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Posts tagged “herbs

On the Trail of a Phoenix – Nasi Ulam

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Nasi Ulam, or pronounced as “nasik ulam” in Baba Malay is a classic Peranakan dish which has its roots in Southeast Asian cooking. Comprising of essentially a variety of chiffonaded herbs tossed in steamed fragrant rice, it is painstaking to prepare and thus usually served on “ari besair” during weddings, birthdays or other celebratory events.
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巴生肉骨茶 Klang Bak Kut Teh

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Bak Kut Teh for us has always been a treat since childhood. My family stayed in the Whampoa area when I was a small boy, which is not far from Balestier Road, whose shophouses are dotted with Bak Kut Teh shops, all claiming to be the “most original”, the “most authentic” or the first to set up shop here. Whichever the case, I’d never eaten at any of these Bak Kut Teh joints when I was young because the price was really prohibitive. The cost for a bowl of Bak Kut Teh with rice for one could easily settle dinner for my family of four at the Whampoa Hawker Centre nearby. Moreover, my mum always cook our meals which is more economical, not to mention homely.

Soup is a big thing in our family but usually kept very simple.  It would be cabbage, peanuts or black beans cooked with some chopped pork ribs or lean pork and chicken feet. Once a while, when spare ribs were more affordable and the costs more bearable, my mum would cook Bak Kut Teh, using pre-mixed sachets from the neighbourhood grocery store. So my childhood impression of Bak Kut Teh has always been really peppery and somewhat savory, which I got to know later on as being “Singapore-Teochew Style”. When I learned about the Hokkien style Bak Kut Teh from Klang Selangor, I remember being quite fascinated by it. The idea of a Chinese herbal soup is not alien to us. Mum cooked a variety of traditional soups using Chinese herbs all the time, mostly for their medicinal properties to cure certain minor ailments or boost our “qi“. But the herbs used, together with their beneficial effects, not to mention bitter taste are the key components of the concoction while any meat, be it chicken or pork added to form a broth simply act as a vector. So for the pork ribs to take centrestage and soya sauce subsequently added into a soup, the idea was quite mind-boggling. So when Selangor MFF was announced, I knew I have to try to cook the Hokkien-style Bak Kut Teh, a delicacy which Klang is mostly known for, not only by the locals but also foodies from other states in the Peninsula as well as folks from as far south as Singapore.

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Rosemary and Olive Focaccia

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When it comes to breads, I’d always have a bias for crusty breads to the spongy soft ones. Not that I don’t like the latter of course. Just that to me, the hearty and somewhat earthy qualities, together with the robust textures of a rustic bread have some kinda appeal which soft loaves lack. Its like an entirely different animal together. And of course, the major plus point for a soup and stew lover like me, is how well these breads go with the liquids, lapping up the flavours with ease and soaking in all the goodness with great relish!

Focaccia is one of those rustic breads which has so much character on its own, exuding the heady perfumes of rosemary and garlic infused olive oil. And what more, its a simple and fuss-free bread to make. And here’s a very forgiving recipe for all who are interested to try!

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