Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Drinks for your guests

There's an old Arab verse that my late grandfather used to say which goes,
"When guest comes over for a visit, serve them 'sherbet' (cool drink) if you want your guest to leave quickly. They will drink and leave immediately. However, if you want your guest to stay, serve them tea, they drink and chat, and friends will become family."
I grew up practising the Irish or rather the Arab way, then went on the the American way in my younger days when guest are just dropping by or on rushing off to another place.
Now as I get older and guests and friends are more relaxed, they visit and sit down for chats, there's always hot tea or coffee, with copious amount of water for them. On hot days, there's extra cold drinks too. And I always ask their preference, hot or cold drink or water at least. Plus if they are lucky, the next meal will be at my place too 😉
Gosh, I am turning into my grandfather!


In Ireland, you go to someone's house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you're really just fine. She asks if you're sure. You say of course you're sure, really, you don't need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don't need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn't mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it's no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don't get any damned tea.

I liked the Irish way better.
~CE Murphy, Urban Shaman

“Tea” Mixed Media Drawing on Antique Dictinary Page" by Kristy Patterson Flying Shoes Art Studio (etsy.com/shop/flyingshoes)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Khai Jeow Cha Om & Pla Too with Namprik Kapi

Khai Jeow Cha Om & Pla Too with  Namprik Kapi (Acacia Omelette &Mackerel with Shrimp Paste Dipping Sauce)



'Cha om' is a mimosa-like leaves of the acacia shrub. It has a very distinctive smell and flavor, much like a very mild 'petai' (stinky bean). It's often made into omelette, though you can also make a simple stir-fry with shrimp and chili paste.


I first encountered 'cha om' at a Hatyai market over a decade ago. I actually mistook it for fern tips, so I bought home two huge bundle as the lady was selling it for almost a song. The whole journey home I was grumbling that someone must have bought a lot of 'petai' and it's stinking the whole bus, little did I know it was the bundles by my feet!

Upon reaching Penang and realizing that it's not fern tips after all, I decided to consult my grand aunt Maryam who's a Thai on how to best cook 'cha om'. She suggested making omelette, in stirfry and also  Kaengsom, a sour Thai curry.

A few years later I found that there's actually a 'cha om' plant at the Pasir Mas home. My MIL told me that they used to eat this raw with sambal, but not many do these days. I tried to harvest some, but it's just too hard as the shrub is tall and full of thorns. And stripping the leaves tip from the main stalk left my hands full of bloody pricks.

Since then I have not come across this vegetable in any market here in Malaysia at all, until last Thursday at the market. 

The omelette is quite easy and quick to make. Add chopped 'cha om' tip to beaten eggs, season with fish sauce and a tiny bit of sugar. Fry the omelette in copious amount of hot oil, the traditional Thai way.

The shrimp paste dipping sauce, which very much like the Malaysian 'sambal belacan' is similarly made by pounding fermented shrimp paste, Thai bird's eye chili, garlic, shallot and palm sugar in a pestle and mortar, finishing it with lime juice.


Serve Cha Om Omelette and Namprik Kapi with fried or grilled mackerel, salted egg along with fresh and blanched vegetables.

#athenecooks #thaifood #traditionalthaidish #chaomomelette #namprikkapi #KhaiJeowChaOm #shrimppastedippingsauce #cookingfromscratch #cleaneating #southeastasiancooking #simplefood #30minutemeals

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Nasi Ulam Utara

The lady that I usually get my Asian herbs at the market makes 'nasi ulam' herb bundles every Friday. Each bundle consist of fifteen different herbs, half of which I am not familiar with. Of course I couldn't resist getting one, seeing how fresh and fragrant they are.
Even though I grew up eating 'nasi ulam' whenever I visit my mom's sister, it's not a dish I've made before. I am in fact more familiar with the east coast style of rice salad, the 'Nasi Kerabu', which I learned to make from my mother in law and have even taught during my classes.

So a couple of days ago I made my very first ever 'Nasi Ulam Utara' with the herb bundle I got from the market, plus about a dozen more herb and spices from my kitchen garden. We even made 'kerisek' from scratch and fire-grilled the 'ikan talang masin' before pounding it in a pestle and mortar.

Can't believe it was such a big hit, we made two huge bowls and everyone went for seconds and thirds. Personally I think I need a few more practice run to get the flavor right. Looks like we will be having this quite often now.