實兆遠 Sitiawan is a small town in Perak which is most prominently identified for its Foochow heritage. The Foochow people arrived here from Fujian, China in the early days as workers at the tin mines in Ipoh and Taiping. Better known as “Little Foochow”, it has since become a stronghold in Peninsula Malaysia for the perpetuation of the regional culture which originated from the district in southeastern China, especially the unique culinary legacy of Foochow cuisine.
Most rendangs that I know of are cooked with beef or mutton. Chunks of meat which have been thoroughly cooked through and through from the prolonged simmering to make the meat so tender that it just flakes and crumbles with the slightest pressure from the fork, they are the kind of rendangs which I enjoy tremendously. Chicken rendang, well… I am a bit “iffy” about this. While I love chicken dishes generally, I feel that poultry doesn’t really do full justice to the rich and exuberant sauce concocted through the melange of spices used. I prefer them in curries. Same as rendangs you would say? Though subtle, there are still underlying differences between the two.
I was searching for a fish recipe for Perak when I came across one which uses stingray. Well done, since it is one of my favorite fish! But what I read next struck me as being really weird! Stingray in a rendang, surely that is unheard of! Then again, stingray does have a much more robust texture than other fish varieties so it might just work… Well, only one way to find out!
It had been a long and eventful month for MFF Penang and it is with mixed feelings that it has finally come to an end. The few weeks prior to June was particularly gruelling, having no clue on what to cook and what to present. Like the other MFF events, whipping up dishes for Penang MFF provided an opportunity for me to get to know more, not only about the food in Penang but also the people behind them.
A big thank you to one and all who has taken the time to come up with these delectable dishes. Many of you like Cynthia, Amie, Lena, Phong Hong, Cindy, Doreen, Mary … etc shown great support by whipping up multiple dishes. The event also drew the attention of several Penangites who had expressed interest or shown concern over the authenticity of the dishes prepared. Well, the objective of MFF is to promote the awareness of some of these localised dishes, some of which are already dying in the trade as we speak. While staying true to the originality of the actual dish is important, it is not of utmost priority… at least not for me. What was more important, is the effort put in and willingness to try, despite the need to venturing into unfamiliar and undulating terrain to prepare dishes which one has never tried before, both in cooking and in eating. So kudos to you all! Now you can really say that you’d been there and done that!
This month’s Malaysian Food Fest brings us to Penang! To date, MFF has brought us on a virtual culinary tour to almost all the states in Malaysia. As we come almost to an end of this long journey, it is time for us to pay a long due visit to this beautiful island found on the northern tip of the Straits of Malacca.
“Modern” history of Penang stretches back almost half a millenium ago when it was part of the Kedah Sultanate that was ruled by the Siamese overlords who named the island Koh Maak to mean “Areca nut palm Island” in Thai. Admiral 郑和 Cheng Ho from the Ming Dynasty then pinned this place as 槟榔屿 on his maps, the Chinese equivalent of its Thai name, when his entourage passed through the Malay Peninsula as they set sail for the west. This formed the basis of its name in Malay “Pulau Pinang” which was later anglicised to become “Penang” as we know it today.
I bought quite a number of packets of these coral seaweed last year at a food fair. Touted as “sea bird’s nest“, these wobbly translucent branches immediately caught the attention of many
housewives aunties ladies, thanks to the high content of carrageenan, which has textural properties likening collagen. Well, truth be told, it isn’t the real deal as collagen is found only in animals, specifically vertebrates. But its pretty yummy and I’m sure being a seaweed, it has many beneficial qualities as well!
This month’s Malaysian Food Fest features the local cuisine from Negeri Sembilan, which is known for their liberal use of chili, especially bird’s eye chili aka chili padi by the locals. Like all the other MFFs of other states, I am keen on the look out for unique dishes which are representative of that region. Negeri Sembilan was no exception. Through Wendy, I came across daun puding, commonly grown for ornamental plant for their beautfiul shades which the foliage manifest in, from mauve to maroon. Spent the whole month looking for it in Singapore but to no avail. Apparently not that common in Singapore. And just as this month’s event reaches its closing, I finally found a small patch of it within walking distance from where I reside. But I was kind skeptical as plant I saw did look kinda different from the others over the internet. Not wanting to risk having sakit perut or worse, cirit-birit I abandoned the idea of cooking rendang out of it. I settled for something less exotic, but no less delicious, Rendang Daging Rembau.
A long overdue attempt, barely making it in time as Malaysia Food Fest Kedah & Perlis Month is just days to closure. Been a “busy” month planning for our pigout sessions during our trip to Taipei (yes! expect more reviews on Taipei patisseries to come!), and then the actual week-long trip itself, followed by a post-holiday withdrawal period. Anyway, enough of my ranting! Sometime back during our regular chats, I asked my dear friend, Wendy from Table for 2 or more, the organiser of this monthly online event on what she felt is a dish which is least likely to be attempted this month. Laksa Belut Perlis is an almost immediate reply, probably because of the lack of accessibility to freshwater eels for many. Lucky for us here in Singapore, they are available in some of our local wet markets. So I took it upon myself to attempt this recipe, which essentially uses “laksa utara” as a base , with the special touch of using belut, freshwater eel as part of its ingredient list.