Monday, December 09, 2019

Fuad's Bukhari Rice

Thirty years mission accomplished!

I finally am able to make Bukhari Rice almost as good as my father's famous one! 

It all started with a last minute request by my cousin last week, for me to cook dinner for the clan and send it over to Sungai Petani. She was specific, she wanted Bukhari Rice and it has to be with beef, the rest is up to me. I knew I had to make the dish, as my uncle who was unwell really love it. 

Luck has it my regular meat guy closes on Tuesday, and so began the great hunt for beef ribs that took us to 3 markets and 4 butcher shops - apparently Penangites are more into mutton and lambs these days! 

Mama and I, with help from Zz and the two boys made from scratch the Bukhari Rice with beef ribs and briskets, Pan Sheet Grilled Chicken with Gravy, two types of salads and salsa sauce for forty people in under 4 hours. It was really exhausting, but the result was really worth it.

And this time I managed to write down the recipe that has been passed down for many generations verbally, and in 'guesstimate' measurement. Even Mama's versions are hits and misses, most time they don't pass Baba's finicky tastebuds, which can leads to some sulking, but that's another story.

When the whole house started to smell just like when Baba cooks, we knew we have hit jackpot! 

And later when Baba tasted it, I saw in the midst of pride, a moment of sadness in his eyes when he said, "People will not remember me anymore".

I'm glad that it was a success, more so when my Ami Radzi gave me thumbs up and said "Sedap macam selalu" eventhough he was in pain from the cuts and bruises on his face.

Yesterday I recreated the recipe, on my own this time, for 10 people, just for us at home. I'd say I'm almost 80% there. Maybe because I made it with just brisket, hence no deep flavor from rib bones, maybe because I removed most of the oil from the stock, maybe I  added too much orange peel because the orange is too big, maybe because I didn't use the right type of shallots. 

Maybe, mine will never be as good as Baba's, he is after all a legend around here.

Saturday, November 09, 2019


 "If your happiness only depends on positive happenings, you might not be happy that often, because a lot of shit happens as well. Better to base our happiness on more stable factors, such as the constant beauty of nature, the energy of positive vibes and being a good friend to ourselves and others." 

— Sereno Sky, Lonely Traveller

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Nosey Miss Latte

Our little Miss had a little misadventure yesterday. 

We thought the glue traps we set up for the shrew were all very well hidden in the darkest corner under the lowest  cabinet, away from prying whiskers and nosey paws. 

Well apparently we didn't do a very good job, because within minutes of being let out of her 'apartment' Bibik M could hear a commotion out in the living hall. Latte has somehow managed to get one of the trap boards out from the cabinet and have it stuck on her right foot! 

She was struggling to get it off and won't let Bibik M help her, eventually ending up outside my bedroom crying for help while I was in the shower. She finally surrendered to Bibik M who proceed to remove the board from her leg and rub loads of cooking oil to help remove the glue. 

Poor baby was whimpering when Bibik M took her upstairs to me. I applied more oil, let glue 'soak' for another 30 minutes and gave Latte's foot a proper rub with dish washing liquid and gave her a warm bath which she really enjoys and helped her calm down. 

And Bibik M who spoils her worse than I do, waited by her side as she sun bath to dry off fur. 
She appears alright now, just some part of her fur still has some oil residue, hence it looks like she's ungroomed. 

Happy to report that she's back to chewing on our arms and fingers, chasing after her balls as usual, and there's absolutely no problem with her appetite either! 

#sirkitlatte #catsofarariver #shestoosmartforherowngood

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 (

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.


Monday, January 21, 2019

I am a home cook, not a chef

I cringe every time I am addressed as chef, and I will correct everyone who addresses me as such. I know I am not a chef.

Being a chef requires years of training and hard work plus high-level of skills, all those that you'd have to earn. I am very far from that, hence I am not a chef.

I think it's insulting to the profession when everyone working in the kitchen (especially non professional ones) get addressed as chef. Just because there's no professional body awarding the title, people should not be too liberal in handing them out. Not everyone who cooks are chef, being a cook is wonderful and such an honor too. After all, chef are cook too.

I remember the first few times I was addressed as chef, I was quite offended as I felt that I was being made fun of. It took me some time to accept that they are just very liberal in addressing people who are in the culinary world as chef. I know I am still not a chef, so I will keep correcting them.

I am not a chef, I am a home cook, and proud of it.

The Difference Between a Cook and a Chef

 • June 15, 2011 
Do You Know The Difference Between a Professional Chef and a Cook?
To most people, a cook and a chef are the same thing. The two terms are used interchangeably to indicate someone working away in the kitchen, regardless of whether that individual is cutting vegetables or masterminding the entire menu.
For those who work in the culinary field, however, there is a big difference. Although there is no single professional organization that determines exactly who is a chef and who is a cook, most agree that the difference lies in education and experience.
If you have a culinary degree and/or trained under a notable chef and have moved up the ranks, you are typically considered a chef. If you simply dabble in the kitchen at home or are just starting out at the bottom of the restaurant totem pole, you are almost always considered a cook.
What Makes a Cook a Cook?
Most people agree that a cook is lower-ranking than a chef, and that chefs themselves vary in rank. For example, an executive chef is the top of the line, while sous chefs, chefs de partie, and other professionals might have the right training, but are still working toward their top professional goals.
If you still aren’t sure exactly what it is that makes a chef a chef, consider these qualifications:
arrow A two- or four-year culinary degree
arrow Extensive training under a chef with the goal of gaining a culinary education equal to that of a degree (also known as a culinary apprenticeship)
arrow Responsibilities that include a supervisory role
arrow The ability to create and implement menus in a restaurant setting
arrow Management roles in the kitchen
A cook, on the other hand, can expect to:
arrow Prepare food on a daily basis
arrow Perform kitchen duties, as needed and directed
arrow Clean and wash the kitchen
arrow Use recipes and follow someone else’s menu plan
arrow Still be at the learning level of his or her career
There are some culinary institutions (including the American Culinary Federation) that offer designations and titles based on testing, work experience, and education. Although many organizations and restaurants recognize these distinctions (and will boost your career accordingly), they aren’t required to be a chef or to be successful in your own culinary career.
In most cases, the cook is below the chef in terms of prestige, pay, and career development. However, there are instances in which this isn’t true. Many home cooks or amateurs have skills and experience that surpass that of their chef counterparts; they simply may not make claim to the title.

Famous Cooks vs. Famous Chefs

In fact, many of the celebrity chefs we have come to know and love as a culture aren’t really chefs at all. Rachael Ray and Nigella Lawson are two of the biggest names in the culinary and Hollywood world, but both women profess that they aren’t trained chefs…and have never pretended to be anything other than cooks. Self-trained, self-motivated, and never having worked in a long-term chef capacity (such as overseeing a restaurant), they are just two examples of cooks who have hit it big.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Mama's surprise 60th

Mama's surprise 60th birthday get together. Best part of it all, all her siblings turned up, even her sister who lives in KL!

A million thanks to all my co-conspirators. Tak sangka ramai betui turned up, sampai kena masak nasik tambah!

Happy Birthday Mama!


Aeyna & TokChik

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year 2019

Starting the new year at this tiny school in the spice garden.