kueh should look like a honeycomb.
This unique disc-like kueh that is best eaten with its “kuah” (gravy-like dip) that’s made of “Gula Melaka”, bananas, “santan” (coconut milk) and “aromatised” with fresh pandan leaves. I know many Nyonyas prefer to use “Pisang Emas” or “Pisang Raja” to make the kuah as these 2 types of bananas are known to be very sweet and “wangi” (fragrant).
I think I’ll stop here for now or my keyboard will be flooded with drool. More on Nyonya kuehs in my next post. Till then, happy eating!
Where to get these favourites?
*Baba Charlie* 72, Jalan Tengkera Pantai 2C 75200 Melaka Business hours: 10:30pm – 3pm (closed on Thursdays) Tel: 019-666 2907 / 06-284 7209
*Debbie Teoh* https://www.facebook.com/debbie.teoh
[Debbie takes orders and it is best that you contact her about 1 week ahead.]
Have you ever ate something and you suddenly feel as though you were transported to another place and time? This happened to me when I had this. (Please don’t drool on your keyboard!)
At the first taste, I was instantaneously transported back to my Primary School tuckshop (canteen as it was called back in the 70’s). The gravy tasted so much like the Curry Mee we loved in those days. Our canteen Curry Mee didn’t have all the beancurd sheets, taupok (beancurd puff) and long beans but just some noodles, maybe 2 fishballs and fishcake. But it was the curry gravy that got all of us hooked to it. Those of us who like it spicier would add in spoonfuls of watery chilli sauce that was available for us to ladle onto our noodles.
Our little spot of happiness during Primary School was in the form of 30sen Curry Mee and 10sen Nasi Lemak. Life was so much simpler than. We were just contented with these humble food and playing with our little friends during recess. And it is these little friends who have taught me the value and meaning of friendship.
Am glad that this bowl of Curry Mee made me think of them and our friendship that has endured many years, across many seas and countless dramas. 🙂
Cheers to friends of the past, present and future!
P/S: To my primary schoolmates, I wish you guys can try this. Seriously tastes like Canteen Auntie’s Curry Mee.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
11 fresh red chillies
35 shallots (“Bawang Merah”)
20 candlenuts (“Buah Keras”)
3 cups petai
2 large yellow onions
400 ml tamarind juice (“Assam Jawa”)*
1 ½ tbsp salt
6 tbsp sugar
*made from 3 tbsp tamarind paste + 400ml water
Blend ingredients A into a paste.
Half and slice yellow onions into strips.
Heat up oil and once the oil is hot, sauté the blended paste. Keep stirring consistently to avoid burning the paste.
Once paste turns a darker red, add in petai and onions.
Add the tamarind juice.
Add salt and sugar to taste.
Use the food processor with a chopper function.
Soak the candlenuts to soften them before blending them.
If the paste looks watery, drain the excess water with a sieve.
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.
Add birds eye chillies (“cili padi”) if prefer a spicier version.
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 agak–agak. This means that you will probably NOT get anywhere with Metric System in a Nyonya’s kitchen. This agak–agak 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.
Fresh red chilies
Vegetarian belacan powder
Fresh lime juice
Salt to taste (Optional)
Wash the chillies clean and dry them.
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.
Allow the fried belacan to cool.
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).
Pound until fine.
Squeeze some lime juice over the sambal paste before serving.
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.
I get asked a lot about what I eat. Many cannot imagine life without meat or at least, seafood. Many think that vegetarians eat only salad. Sorry to break it to you guys… we eat more than rabbit food. There is life beyond carrot sticks and celery.
So, am gonna share a fav that is easy and delish. It’s so simple that even my kids can make this themselves. I give you my version of Loaded Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
How to make it?
Chuck some sliced tomatoes and onions on your bread and then heap on tonnes of cheese. Pop it into the oven and enjoy the aroma.
Sprinkle some chilli flakes before serving.
Easy peasy. Selamat menjamu selera!
P/S: You can omit the chilli flakes and use black pepper if you are not big on spiciness.