I’m not sure about you guys, but I’ve had many a moments when I was trying out some dish at a restaurant or diner and immediately told myself, “Man, I’ve gotta cook for myself a pot of that!” This classic oxtail stew is basically one of the very many “recipe cracking” episodes I have of late. Thankfully, this is very simple and rustic food to begin with and thus, very forgiving. The ingredients are also fairly straightforward , all clearly “observable” against the rather clear soup base. The latter I thought, was interesting as most of the oxtail stews I’d had, some of which I’d featured on my blog here and here are more richly coloured. Everything is conveniently cooked in one pot, my trusty Le Creuset round casserole, most of the time in the oven. No fuss at all!
最近听一位名人说过， 十二岁之前的味蕾能够永久记录下当时对食物的印象，化作永恒的回忆， 这可能就是我们长挂在嘴边的“古早味”或“老味道”。而在我十二岁之前，记忆里的味道，不是学校食堂所贩售的小吃，就是妈妈和外婆所烹煮的那一道道美味的家常菜。 即便走过大江南北，尝过各种异国风情，享受过多样美食飨宴，但至今让我最怀念的，就是家常菜的味道，也就是妈妈的味道。
I’d been neglecting my blog for the past 2 months or so, but I haven’t been neglecting my kitchen, my cooking and my kueh making at all. In fact, quite a number of events have unfolded during the course of this short “hiatus”, which includes a hanami trip to Tokyo which I’ll be blogging about (hopefully) soon. I also started my own blog page on Facebook where I would be concentrating on for a while, so please follow me there for the latest updates on my blog and what I am doing if you have not already done so. By the way here’s the link- http//www.facebook.com/travellingfoodiesblog/. I also made my first baby step into the F&B industry by kickstarting a small home-run catering service of kuehs and other delectables, which I’ll be talking about more in near-future posts. But most, most, most importantly, I was given the exciting opportunity of being involved in the production of a new Mandarin TV variety-cum-cooking program called 弹指间的料理 “Touch-Screen Cuisine”!
There are many dishes which one can immediately draw parallelism to Peranakan culture, signature dishes which form the core of what is understood by many as “Straits Chinese cuisine” today. Babi Pongteh, Sambal Jantong Pisang, Ikan Gerang Asam, Kuah Hee Pio or even simple day to day dishes like Telor Tempra and Pong Tauhu just to name a few. But the one true dish which is quintessentially Peranakan must surely be Ayam Buah Keluak. It is THE one dish which many have heard of, being curious about, tried before and perhaps can even relate to. I’d wrote about it twice on this blog, here and here, and also a masterclass I’d attended before out of curiosity, not to mention talk about it on countless occasions, so here is it again, a refresher discussion on this “ambassador dish” that bridges and opens the gateway for anyone who seeks a more in-depth understanding into the culture.
Ikan Gerang Asam is one of the first Peranakan dishes, or what is known to the babas and nyonyas as “laok embok” I’d “learnt” to cook when I was young, after getting to know the tricks to frying sunny sideups with runny yolks and crispy edges for telor tempra and braising tauyew bak until the collagen-packed babi sam cham become wobbly soft that is. “Cooking lessons” were never formal or formative, save for the times when I was taught how to use a “pisoh chye toh” , a Chinese cleaver that is, to do a wondrous list of things with it, to potong, to iris, to bukak, to persiang, to kupair a wide variety of ingredients. Otherwise it was always learning through observing how my mum and grandma worked around the kitchen while helping out with the tasks along the way and of course tasting the yummy dishes they’d prepared. And it was the same with “learning” to cook Ikan Gerang Asam”…
This is one of my favorite dishes to cook. The sauce is so flavourful, one would probably find it too salty to be eaten on its own. But I can down two plates of rice just with it and nothing else. It is usually cooked with regular tamarind, but when the belimbing trees are fruiting wildly in my estate, we turn to these sourish morsels instead for the job, for a salivating-worthy plate of Babi Asam Belimbing.
Don’t let your eyes deceive you. This is not the much coveted rempah udang, a Peranakan cuchi mulot which is a favorite amongst non-Peranakans as well. These are fashioned to look like rempah udang, the glutinous rice is coloured and cooked just like that in rempah udang, the wrapping is done exactly as how one would make rempah udang. So what is it that sets what you see in the photo apart from the real McCoy? Some of you would have guessed it by now, it is the filling…instead of using an “inti rempah udang“, I’d used a portion of the sambal lengkong I made just before Chinese New Year. It tastes vastly different from the inti used in rempah udang, but I assure you that it is no less delicious!