Be­hind the scenes with Chef Nuril

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste -

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.

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