As you should know by now, Nonya or Peranakan is as a cuisine which evolved from the coming together of Chinese (mostly Hokkien) and Malay cuisine cultures. Sometimes, it reflects foreign cultural influences like Portuguese, Dutch and English as well, those being the colonial masters of earlier years. It is also called "Straits Cuisine" as most of the areas where Nonya culture evolved from were port cities like Melaka, Penang and Singapore.
In this recipe, using the tau-chu or soy bean paste is obviously from Chinese cuisine. But what other ingredient marks it out as Nonya? Tamarind paste and ketumbar.
Ketumbar is basically a Malay term for Coriander powder. Technically one should call it serbuk ketumbar, but typically the term alone speaks for itself. Tau chu+ ketumbar + tamarind, and the coming together of this Chinese and Malay paste and spice in this recipe reflects it's inter-cultural roots.
Elsewhere, I have explained at length on how to do a really good pot of this but for a quick dinner, it makes sense to keep it simple. It will still be delicious.
You can opt to use boneless chicken meat, which will cook faster. Use the right sand clay pot, cook the rice just right and you can expect a very good dinner, all done within 30 minutes.
It is now 6.00 pm and you have to prepare for your family of four.
|Fried Batang fish, served here with kecap manis sauce, omelette and rice.|
This is a simple recipe which you can use for your daily dinners.
Fried Batang or Mackerel fish, marinated in turmeric powder was a comfort food in my childhood home. I can also recall it being sold in my Mum's restaurant and canteen.
Over the years, Batang has become more expensive but it is still relatively a cheaper fish to use and is very suited for pan or deep frying as the flesh is firm.
Whether you are serving a whole family or just a dinner for two, this dish is convenient and easy to make.
Note a few tips about fish:
- As long as it is fresh, you won't need to do a lot to make it taste good.
- It keeps well frozen.
- Fish do not need to be marinated for too long. 30 minutes at most.
- Clean your fish thoroughly to remove the blood and scum.
- Fish bones and heads can be used to make stock.
The usual street food dishes like Chicken Rice and Bak Chor Mee perhaps. But are there restaurants selling cooked à la minute Singaporean Chinese dishes, which though Chinese, is not to be confused with Hong Kong influenced eateries like Imperial Treasure or Crystal Jade? Where will you bring them if they want to eat Chinese and local?
Here is where our local Cze Char eateries hold their own ground. It is an interesting SingMa phenomena. The dishes have evolved over the years, adjusting to the local palette and marrying the best of Cantonese cooking with Nonya/Malay influence. On Sunday evenings, Singaporean families will dine at such eateries commonly found at HDB void decks. Many of the recipes on this blog share the same roots.
It is a joy to be able to get back to "community cooking" in this new church I am serving in. As I have said elsewhere, it is a familiar environment that I grew up with where I am very much at home.
We ran the Alpha Introductory Dinner recently and made a decision to offer "home-cooked" dinner. This article serves as cooking notes for myself and the team and I am sure, you will find helpful as well.
As I have recently learned to prepare Nasi Ulam, I thought a Malay or Nonya themed dinner will be nice for the occasion.
I have always noticed the mysterious Nasi Ulam recipe in my late Mum's recipe collection, with the long list of Malay names of "dauns."
And if you check your Nonya cookbooks, including the magisterial "Cooking for the President," (a great cookbook!) you may drop all considerations of making it because at first glance, it sure looks complicated and redoubtable.
"Nasi" means rice and "ulam" means salad. The key is to dial it down to something you will consider making for your daily dinners. Bear in mind that for the humble Malay Kampung home, their Nasi Ulam basically uses herbs and dried seafood that are available off their larder or garden. Sometimes, it is just using leftover herbs. Eat it with some sambal belachan and it will be sedap all the way.