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Throughout the last day of Ramadhan, our small kitchen was cramped with food and all of us were suddenly upgraded into ‘chefs of the day’. My little sister Aeshah baked trays of lovely cupcakes. At the other end of the kitchen, while singing at the top of her voice, Anisah helped my mother who was cooking rendang and kuah kacang, driving my mom quite mad. Even little Ali sat cross-legged on his chair, weaving kelongsong ketupat nasi for me to fill in with rice later. Usually, I would be preparing the ketupat nasi and weave most of the kelongsongs; but this Eid was special. For the first time, I made the true Terengganu ‘ttupak pulok’ instead!

Ketupat

Ttupak pulok‘, which is also known as  ‘ketupat daun palas’ in standard Malay, is a type of glutinous rice delicacy, steamed with coconut milk and wrapped in a special leaf named ‘daun palas’ before it is fried to perfection. Since it is so easy to get them in Kuala Terengganu where my parents came from, neither my mother nor my grandmothers know how to prepare them. To quote what my great grandmother told my mom when asked for the recipe, “Bakpe nok belajor sangak. Buak nyussoh je. Ppasor blambok, beli je senang.” “Why bother? You can buy loads of them from the market.”

However, living in Kuala Lumpur, we do not have the luxury of having those authentic Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ sold in markets or farmer’s markets around our place. It is not that nobody sells ketupat palas here, but the tasty, rich and firm textured Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ is none to be seen. And since we are unable to return to Terengganu for Eid due to my father’s tight schedule, my mother announced that she’ll be making her own ‘ttupak pulok’, which happens to be one of her favourite foods.

And imagine my mother’s delight a few weeks before Eid, when she caught the sight of daun palas being sold at the Pasar Tani (or the farmer’s market)!

Daun Palas

Daun Palas

“But mama, you said that you have never weaved a ‘ttupak pulok’ before,” I reminded her.

“No problem. We can always surf the internet for instructions later!” she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

So we spent the afternoon in front of our computer, our oily hands fragrant with coconut milk and sticky with glutinous rice as we tried again and again for a decent wrap. We had a great time and good laughs, mom squeezed most of her rice out of the wrap while I tore almost all of my leaves into half! It seems that while weaving a ketupat nasi looks harder than it actually is, it is the total opposite for ‘ttupak pulok” at least until one masters the technique. It took us a while to get to the hang of it but it was definitely worth it. In the end, we managed to come up with a batch of handsomely wrapped ‘ttupak puloks’. To speed up the process, while my mother was busy in the kitchen, I made a few ‘monster-sized’ ‘ttupak pulok’, which earned a stern warning from my mom, “That is a monster, not a ttupak, never, ever do that again”.

My mom took the ketupat to the kitchen and fried them to perfection. And the taste? They were so delicious, they tasted exactly like the good ol’ Terengganu’s ‘ttupak pulok’ which my mother missed so much. In fact, they tasted even better than some of those that we bought in Kuala Terengganu. Even my father was so impressed with the result that he suggested that we make should make ‘ttupak pulok’ to share with our close relatives and friends who happens to miss the delicious delicacy as much as we do for the Eid.

Ttupak pulok

It’s funny and ironic when you think of how modern technology is able to preserve the traditional cooking methods and recipes despite it also influences a lot of people to leave their traditional and healthier way of cooking and eating. With the invention of instant ‘plastic ketupat’, almost all of my parent’s friends prepare their ketupats the easier way, despite the hazard it poses to their health. However without the help of the world wide web, neither my mom nor I would be able to enjoy the true Terengganu ‘ttupak pulok’ made from scratch in our own kitchen in Kuala Lumpur!

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Cooking, especially baking had been on my dream list when I was a little girl. In fact, I’ve always wanted to bake a cake since I was as young as I could ever remember. When I was eight, I helped my mother and my aunt to bake some cookies for Eid or ‘biskut raya’ as we call them in Malaysia but my mother forbade me from baking cakes.

