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A little insight

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I am not a professional cook. All I know about cooking is through learning from my mother, and grandmother using recipes passed on for generations. In some cases recipes are tweaked and adapted to suit what is available at the time. Some ingredients that are required in Malay cooking are not easily and readily available here in London, therefore changes have to be made either in the form of a substitute or omitted completely – sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t! It is always a trial and error process. To that end, certain traditional dishes and recipes cannot be replicated at all because the end result will not be right! No amount of creativity and innovation would give those dishes the authenticity and justice they deserve in terms of taste, sight and smell when certain key ingredients are missing.

I love watching cookery programmes on TV and watching our favourite celebrity TV chefs/cooks on tele – the domestic Goddess herself Nigella Lawson, Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa, Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi, Phil Howard to name but a few gives us the inspiration to pursue our dream. Each one of them loves cooking and most importantly knowing the joy that they bring to other people through their food. These programmes are also dotted with lots of handy tips and tricks! I love to eat and I love trying out new recipes and most of all I love entertaining.

There is a certain level of satisfaction when you know that everyone at the party had enjoyed their food tremendously! You don’t need to hear the praises and the compliments. All you need to see is the happy, smiling faces and the looks of satisfaction all around when the last morsel of food was consumed. That is the testament that we’re after. Nothing is wasted and everything is wiped clean off the plates and platters. Our kind of cooking is not refined, they are wholesome, hearty and nourishing home cooked food, one that you could only get if you make them at home – with love and care.

In Malaysia, eating is everyone’s favourite past time! The day starts with breakfast – it could either be a small, simple affair or a really elaborate feast of either nasi lemak, nasi dagang, mee goreng, roti canai with curry sauce, lontong, soto, congee, nasi ayam etc. It all depends where and which part of the morning you are having that breakfast. If breakfast for you starts early then any of the above dishes I have just mentioned would be on offer. However, if breakfast is between 10 and 11, some places would have also started serving the lunch time menu, if this is what you fancy, then go for it! Nobody would tell you that lunch is not until 12 or 1. They will serve you whatever that is already there. Lunch hour could start as early as 11:30 for some people and you would see droves of the lunch time crowd stopping by the stalls/restaurants as early as this.

At around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, if you start feeling peckish again and in need of sugary pick me ups, there are plenty of kuihs (Malay or Nyonya traditional sweets, savouries and cakes), pisang goreng (banana fritters but not of the Chinese restaurants kind!), keropok lekor, murtabak, cendol etc from the stalls dotted all around the place to choose from. Dinner usually kicks in at around 6:30 in the evening and will go on until 10pm. Any later than that some people would already be on their final meal of the day before it all begins again tomorrow! Night supper usually involves more hawker style street food like char kuey teow, satay, sup tulang, sup ekor and many more.

Since I have been living in the UK for the last 20 years, one of the few things I missed most about Malaysia is the food scene. The gathering with friends and family (yup, even on week nights!!), the relaxed atmosphere, the outdoor spaces all adds to the charm. When there is a longing to be back out there (especially during the cold, winter months), we recreate the experience at home by inviting good friends over and prepare our favourite dishes! And every time it went down a storm! As the years went by, and after many many discussions and day dreaming, we decided to give it a go! And here we are… 2 women who knows what they want when it comes to good food experience and is finally doing something about it!