Category Archives: food

Rice To The Occasion Of The Full Moon

Make it yellow, sticky and lemak. And don’t forget the Curry Chicken, please.  Folks, remember the Nasi Kunyit of old? 

Long before pathetic western cakes became incomprehensibly (to me, at least) fashionable, the successful completion of the first month on Earth for a baby was celebrated with the preparation and serving of Nasi Kunyit – which is steamed glutinous rice, laced with santan and colored with turmeric, and stuffed with some pepper corns.

When eaten with thick Chicken Curry ( I preferred to add a little fine sugar), it was scrumptiously yummy yum yum!  Of course at that time carbophobia was not yet invented, so no one was worried nor had any guilt-hangovers!

I remember that Nasi Kunyit was also a favorite serving on other festive occasions – as and when there was reason to get “high” other than Full Moons.

She Sells Seashells From The Seashore

Looks like I have just given the old tongue twister a new twist!

In the days of my youth, some of my neighhours would go to the sea shore (only about 15 mins’ walk) early in the morning, often with their children, to dig for Siput Remis.  Back then, there was an abundance of these shelled creatures, and so an hour or two of enthusiastic excavation could yield a couple of baskets of these delicious seafood.

Now and then, the children would be sent from house to house in the village to sell the excess Siput harvests.  “Siput, Siput” was their call.  I remember a cigarette tin or a condensed milk tin full of the siput cost 5 sen.  Stir-fried with black soya sauce, ginger and some sugar, these tasted heavenly.

Ikan Kekek Enak, I Like I Like

Haha, my version of the classic childhood song.   Either crispy deep-fried in oil or cooked in simple soup with pieces of ginger, this smallish (about 3 inches x 3 inches) plain-looking fish was a delight, guaranteed to make one polish off an extra plate of rice.

As kids we “fought” over the ultimate prizes — the roe that came in little balls about 1 cm in diameter, slightly flattened.  The poor man’s caviar !

Haiz, I have not seen nor tasted this ikan kekek for at least 3 decades now. Am not sure if it is just not available in Singapore or that it has been hunted to extinction. Maybe I have not searched hard enough.  What to do ?  As consolation, I just go to YouTube and search out the familiar music – tak dapat makan dengar pun jadi !

Really pathetic lah, I.

Fry Your Own Cuttlefish

For Penang Chinese womenfolk, mastery of the classical Jiu Hu Char was one of the requisites that maketh a bonafide homemaker.  If a wife failed in that skill, she would probably be retrenched and served fried cuttlefish — 被炒鱿鱼.  Just kidding.

When my mum was around I used to help her,  slicing the “mengkuang” and red carrots into thin sheets and then further into fine strips (these days we use a shredder). With added strips of meat, mushrooms, onion, and of course, fine slivers of dried cuttlefish,  and then stir-fried with some bean paste….hmm,  the  final mesh of supreme savory delight was sure to send taste buds quivering in sensational expectation.

Better still was to have a handful wrapped in raw lettuce laced with sambal belacan — rasanya betul2 meletup !

Baking Was A Tin Of The Past

Prior to 1965 or so, no one in our neighbourhood had a proper oven of any kind.  But plebeian resourcefulness kicked readily.

An empty kerosene tin was all we needed.  One face was cut away to form a nice rectangular tank.  Fine sand (from the beach nearby) was used to fill about one-third of the tin to form an even heating bed.

For the topside heating , a piece of old sheet metal with plenty of glowing charcoal was placed over the kerosene tin.  And Voila, our Oven !

Admittedly, this contraption was quite susceptible to mood swings.  Often,  the cakes turned out looking like Mt Fujiyama, some others resembled the Table Mountain of South Africa, or worse, macam Lake Toba.  Bad recipes, perhaps.

No problem lah, we just opened our mouths big big — eat lah !

The Winner Takes It All

It was a small oval-shaped “fruit” with a slightly pointed end and covered with a dark-brown velvety shell. The inside was a golden brown pulp that was rather sour, but tasty.  Plentiful during my primary school days, when it was sold in newspaper cones at the school tuckshop. I believe it is called Buah Keranji.

But the main event was slugging it out.  One would choose a “champion” buah, and then challenge an opponent with his “champion”.   The two buahs were butted against each other until one of them cracked open.  The loser would then be taken by the winner.

In the event that the opponent lost three times in a row, he had to give his whole packet of buah to the winner.   Those were the days of fun.

Planta of The Poor Man’s Butter

We, the poor kampong kids, relished on the slightly saltish, rich smooth taste of the yellow greasy stuff that we spread on our roti.  Added a small sprinkle of fine sugar, and wow that was a wonderful breakfast treat.   Of course, there was always that big pot of hot black coffee to turbocharge the oomph for the morning.

Butter was beyond our reach, but to us PLANTA was the “goo ewe” (牛油 – minyak lembu).  Of course these days, margarine has been vilified and many folks have been cowed into the butter camp.   Good or bad, we did not know, but when one was poor, there was no time to think.  Just opened one’s mouth big big and makan lah !

Photo shows the packaging design of the late 50s~early 60s.  Nostalgic !