Hari Raya Aidiladha is here and while we can discuss the many traditional foods that we can enjoy this festive holiday, let’s discuss something else instead – how to make it. Or, more specifically, how to make it in an easier and faster way.
Most of us are enamoured with the idea of making things the traditional way. We want to steam our nasi lemak in a gas steamer; we want to slow-cook our rendang in a large wok, and we feel the need to stir our kuih batter for hours over a low heat. But why do we need to torture ourselves every year?
I agree that traditional methods yield traditional results. And we want to tell people that we’ve done it the traditional way because that’s how we’ve been taught to make these dishes. But do we really have the time these days? I know I don’t.
And for this reason, I have happily – and proudly – embraced the “express” methods, which have been provided to us by so many Malaysian food bloggers out there. The trick? Using modern appliances that help you do all the hard work.
Did you know that you can make rendang in a slow cooker? All you need to do is stir fry your rendang paste (i.e. your blended aromatics) and meat in the slow cooker over a high heat, then throw in your kerisik, santan (coconut milk) and pandan. Turn the heat to low and let the slow cooker do all the work for the next eight hours. However, you still need to stir it from time to time, but trust me, it’s far less effort.
Did you also know that you can make traditional steamed kuih in a microwave? All you need is a microwave steamer. Just make your batter normally, place it in a heatproof glass container and into your steamer. Turn your microwave on high and you’re set. Just remember to cook it in bursts of 2 – 3 minutes so that you don’t overcook your batter accidentally.
This doesn’t just apply to traditional Malay food and desserts. Did you know you can make kuih kapit in a toaster oven? All you need to do is mix the batter, place it in the mould, turn your toaster oven on high and place the molds inside. It saves you all the hassle of having to use an open fire and the clean-up is a breeze. Just ensure that you have your rubber oven mitts on when handling your moulds – you don’t want to get a shock when you’re making your kuih.
For me, the ultimate appliance you can use to make traditional food is the rice cooker because it can duplicate the two processes that are used regularly in the preparation of our traditional food – steaming and slow cooking. It’s also the easiest thing to master in a kitchen.
This is useful when you’re making sticky rice-based dishes that are tedious when prepared in a traditional steamer. And it’s especially heaven-sent during the holiday season because it can help you make kuih and pulut kuning, the holy grail of celebratory traditional foods.
When it comes to making pulut kuning, all you need to do is wash your raw sticky rice and let it soak in water for about an hour. Then, mix it with an equal amount of fresh coconut milk, pandan leaves, turmeric, a little bit of asam keping and let it cook in your rice steamer like you’d normally do rice.
The only difference is that you’ll have to mix it every 15 – 20 minutes to ensure that it doesn’t burn on the bottom. This method cuts down your cleaning and cooking time exponentially. Then, just pair it with some slow-cooker rendang, and you’re ready to serve your family a traditional meal for Hari Raya Haji.
While these new appliances can help you in the kitchen, just remember that it takes a little time to get used to them. The results can vary at times and you might find that you need to add your own little techniques to the cooking process. Just remember to research what other people have done. The beauty is that once you get it right, you’ll have a means to make your food the hassle-free way.
Pulut Kuning with a Rice Cooker
2 CupsRaw sticky rice, washed
2 CupsFresh santan (coconut milk)*
2 Pandan leaves
1 TbspTurmeric powder**
2 pieces Asam keping
Sprinkle of salt and sugar.
1.Soak your raw sticky rice for one hour
2.Drain sticky rice
3.Place all the ingredients in a rice cooker and turn it on.
4.Stir it every 15 minutes or so until it cooks through.
5.Serve with rendang.
*or 1 cup packaged thick coconut milk and 1 cup of water
**you can add yellow food colouring if you like.