When we were young, many weekends were spent at my grandma’s where my aunts and cousins would gather as well. I remember particularly looking forward to following my mum go back to her mum’s place for several reasons. Firstly, we got to take a cab! Grandma used to stay a distance from us and visiting her meant long bus journeys, not to mention changing feeder buses at the interchange. It was the pre-Translink card days without travelling rebates so given our family of four, taking a cab seemed the most logical thing to do. Those were the days of the yellow-top black taxis with rickety doors which needed a hard slam to close properly but I enjoyed the rides simply because the taxis had air-con! Secondly, grandma doted on us grandchildren down to the dribbles and drips, often having snacks prepared for us already which we got to eat upon our arrival. She would also secretly stuff our pockets with money behind our parents’ back! Being the eldest grandson, I was often assigned to run errands for her at the sundries shop just next block. I bought an assortment of things for her, from ingredients like eggs or flour which ran out on the last minute while preparing certain dishes, to her cigarettes. I loved it when she asked me to buy things for her because that meant I could keep the spare change! Knowing this, my cousins would sometimes offer to tag along, and this was when we would make a quick detour to the nearby playground to play with the slides, swings or see saw! Finally, I loved visiting Grandma when I was young because she was such a wonderful cook. With the help of my mom and aunts, Grandma’s kitchen came alive every Sunday afternoon as the women chatted vivaciously and exchanged the weekly gossips, usually about other family friends and relatives, or about the latest TV and movie film stars, while dinner preparations went on for the weekly feast. Popular dishes on the dining table which we all enjoyed were Tee Tor Tng, Chap Chye, Kari Ayam, Tau Yew Bak, Ikan Chuan Chuan, Ayam Char but our absolute favorite which everyone loved had to be Grandma’s Ngoh Hiang.
My dad bought home another loaf of roti peranchis aka “jiam tao lor dee” thinking that there would still be leftovers of the delicious kari ayam cooked from Madam Goh Kim Gek’s wonderful recipe. Well, there was probably like 2-3 pieces of potato, a few morsels of chicken and barely half a bowl of kuah left. Yes most of it has been savoured and devoured over the first loaf, not to mention the bee hoon puteh goreng which he cooked himself for dinner the night before to enjoy together with the curry chicken. If only I’d cooked a bigger pot. I promised him I’ll do so next time as he enjoyed the kari ayam tremendously. What to do with the leftover roti peranchis then? Good to make some Roti John with it!
I had been thinking…what was probably my first impression of Japanese food which I’d gotten to known when we were young? Was it sushi? Was it sashimi? Hmm,I don’t think so… Was it Katsudon or Oyakodon? I think I only got to know about these in my late teens. So what was it exactly?
I vividly remember 2 programmes that were shown when I was young, a time when NHK invaded our local TV. It was 阿信 Oshin for the adults, especially mothers and grandmothers who would pause amidst making family dinner and become all thoroughly absorbed into the life of the little Japanese girl in this Japanese drama epic, only to return to the stove and vegetables all teary. For us kids then, it must have been Doraemon, that big-headed blue creature which I only got to know as a cat very much later. Japanese popular culture seem to be particularly fond of cats, albeit somewhat physically challenged, since Doraemon is without ears and just when you thought that was weird, Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth. Jokes aside, Doraemon was so immensely popular at that time with every boy and girl was able to hum the theme song despite not knowing a word in Japanese. And of course with Doraemon, dorayaki became also widely known to us as a popular Japanese snack. But it was only until much later that we’d gotten to know what it tasted like!
Kueh Dadar, is yet another popular ” nyonya kueh” snack which many of us grew up eating. Better known as “Kuih Ketayap” or simply “Kuih Tayap” this snack of Malay origin was part of the “3 for $1” assortment of kuehs available at pasar malam stalls especially at the raya bazaar during the Ramadan fasting month. While my mum would take the opportunity to shop and browse for new curtains, cushion covers etc, I would just “jalan jalan” along with her and my aunties munching on kueh dadar and other snacks. My cousins and I would deliberately choose different kuehs so that we would have a much larger range which we could share amongst ourselves than when we would be able to have it on our own. I remember fondly how we bellowed in exclamation, shouting at each other in our colloquial tongue “Eh, not fair lah! I also never eat so big piece from yours hor!” as we took turns to munch on each other’s kueh, screaming at each other for taking bites purportedly larger than what we had previously taken from the each other’s stash. All part of the fun of growing up!
Essentially a rolled up crepe with grated coconut filling cooked in coconut sugar, they are no longer available at that kind of prices anymore of course. In fact what one has to pay for these delectable morsels of sweet and rich kuehs have escalated so much especially over the last couple of years make me wonder if I should even buy them outside anymore. Yummilicious yes but wallet damaging… hence began my experimentation on making these kuehs on my own, starting with my favorite ondeh ondeh and my mum’s favorite kueh lapis. Unlike traditional peranakan or malay cooking which may ask for a wide variety of components especially in the making of the rempah, i.e. spice paste, nyonya kuehs usually require only a small handful of ingredients making them much more approachable. Hence I’d made a few videos as part of a tutorial guide for this lovely snack which I enjoy very much, in hope that you too like me, would begin your journey of making nyonya kuehs on your own.
A very no-frills meal to prepare at home when I run out of ideas to cook. The preparation + cooking time is about 30 min!
Ingredients are very simple too!
(1) Pasta elbows aka “macaroni” in this part of the world we live in. The amount can be varied according to the size of the baking dish, one’s dietary needs and most importantly, one’s appetite!