“It is not that easy to bake cakes and it’s very easy for something to go wrong,” she had told me. “Surely it can’t be too hard to bake a cake, isn’t it? The mixing was done by a machine. Why, even I could push the button of the mixer. How could anything go wrong?” I had thought then. I tried to ‘lend a hand’ but I only managed to give the cake a sharp poke before I was dragged away by my aunt. I dare say that the eight years old me felt quite hurt at being mistrusted.

My mother loved to bake when she was younger but she stopped using the oven when I was old enough to crawl into the kitchen, fearing that I might ‘burn’ my little fingers touching the oven. Now that Ali, the youngest of us, will be ten next year, mom trusts us enough to be careful near the oven. Suddenly we are having a delightful breakfast of Irish bread, soft and buttery cinnamon rolls for tea and tasty enchiladas for dinner.

I pleaded for my mother to let me try baking my first cake entirely on my own. At first, she was very reluctant to give her consent; quite rightly too for not just that I never had any experience in baking anything, I also tend to do everything in such a muddled haste or  ‘solo bolo’ in Trengganuspeak which could be disastrous in baking a cake. However, she later relented after I promised to bake under her supervision.

I was absolutely thrilled and I immediately flipped through her baking recipe book which she had used when she learned to bake herself. I decided on going through the book methodically, starting from the first recipe which reads ‘first sponge cake for a beginner to bake’. My mom didn’t quite agree. She suggested the pound cake “which is almost the same but is far tastier and easier to make”. She laughed when I pointed out that the title of the sponge cake says that it is the first cake that a beginner like me must bake before trying anything else.

The first tinge of fear hit me as soon as the previous excitement died down. I finally realised that I had not the least idea of how to ‘beat the eggs until foamy’, let alone folding flour into my batter! But since I really wanted to try out everything on my own, I decided to not ask my mom but to look up for some tutorial videos on the Internet. It seemed much more difficult and tedious than how I imagined and from my memories of watching my mother baking ‘kek raya’ but I was determined on going to do it all by myself.

I baked the sponge cake the next day and quite surprisingly, the cake turned out ‘very good for a beginner’, as what my mom said. Although it didn’t taste as good as how a pound cake would have tasted, I think the excitement and satisfaction of baking for the first time was enough to make me ate two big slices of the sponge cakes! At last I had finally been able to bake my first cake!

A week after, I baked a pound cake for my sister, Anisah’s birthday (much to my mother’s joy). Unfortunately this time, I forgot to preheat the oven until I had folded in the flour. I also spilled some hot water while melting my butter (to which my mother had stared at me with profound astonishment and asked, “How in the world could that ever happen, Aiman? This is the first time I’ve heard of such thing!”). However, it survived my little mistakes and the cake turned out beautifully well and delicious too.

Baking the cakes did give me a pleasant time and I enjoyed every moment of it. In some ways, it’s easier than baking bread, which I tried a few weeks after. Mom does not agree with me, well, she even let my little brother baked a whole wheat bread since the bread does not need much kneading. And with a little help from mom, my little brother’s first bread turned out beautiful and tasty too.

Well, it may be easy to bake breads but it tries my patience as I waited for the dough to rise. Then I need to punch it down and after shaping it, I need to wait for it to rise again. Such a long process of waiting… and if the bread is a loaf, I have to wait for again before I could slice it. It is really hard not to be able to taste the wonderful bread right away as it comes out steamingly hot from the oven. Starring at the golden bread while sniffing the sweet and ‘tasty’ aroma made me feel as how Cookie Monster feels when looking at a plate of cookies that should not be immediately eaten.

So now that I had tried my hands at baking cakes and breads, I’m wondering what should I bake next?

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Just days ago, Ngeh Koo Ham, Perak DAP chairman had humiliated the Muslims by asking if the Muslims (are) wasting too much time and energy on the protests against the disgraceful  film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’ in respond to UMNO Youth YB Khairy Jamaluddin’s call for a peaceful protest over the film in Kuala Lumpur. The film which was directed by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (or his pseudonym Sam Bacile) insults the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a womanizer, child abuser and a fool, and Islam as a whole.

