Behind the scenes with Chef Nuril
CHEF and restaurateur Nurilkarim Razha has a new job: hosting food documentary The Local Kitchen, which travels across Malaysia looking for obscure local ingredients.
His challenge lies in whipping up delicious dishes using these ingredients – with a little Nuril twist.
Take kepayang fruits, for example.
Traditionally used in asam pedas or sambal, the kepayang fruit is delicious in dishes or on its own as a snack.
But Nuril decided to make KFC – Kepayang Fried Chicken – instead, with some cemang on the side. So we decided to find out why.
You’ve given kepayang and cemang quite a twist. Why is that?
Nuril: Well, The Local Kitchen aims to help people familiarise themselves with these obscure ingredients. So I decided to make fried chicken, because everybody loves fried chicken! Also, we had to sell my dish in the local night market, and fried chicken is a very popular dish there.
What was the inspiration behind your recipe?
Kepayang goes best with delicate-tasting meat and the rural part of Pahang, where we shot the episode, didn’t have many meat options. It’s too far from the sea to have seafood, for example. But it did have a lot of lovely fresh kampung chicken, so that’s what I went with.
My inspiration for the cemang recipe came from chatting with the locals. They told me how they eat cemang – thinly sliced and fried with salt. To them, it’s a snack.
So I took that idea and jazzed it up a bit with shallots, turmeric and chilli, turning it into a supplementary vegetable dish. And voila!
What were the challenges that lay in prepping this dish?
A tonne of work goes into preparing kepayang – and I’m not even talking about the actual cooking. The kepayang needs to be soaked in water for at least 24 hours to remove any last traces of toxicity, rid it of its muddy taste and soften the hard shell. Luckily, that was prepped for us before we arrived, but we still had to cook them the Pahang way, which involved charring the fruits. We sat up all night grilling them, and then we had to pound the flesh into powder! It’s incredibly labour-intensive, but the results were so worth it.
Most importantly, how can we get our hands on these ingredients?
Ready-cured kepayang is sold in Jerantut and near Taman Negara. In places like Chow Kit and Melaka, you can find them in markets, sold as buah keluak. Cemang, however, is a little trickier. If you can’t find any for sale, you could always replace it with chestnuts or buah jering (jering bean), or anything that’s a little starchy but can hold its shape while you cook.