They say “mum knows best”, so my Mum’s Mum should know a whole lot better, right? Absolutely right.
My late granny was a brilliant cook. She could make the simplest of dishes taste so good. She could prepare you an excellent dish, the same time it takes for us to boil our instant noodles. She would single-handedly prepare an array of 6 to 8 dishes, all perfect, by Aidilfitri/Aidiladha morning when the whole troop of a family gathers at her place.
This woman, was made of solid gold.
So when she left us, all that warm hospitality and authentic home-cooked goodness left us too. See; the thing about most, if not all grannies is, they cook by eyeballing and palm-feeling. I have never, not once, seen her refer to any recipe sheet or measured flour or count the number of tablespoonfuls of milk goes into the mixing bowl.
But two years ago, boy, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a stack of torn-off papers that were severely browning – with most of her recipes briefly written in beautiful cursive scrawlings, and in malay; spellings that’d date back a few scores. (read: ayer, kachang, sa-sudu).
The best (or worst) part was, there were only ingredients and no cooking procedures! Yikes!
Still, I’d gladly share with you the recipes that my Mum and I have “de-coded”, in more posts to come. My late granny is half Thai, so I have plenty of Thai traditional recipes to share!
For this recipe that I’m sharing though; we have actually seen her preparing it for us on many occasions – you see, my Dad was and still is a huge Mee Bandung fan.
For chilli paste:
1 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Coriander Seeds
20 Dried Chillies (clean, boil until it softens)
6 Chilli Padi
1 inch sliced Galangal
2 inch sliced Lemongrass
4 sliced Garlic cloves
4 sliced Shallots
5 sliced Garlic cloves
1 inch sliced Ginger
2 Kaffir Lime Leaves
4 x 2cm Coriander leaf Roots
8 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
1 kg Beef
250 gm Prawns
250 gm sliced Squid
1 chopped fried Tofu (bite-sized)
2 sliced Carrots
Green leafy vegetable of your choice
Yellow Noodle (depending on serving size)
Toast cumin, coriander seeds and shrimp paste. In a mortar (or blender, you choose), add in the chillies, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and toasted spice. Now for those who chose the mortar, pound to your heart’s content!
In a huge cooking pot, sauté the onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies – till the onions are slightly caramelized. Add your made-from-scratch chilli paste and store-bought tomato ketchup into the pot, and sautee till, as Sergeant Mum would constantly remind;
“Tumis sampai naik bau / terbit minyak, kalau tak nanti rasa maung.”
For the benefit of non-Malay friends (though I warn you that translating is not my forte): it is important to ensure that any sautéed paste (rempah) is cooked properly. Basically, it affects the final taste of whatever it is you’re cooking.
Now, introduce your beef to the sautéed paste. Mix it around for a bit, throw in the kaffir lime leaves and coriander leaf roots. Pour in water, bring it to a boil at high heat. After it’s boiled, turn the heat down and simmer until the beef is tender.
Once your beef is done, drag it out of the pool and chop into bite-sized pieces. Pop in the prawns and squids into the broth. Leave your broth boiling to reduce it by about one thirds of the quantity. It should thicken nicely on its own. No thickening agents, please!
Add in your chopped carrots, fried tofu and your yummy little nuggets of beef. Add in salt to taste. Crack the eggs, depending on how many mouths you’re feeding; and leave it poached to your desired perfection.
To serve it- in a separate (smaller) cooking pot, scoop a few ladles of that tasty broth; the beef, squid, tofu and whathaveyou’s. Keep the heat on high. Drop the noodles in to cook it. This step is actually for the noodle to soak in all that flavor off the pain-stakingly prepared broth. Lastly, drop a handful of your greens, and cook for less than a minute. Cmon, there’s got to be some guilt-free ingredients, right? All that effort, in one bowl.
Well worth it because I tell ya, it’ll take your tastebuds for a ride.
Give it a go one of these leisurely rainy weekends; for your family.
A family that eats together stays together. True story.