When my grandmother passed away in 2009, I realized that I had barely cooked with her and regretted not spending time in the kitchen to learn her fine dishes. She was an incredible cook. After living in California for a very long time, my knowledge in the Malay culture has been slowly diluted by the influence of the west. When my mother brought back her mom’s recipe books, I was excited to treasure them and scared to try them. I told Elly about the cookbooks and one of them was in Arabic. Fortunately, she was easily persuaded to translate them and cook with me. She thought of Julie Julia project, Malay version. So that’s how this idea was born.
Nor’s grandmother’s cookbooks
I’m taking it a bit further with the fact Elly and I are married to non-Malays and are not actively involved in the Malay community. We want to keep our culture authentic and alive. We hope that through this blog we are able to share our cooking experiences with you and keep our ‘Malayness’ real and share them with our children and hopefully our grandchildren. We are dedicating this to our maks, ibus, bondas, neneks, nyayis & wans who had thrived to make us who we are and we can’t never be more grateful. If you, our readers and followers, are willing to share your recipes that you have pleasant memories cooking with your moms and grandmothers or even great-grandmothers, we would love to try them and share our experiences here.
Mas (Elly’s daughter), Nor & Elly
With an open heart and an empty stomach, mari memasak (let’s cook)!
My friends always told me that I was different. Even when I was only 9 years old. A school mate told me that I am ‘one of a kind’. Like I knew what she was talking about, until I reached 13. Went to an anglican school, whereby I was the very few malays in there, I stuck out like a ‘sore thumb’. My schoolmates said that I did not behave as if I was proud to be a malay. Little did they know that I went home from school almost everyday, to a home full of people, cooking students, paying my mak how to cook cakes and malay dishes.
Poor them I thought….or poor me, as I had to clean up the kitchen when classes were over. Or helped with other nitty gritty stuff in the kitchen. Some days, I would be reading my literature or history books while having 2 ovens in the back and front of me, helping mak bake kueh lapis. Weekends, mak took catering for weddings or baked for wedding favors. I was in the kitchen either baking and icing the cupcakes, or preparing the spices for mak to come into the kitchen and simply just start cooking. Kid you not, almost everyday I told mak that when I grew up, I will NEVER EVER cook, bake or do anything domesticated.
Hmmm, how I wished, cos I had subconsciously picked up the skill. I know, I sounded like I had been cursed haha! I baked my own 2 layered chocolate fudge cake with chocolate jello on top for my 15th birthday. I actually wanted mak to bake it for me. But then I lost patience and told her ‘Forget it Mak, I’m just going to whip out whatever I think I know’. It came out ay-okay. Mak was amazed as I did it with no supervision, used my bare hands to mix the cake when the mixer did not do a good job and even decorated it. My friends, came by and the cake was served…they not believing that I made that darn cake! (Me with my Madonna hair and all).
Back to present just to cut the story short….
I am very anal when it comes to malay food. To me, you do not know what malay cooking is until I say that it is good. I mean, basic malay cooking. Malay cooking is not about picking up a recipe book and say that you know how to. It is about passion, patience and lots of love. If you don’t have any of those…then go back to baking a chicken.
Yes, I look like a ‘broken mold’ malay who lives thousands of miles away from home, very liberated and americanized. But I can tell you that I know my malay cooking pretty darn well!
My advise to you wannabe good malay cooks. Do not ever blame the recipe for being wrong (pfft, my mak used to get that alot when she was a teacher)…use your tastebuds to taste, nimbles fingers to measure the ingredients and stir the pot, and……don’t forget to smile 🙂
Nor + Elly