As you may have recalled, not only did he make such an insulting statement but when first criticized, he refused to apologise saying that, “There is no doubt that I condemn the video but my tweet was a question and not a statement as some have claimed, belittled Islam.”

If the statement isn’t belittling, all that I can say is that it certainly humiliates. The statement had obviously portrayed the Malaysian Muslims to be ‘over-sensitive’ over the film by holding out peaceful protests. But if protests are simply a waste of time, why are the opposition parties so obsessed with the ‘Bersih’ and other demonstrations?

On the 26th of September 2012, Ngeh once again insulted the Muslims by tweeting ‘Pertama kali saya dengar minum kopi mesti ada label halal. Manusia jgn tambah tambah syarat,membebankan. Tuhan membebaskan.’ (This is the first time I’ve heard that coffee needs a halal label. Humans shouldn’t make up more rules, it’s burdening. God liberates) when the vice chairman of the Unit Pidato Pemuda BN asked him why does his white coffee comes without halal certification. Not just that, when the person corrected him, saying that coffee too needs to be certificated as halal, Ngeh retorted by tweeting, “Tuhan tak kata bagitu. Lain negara tak ada sijil halal bagaimana ? Minum kopi haram ?” (God did not say so. How is it for countries without halal certifications? Would drinking coffee be haram?)”

Ngeh chose to ignore the fact given by Armand Azha PJU that the Old Town White Coffee they were referring to also serves food apart from coffee. Ngeh may spin the story but the Quran had clearly stated that Muslims should only eat foods which are ‘halal’. The ‘halal certificate’ acts as a guarantee for the Muslims to consume food which have been examined to be free of any haram substances, as I had mentioned in my previous post ‘Halal Labeling’. When a product had not been proven as ‘halal’ through the certificate issued by a trusted body, there is a possibility that the food may contain a certain amount of non-halal substance. So, the official halal logo will assists the Muslim consumers in buying goods that are compliance to the halal criteria.

I remember that See’s Candies of California only took a few days to respond to my father’s email and they gave him a very detailed account of their chocolate making process as well as the nature of the ingredients used. See’s Candies has a batch of products which were made by only plant-based products and were manufactured separately to protect it from being contaminated by the animal-based product. And they answered the email respectfully, very much unlike what Ngeh said in his tweet despite the fact that my father is a foreigner and Muslims are only a minority in the United States. See’s Candies that produces very delicious chocolates is not owned by a Muslim but although being unlike the DAP leaders who need the votes from the Malaysian Muslims, See’s Candies still care to respect the rights of its Muslim customers.

It is funny to think of how a leader like Ngeh, who lives in a Muslim-majority country does not understand nor respect the importance of halal labelling. Not only that but Ngeh dares to challenge what is right in according to Islam. And it is even fishier when PAS had always claimed that the DAP leaders understand Islam even better than the UMNO leaders do.

I firmly believe that products and restaurants such as the Old Town White Coffee must be avoided by Muslims for three reasons, one is that we have no confirmation on the halal status, secondly is that we as Muslims we need to fight for our rights to proclaim the verification of a halal product and last is to make sure that we only support the companies (either owned by Muslim or non-Muslim) that support and understand our needs and requirements as a Muslim consumer. We should support companies such as Carrefour – who even employs an ustaz or a religious officer for the purpose of controlling the verification of their halal products even for imported goods even despite the fact that the company is not owned by a Muslim. It is our duty to make sure that the foods and drinks that we consume will be good for us.

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Ramadhan Mubarak to all Muslims worldwide. Alhamdulillah, the holy month of Ramadhan is back and once again, we would have our much awaited trips to Kampung Baru for the tastiest and the most delicious iftar food you could ever find in Malaysia, Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru! Bubur Lambuk is available throughout KL of course and most parts of Malaysia but yet, years after years, people from all over Selangor and Kuala Lumpur would stop by at the Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru or also known as Masjid Kampung Baru for the original version of the bubur lambuk Kampung Baru which is extremely hard to find elsewhere.

