Culi­nary legacy

Nik’s Kitchen fea­tures typ­i­cal Ke­lan­tanese dishes.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FOOD - By HUN­GRY CATER­PIL­LAR

Nik’s Kitchen fea­tures typ­i­cal Ke­lan­tanese dishes.

NIK’S Kitchen doc­u­ments the culi­nary legacy of the late Tan Sri Datuk Nik Ahmed Kamil’s fam­ily. He was the Ke­lan­tan Men­teri Be­sar in the 1930s, and this col­lec­tion of recipes is from his daugh­ter Nik Esah. She was taught to cook from young, and by the time she was 14 she was cook­ing for the weekly func­tions that her fa­ther hosted.

Nik Esah’s chil­dren Hisham Harun Hashim and Rafi­dah Harun Hashim com­piled their mother’s recipes as a trib­ute to their mother’s cook­ing. Their mother never wrote down her recipes, but she could re­mem­ber them by heart. To pre­serve their fam­ily’s recipes for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, Nik Esah’s chil­dren recorded their mother’s recipes and im­mor­talised them in this cook­book.

The book is a col­lec­tion of menus – with a main course, ac­com­pa­ni­ments, desserts and even drinks. The menu is typ­i­cally Ke­lan­tanese, and all the state’s fa­mous dishes are fea­tured, such as kuzi, nasi da­gang, nasi ker­abu, nasi berlauk, nasi tumpang and lak­sam.

Each menu be­gins with a short in­tro­duc­tion of the main dish and its sig­nif­i­cance to Nik Esah’s fam­ily. The recipes are fam­ily heir­looms, passed orally from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

These are recipes that have stood the test of time, and have been mod­i­fied to suit con­tem­po­rary life­styles. Many dishes and desserts are pre­pared us­ing the mi­crowave oven, to make the cook­ing eas­ier and faster.

It is also ap­par­ent that the dishes in the book are pre­pared of­ten, and by ev­ery­day cooks be­cause the recipes are mostly prag­matic. The list of in­gre­di­ents is not long and finicky, and the method of prepa­ra­tion sim­ple enough.

Ready-pre­pared spice mix­ture is al­ways rec­om­mended. It’s good be­cause no one these days has the time or knowl­edge to blend spice mix­ture, but it also makes some recipes less ac­ces­si­ble to those un­fa­mil­iar with Ke­lan­tanese in­gre­di­ents. Kuzi and kerutub spice mix­ture may be com­mon in Ke­lan­tan, but they are not al­ways eas­ily avail­able else­where.

I man­aged to get kuzi spice mix­ture from Kota Baru and tried out the kuzi ayam recipe. It turned out re­ally well. But I may not be able to cook it again since I can’t get the mix­ture in KL.

Nik Esah has also shared the brand of prod­ucts she prefers to use in her recipes, such as the Cap Wanita curry pow­ders and Heinz tomato soup. Most of these prod­ucts are pop­u­lar, so it’s not too dif­fi­cult to abide by Nik Esah’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

If you are not fa­mil­iar with Malay cook­ing, try­ing out the recipes could be a tad more chal­leng­ing. When I read the recipes, they sounded fa­mil­iar and I quickly re­alised that it’s how my mother gives me in­struc­tions. Cook­ing is sec­ond na­ture to Nik Esah and my mother, and they do not al­ways re­alise that there are steps that need to be ex­plained in de­tail.

I tried the Ta­lam Ubi Kayu, which is pre­pared us­ing the mi­crowave oven.

One of the in­struc­tions given is to cook the santan with a pinch of salt and rice flour. But if you just leave this mix­ture on the stove­top, you’ll get a lump of con­gealed flour. You ac­tu­ally have to stir the mix­ture con­tin­u­ously un­til it thick­ens, but I have no idea what the con­sis­tency should be. I have never made kuih ta­lam be­fore, so I didn’t have prior ex­pe­ri­ence or knowl­edge to fall back on.

I fared bet­ter with the Dag­ing Kari In­dia recipe be­cause I have cooked sim­i­lar cur­ries, and I knew that I needed to cook it till the oil rises and fries the beef. It takes al­most an hour of sim­mer­ing be­fore the beef is ten­der and cooked, and the oil rises to the top.

But as there was no es­ti­mate of cook­ing time given, some­one un­fa­mil­iar with cook­ing curry would have no idea how long to al­low it to sim­mer.

The recipes are not the most thor­ough, but there is still a cer­tain charm about the book be­cause they of­fer a peek into a tra­di­tional Ke­lan­tanese fam­ily’s kitchen. The food pho­to­graphs are good, and the book is neatly laid­out.

All I need now is a Ke­lan­tanese cook whom I can call if I am stumped whilst try­ing out the recipes in Nik’s Kitchen.

De­spite the chal­lenges of doc­u­ment­ing oral recipes and the agak-agak (es­ti­mate) mea­sure­ments that char­ac­terise home cook­ing, I

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