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Malaysian Cooking News, Issue #001 -- Submit your Funny Cooking Stories!
January 09, 2008

Greetings from Pickles and Spices World!

I am Nazlina, your cook from Penang, Malaysia. I am passionate about our Malaysian food. The varieties are endless and they all taste really good. In this first issue, I would like to tell you some stories, some facts and legends regarding Malaysian religious celebrations and I also have a few health tips for you.

I hope you would enjoy reading my articles.

Story about Chef Wan

Most of us are inspired to try new recipes or methods of cooking after watching a celebrity chef on TV made a demo how easy it was to cook this and that. We forgot that bloopers that happened to make the show a success are rarely broadcast on air. I want to share a story with you which happened ten years ago on Redang island (1998).

Chef Wan was shooting a series of traditional Malay Terengganu dishes on the island. He stayed at Coral Redang Island Resort, where I was running my dive center at that time. He's a funny guy. Talking non-stop. Making us clutching our side with laughter with his slapstick comedy and impromptu gift of gab.

The editor of the show complained to me that she hated to have to edit Chef Wan's show because he talked too much and it was hard to maintain continuity to make the episode run smoothly.

One of the Terengganu Malay cakes that he was making was called "Kuih Akak". It is a kind of dropped scones made with plenty of eggs and molasses. The trick to make beautiful kuih akak is to make sure that the eggs were beaten briskly by hand inside a clay bowl.

The batter is then ladled into a copper mold and cooked over charcoal and coconut fibre fire.

Buckets after buckets of kuih akak batter were beaten BUT none of them came up fluffy as they should! Finally, until the last supplies of eggs were exhausted, Chef Wan managed to make five pieces of kuih akak rise to the occassion.

Phew! See, the eggs had no respect even for a celebrity chef!

I was not sure what went wrong. My guess was the quality and freshness and the eggs were suspect.

Anyway, it was a good laugh. Imagine, Chef Wan sitting cross legged on the beach sand for hours, maintaining his trade mark smile and grins, so that the viewers can learn how to make a traditional Terengganu Malay cake.

If you have your own funny or memorable stories about cooking, please do submit your story to my spicy forum:

Celebrity chef and Food at the school canteen ---------------------------------------------

So, who is your favourite celebrity chef? My vote at this time would be Jamie Oliver. Isn't he a sweetie? I particulary like and admire his effort to make sure the school canteens in the UK are serving good healthy food for the children.

*THAT* is what all famous people should do: to use their popularity to badger the government to give out the grant so that the children grow up healthy and strong by eating better food rather than the fast food junk commonly available nowadays.

Our local school canteens food leave a lot to be desired by contrast. That is why it is good for us, to prepare home-made food for our children to bring to school. When I was in primary school, every morning my mother me supplied me with a square Tupperware container filled with fried bee hoon or sandwiches or nasi lemak. My school allowance was only 20 sen and it could buy me with a cup of syrup and a packet of nasi lemak!

Awal Muharram (Muslim New Year)

One of the advantages of being a Malaysian is that we are blessed with numerous multi-cultural and religious celebrations throughout the year.

The first Public Holiday (after the New Year) to hit the country is Awal Muharram (10th January 2008). One of the traditional sweets that is served on that day is called Bubur Asyura. It is a sweet stew made with a mix of pulses, nuts and even meat. Legend has it that when Prophet Mohammed moved to Madina from Mecca, his followers (called the Muhajirin) were welcomed by the natives of Medinah (called the Ansar).

Arab hospitality commanded that the guests would be served with whatever the hosts were eating. Since the exodus almost exhausted the food supply, bubur ashyura was created. Each household donated a handful of grains, pulses or meat that they had and everything was cooked in a huge communal pot.

In Malaysia, of course this stew is modified to suit the local taste. We put in coconut milk and also palm sugar. Some people prefer to add some corn flour or rice flour to make the stew harden and therefore can be poured in a flat tray and cut into pieces.

Some prefer the liquid stew, it is rich and thick with many types of nuts and also bananas!

I always love to have this delicious treat once a year. Too much, of course, is not healthy for you.

Talking about health, all of you must remember about the shortage of cooking oil at the local grocery stores early this year. This created a small ripple of panic throughout the people. Why oh why must we be panicky? Isn't is a good thing that there is a shortage of cooking oil? We would use less oil in our food, the craving for char koay teow and fried chicken would be weaned off.

Malaysian food are not necessarily good if they are only deep fried. We have plenty of other delightful dishes and delicacies which can be prepared by baking, roasting, braising and steaming . Think dim sum, steamed fish, kuih pau, tom yam and roast chicken.

Here is a recipe for simple but delicious steamed chicken rice:

We don't really need cooking oil to prepare delicious food, do we?

Join a Thaipusam Tour in Penang

After Awal Muharram, we have the Hindu religious festival of Thaipusam. This is the day when devotees would visit the main temples and perform certain rituals or give thanks to the deities for fulfiling their wishes.

A friend of mine, Mr. Chandra and his wife, Pearly Kee are organizing a personal Thaipusam tour this year in Penang. It lasts for two days. Please visit this link for further detail.

What does Thaipusam have in relation with food? Plenty! This is the time when everyone is welcome to the temple to eat. The kind of food served would be totally vegetarian. I understand that those who are going to carry the kavadis are required to observe strict vegetarian diet for a period of time prior to performing the rituals.

According to the visitors who had the opportunity to eat at the temples there, the food served are Indian curries and very very delicious. I bet it should be if the cooks are especially flown in from India for the special day.

Chinese New Year Celebration 2008

Come February, the year of the Rat in Chinese calender will start. All Chinese ladies are now busy already preparing for the big day. New clothes? Newly renovated house? Lotsa cookies and cakes?

Whatever it is, please feel free to check out my recipe for pineapple tart. It is a melt in the mouth varieties not to be missed to usher in prosperity and good luck.

This will wrap up my first issue of Malaysian Cooking News. Let me know what you think about this first issue. Do contact me for suggestions, questions or to voice out any concern.

Till next time!

best wishes,
A Unique Outlook from a Malaysian Cook.

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