My Grandmother's legacy - Sat 19th October
Post date: 29-Sep-2013 23:14:06
My mother and her cousin John are the only 2 of their extended Malaysian family living in the UK. They grew up together in the same house in Malaysia. My Grandmother and John's dad were brother and sister; she had 3 daughters and he 4 sons, all about the same age. My grandmother's domain was the kitchen - she was in charge of feeding the whole household, which at one point was up to around 25 people and even more at times like Chinese New Year, when the whole extended family would appear to enjoy her cooking.
Luckily for her, she didn't have to go to the market and lug back the heavy trolley of food I have to for every supperclub. No, she had The Van Man. The Van Man (as my mother remembers he was called) used to pass by the house almost daily with choice ingredients from the local market. No doubt a household such as ours was lucrative - and fairly wealthy - so probably we were an early stop on his route. He had vegetables, fish, pork, chicken and fruit, and would drive right into the garden and sell it there under the spreading guava tree. I expect my grandma put on her orange wooden clogs that always waited outside the kitchen door, and stepped out onto the dewy grass every morning to barter with him.
Grandma's cooking was legendary - she could cook an enormous repertoire of things, even dim sum and traditional Malaysian "kuih", cakes made with rice, coconut and palm sugar, which are normally made by specialists. We had a family curry powder and they would buy kilos of whole spices and take it all to the miller to be milled and packed into any spare container going; to this day it often appears in squash bottles and old Nescafe jars.
So it was no wonder when my mother and Uncle John left home, they missed home cooking. Uncle John first came to boarding school in this country, but stayed on and soon found himself an English wife. My mother said that it was trying to impress Debbie that encouraged him to improve his cooking. My mother also married an Englishman and so my grandmother visited the UK a few times with my parents. When she was here, John would hang around, trying to learn favourite dishes. Grandma used to bring him curry powder. Mummy was luckier - she was living in nearby countries and could visit home often. But both learnt their Malaysian cooking from my grandmother. And I have to say that John's cooking is pretty impressive nowadays!
We all met up for a reunion over the summer and the food was so good that I wanted to share it with you. So I asked, and they've agreed to cook a joint supper club with all these great dishes they were showing off.
I'll contribute too so with 3 great cooks you will really have 13 dishes of exceptional Malaysian food. Many of these dishes (curry puffs, kuih talam, acar, banana chiffon cake, gula malacca, our curry) you simply will not find in this country AT ALL and the homestyle ones not outside of a Malaysian home.
Traditional Curry Puffs - these were a very popular snack at home, but the pastry is exceptional and difficult to make. You will not find them in the UK.
Crispy Belly Pork - a very Chinese dish cooked with 5 spice. My favourite dish John cooks!
Mee Hoon - traditional Malaysian rice noodle
Minced beef with belachan - belachan is very Malaysian, a fermented shrimp paste that gives a very rich savoury taste; John's wife Debbie picked this as her favourite
Acar - Nyonya style - sort of curried pickled vegetables. Difficult to describe, impossible to get here, and very good. It's a Chinese-Indian fusion.
Gulai Tumis - a really traditional fish curry with okra, John's is exceptional
Min Chee - this is an odd dish that has colonial influences I think, it's Chinese minced pork but includes potato and croutons and somehow works!
Cauliflower Huan Cheo - sambal (spicy) cauliflower, a huge favourite at the supper club
Lumpa Chin - this fabulously named dish is pork and chicken cooked in soya sauce. Picked by John's daughter as her favourite dish her dad cooks - comfort food at its best!
The family's Chicken Curry - yes that curry powder is still made by my mother's big sister and carried across the world in suitcases
Nyonya Kuih - I also have become a bit of a specialist so I will contribute my ever-popular Kuih Talam, a coconut milk and pandan rice cake, almost impossible to get in this country!
Banana Chiffon cake - this is a real speciality and you will never have had a cake like it. Like a cross between a sponge and a souffle, it will be the lightest cake you ever ate!
Gula Malacca - this is my father's favourite dessert that was traditionally served to colonials after Sunday curry lunch. My grandmother liked to cook him his favourite foods!
The price of this special family meal will be £45 of which £35 will go direct to Medicins Sans Frontieres. Please mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org with bookings!