Ali and Aeshah watches as Aunty Sham prepared the bubur lambuk for her to sell.

I remember when I was younger and once my mother was admitted to the Kampung Baru Medical Center, which stands just across the road from the mosque, during Ramadhan, I stood by the window watching the queue grew and grew until there were probably fifty people lining up at one time for the bubur lambuk from the mosque. The place wasn’t packed with vendors at it is now. If you live nearby or regularly visit the area during Ramadhan, you would know how crowded the area is; sometimes it feels like you’re driving through a marketplace.

Of course, simply anyone could set up a stall and sell their own version of bubur lambuk Kampung Baru, so if you do not wish to wait in the mosque’s long queue, you have to be very selective in choosing which vendor to buy your bubur lambuk from. The taste can differ drastically, so it’s wise to ask advice from a person who regularly buys their bubur lambuk from the area. And I have to say, the best bubur lambuk Kampung Baru I could find would be Aunty Sham’s. The secret is, Aunty Sham cooks her bubur lambuk using the original recipe as those from the famous Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru’s. So now you can have your original Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru without waiting in the long queue! And at RM2 per pack (a very generous pack, I may add) it’s more than worth the long trip… after all, bubur lambuk isn’t available throughout the year.

Rows of bubur lambuk packed and ready to be sold

Oh, and there are a few things to keep in mind when buying bubur lambuk. One thing is that you’ll have to come and buy yours early. Once, my father arrived at the stall at around 2:30pm but came back empty-handed as Aunty Sham had sold out her bubur lambuk although the other vendors were still selling their wares. So it’s important to be there early if you do not want to be disappointed. Also, we have heard that some of the vendors would claim to be anyone, including Kak Sham so you’ll have to be careful. Use the picture below as a guide to Aunty Sham’s stall and look for the banner, ‘Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru Kak Sham’.

Bubur Lambuk Warisan Kampung Baru Kak Sham. Her stall is on the second from right from the Jalan Raja Alang – Jalan Raja Abdullah crossroad. It’s right in front of the carpark of Al-Islam Hospital and is on the opposite side of the road from the Kampung Baru Mosque. Please click for a bigger and better image.

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Ramdhan Mubarak to all Muslims! Alhamdulillah, the holy month of Ramadhan is back with us and once again, vendors flock the streets around the Kampung Baru Mosque to sell the much loved and awaited iftar delicacy, Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru. Since this special porridge is only available during the month of Ramadhan, hundreds of people from all parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur could be seen lining up to get their share of this delicious dish. Of course, bubur lambuk is given out by many (usually mosques) all over Malaysia but up till now, no other bubur lambuk that I know taste as good as the  Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru from the well-known Masjid Jamek.

Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru

Due to the fact that the Masjid Jamek Kampung Baru is so famous for its ‘bubur lambuk’, the queue at the mosque would be very, very long and some may even have to wait for over an hour for a pack of free bubur lambuk. Those who would rather skip queuing may buy the dish from the many vendors who set up their stalls around the area for about RM2.00 per pack. Unfortunately many were disappointed since the bubur lambuk sold by the vendors taste far different than those given out by the mosque. However, there is one stall that sells the authentic Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru and taste just as good the ones given out by the mosque, ‘Bubur Lambuk Kak Sham’.

Aunty Sham stirring a pot of bubur lambuk

If you have not tried the authentic bubur lambuk Kampung Baru, you should try to get some before Ramadhan ends. Believe me, it is worth the trip especially for those who love bubur lambuk. We stay in Ampang and there are lots of places around our area that give away free bubur lambuk (without us having to queue) but we would still be making our journeys to Kampung Baru for our bubur lambuk; and it has to be Aunty Sham’s, of course. And it is always nice to see the delighted faces of our friends when we send them the delicious bubur lambuk.  If you are a bubur lambuk lover like I am or have never tasted the famous Bubur Lambuk Kampung Baru before, try to queue at the Masjid Jamek for a pack or just drop by at Aunty Sham’s stall which is opposite the mosque and you would surely be back for more. Aunty Sham’s stall is located in front of the Al-Islam Specialist Hospital.

