Telur Kesum Kelantan Kampung Cina
Most of us know that Penang, Melaka and Singapore are the three strongholds of Peranakan culture in this region. This not only stems from the long withstanding establishment of the Straits Chinese communities in there three places but more importantly in recent years, the fervent promotion of Peranakan culture by the tourism-related authorities in Singapore and Malaysia. However, the existence of Peranakan culture outside these three places is much much lesser known let alone their culinary heritage. So when I first read about Telur Kesum, a Kelantanese Peranakan dish, it got me very curious.
Unlike the Straits Chinese communities in Penang, Melaka and SIngapore which seek to create their own unique identity that differentiates them from the early local Chinese communities as well as the local Malays and indigenous folks, otherwise more commonly known as the “bumiputeras”, the Kelantanese Peranakans lived alongside Malays adopting the latter’s ways of life and become successfully integrated in it. Calling themselves “kampung cina” (village Chinese), the Kelantanese Peranakans seem categorically dissimilar from the “bandar cina” (Town Cina) with the latter group settling in Kelantan much later than the Peranakans. This is echoed in the historical segregation of “baba-nyonyas” versus “sinkehs” in Penang, Melaka and SIngapore. However unlike the Peranakans in these strongholds, the Kelantanese Peranakans do not set themselves apart from the Malays. They do not resonate much to the notion of being “Peranakan”, which is no more than a label which had been “officially” assigned to them. Creating a label is one thing, imbuing a sense of ownership and identity is another.
Here are some interesting websites on Kelantanese Peranakans which some of you may find interesting. I most certainly did when i first read them from the links provided alongside the recipe for Telur Kesum on Wendy’s blog.
1. Revolusi Malaysia – “Kelantan Chinese is truly Malaysian”
2 UKM research paper – “On Being Peranakan Chinese of Kelantan: embodiment and mistaken ethnic identity”
3. Ezzad Phortographer – “Peranakan Cina Kelantan”
4. Just My Thots – “Kelanatanese Chinese of Peranakan-descent on the Brink of Extinction”
The recipe is simple to follow but calls for quite a number of ingredients. Thankfully I have all of them at home. The flavours of the dish are rather unique. the gravy which thickened with a beaten egg, highly perfumed by the wafts of herby aroma through the use of Vietnamese coriander which is known local as “daun kesum” that gives rise to the name of the dish. Traditionally, budu, a fish sauce made from fermented anchovies is used but typical Thai or even Vietnamese fish sauce is an acceptable substitute and lends a lovely umami to the eggs making them morerish! As with many traditional dishes of Peranakan or Malay origins, the taste is multi-faceted owing to the ingredients used, literally a melting pot of flavours.
Telur Kesum Recipe (adapted from EFood Depot and Kuali as seen in Wendy’s blog)
5-8 hardboiled eggs
1 egg (raw)
1 large piece or 2 small pieces Asam gelugor
125ml coconut milk
10g gula melaka, coarsely chopped
Budu or fish sauce to taste
4-6 sprigs of Vietnamese mint aka daun kesum leaves only, julienned finely.
2 Tbsp oil
Rempah Ingredients – to be blended into a fine paste
7-10 cili kering (dried chilli)
5 bawang merah (shallots)
10g peeled lengkwas (galangal)
10g peeled halia (ginger)
5g peeled kunyit hidup (turmeric)
5g belacan (shrimp paste)
1. Heat wok on medium heat and put in oil, saute the paste until fragrant.
2. Put in water, asam gelugor,Vietnamese mint and coconut milk. Bring it to a boil and reduce to low heat. While waiting for the ingredients to come to a boil, crack raw egg into bowl and beat slightly to break the yolk. Pour beaten egg and quickly but gently stir it around. This tempers the egg into the sauce without causing it to curdle. Let the gravy simmer for 5 min.
3. Meanwhile, prick each hardboiled egg with a toothpick. This allows the sauce to penetrate into the eggs and not merely just coating the surface, thus allowing the flavours to permeate.
4. Add hard boiled eggs to the gravy as well as chopped gula melaka. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes on low heat.
5. Season with fish sauce. Taste and adjust with more fish sauce or gula melaka.
6. Dish up and serve.