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The yet to be crushed ginger and cinnamon. On the left is the traditional Malaysian pestle and mortar

There is nothing better than indulging myself to a warm cup of ginger and cinnamon tea after a long day of hard work. Only a whiff of the tea is enough to make me craving for a sip of this wonderful and aromatic tea. The aromatic and spicy flavour of ginger together with the sweet and warm taste of cinnamon blends wonderfully with that unique aroma of tea resulting a drink that is so flavourful and heavenly delicious. And the best part is, not only that the tea is so tasty but it is also loaded with tremendous medicinal benefits!

Cinnamon is known for its ability to improve blood circulation and the effectiveness of insulin which plays a role in lowering blood sugar and bad cholesterol level; while antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-clotting and anti-nausea are some of the many medicinal properties of ginger. And black tea has a good amount of antioxidant too! For a ‘spicier’ taste, I sometimes add some cloves which is an excellent source of manganese to the brew.

The result of the 'crushing' process.

The result of the 'crushing' process.

Every once in a while (since I am not that eager to crush the spices), I would prepare the ginger and cinnamon tea for both my mom and I. The process is not that hard actually, but I find grinding cinnamon quite tiring especially to avoid the pieces of cinnamon from ‘jumping’ all over the kitchen. While mom loves her tea the way it is, I prefer mine with a richer taste of milk. Since ginger and cinnamon tea has a unique blend of taste, it goes best without sugar which is all the better for your health!

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My homegrown beansprout

Like many others who live in the city, we only have a small garden. Actually, it never did cross my mind of how small our garden is, until we decided to plant our own organic vegetables three years ago. Is there any herb or vegetable that can be grown without taking too much space for the city folk?

Last week, Mom soaked a bowl of green beans overnight for her ‘bubur kacang’. Anyway she was so busy the next day that she forgot all about them after straining the beans into a colander. The next day she found that her bowlful of green beans had grown tiny roots. So, instead of cooking them, she gave me the beans for my “experiments’.

And I decided to grow beansprout. I found out that growing green beans into beansprouts is certainly very easy. All I did was running tap water over the colanders (with the beans) every 4-6 hours or so. Don’t try to move the beans/seedlings around with your hands (you may feel tempted to do so, but you may pull out their roots). Put a plate under the colander to collect the water dripping from the colander.

The green beans had grown tiny roots! 😀

In a few days, the roots will be long enough to reach out of the colander into the plate of water below it. Even at this stage, I still ‘water’ the sprouts but I suppose you could leave it on its own. Another thing to remember is not to put too much beans in one colander. When that happens, the beans on the top couldn’t get enough water while the beans at the bottom may rot.

Roots growing out of the colander

Another good point in growing beansprouts is that you can plan when to start growing them so that the beansprout will be really fresh when needed. Soak the beans overnight about 5 days ahead and they should be ready to be harvested on time. And trust me, fresh home grown beansprouts are so tasty, crunchy and without that ‘commercial beansprout smell’ that even I who never like beansprouts before ate loads of them.

Fresh, homegrown, organic beansprout in mum's delicious fried noodle.

So with the price of vegetables rising up and the concern of the high level of chemical contamination in our vegetables, it will be a very good idea to grow our own vegetables. And if space is a problem, try growing beansprouts; you can even grow them in your apartment balcony, kitchen or even in your dining room! It is really cheap and easy while the result is absolutely wonderful. Maybe I should start a business selling tasty, fresh, home-grown, organic  beansprouts … after all fresh, organic vegetables can fetch a good price in today’s market!

Ready-for-harvest beansprouts (shoots)

Ready-for-harvest beansprouts (roots)

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