Friday, April 28, 2006

tahi minyak gaul nyor

I had quite a late supper a few days ago. With me was Yati, Abang Hadi, Medal and his side-kick from our Kota Baru office. Talks went from the RM 45 ‘nasi dagang’ to the best ‘nasi himpit’. For many of us, nasi himpit is taken with satay, either in the form of ketupat or the actual compressed rice or rice cake. The gravy would be the grounded groundnut in spicy curry.

Then Abang Hadi began to relate about the exclusive nasi himpit served at his home during raya. This nasi himpit comes not with gravy but with ‘sambal nyor’ or finely grated coconut lightly fried with a right mix of shredded fish. For that kind of nasi himpit, I too have something to add. In my days Che’ my grandmother used to make nasi himpit with ‘sambal tahi minyak’ or ‘sambal nyor’ mixed with a little of the tahi minyak. Even alone tahi minyak mixed with a little sugar can be a good sambal not only for nasi himpit but normal rice too.

For the uninitiated, tahi minyak is a by-product of making cooking oil from santan or coconut milk.

Before palm oil was introduced, we had depended on coconut as a source of cooking oil. That simple home-grown technology ensure that all the coconuts are used and not wasted under tree when it’s old and fallen off. Coconut cooking oil was then sold in big cans and sold measured in a small laddle with a long thin handle. Honestly, I have not seen the instrument again for over like thirty years and I do not know if I could describe it well enough.

Well, producing coconut oil is not really technology. A know how maybe. To make the cooking oil, santan is kept overnight before being placed in a cauldron and boiled over a wood stove. The boiling goes for hours for the santan to change from milk to oil. After a certain temperature or time the change took place and such was described as ‘pecah minyak’ (breaking off oil). This you can observe when cooking ‘gulai’ or curry. I had a nasty experience not to mention embarrassing to my guest when an 8 ringgit a bowl cendol tasted like coconut oil at a premier hotel in Kenyir. The cook must have cooked the not so fresh santan for the cendol to the point the santan was boiled it ‘pecah minyak’.

The separation of oil left behind residues we call tahi minyak. Its oily and a little ‘hangit’ but taste quite distinctively. Mix it with grated coconut and it makes an unbelievably fine ‘sambal’ dish.

Tahi minyak was also a term to describe someone whose word is rather believable and entertaining but can’t be relied on. So when he’s superfluously described as tahi minyak gaul nyor, (tahi minyak mixed with grated coconut) he goes up one higher level. He‘s one smooth operator.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Nasi disaji pula digaduhkan, padi di ladang dilanyak gajah tidak disusahkan

Nasi disaji pula digaduhkan, padi di ladang dilanyak gajah tidak disusahkan

( a rare Malay proverb – literally translated as ‘rice served questioned, rice (paddy) field trampled by elephant ignored)

In a rare instant, one frail lady caught the attention of national press to the extend of gracing the front page for days and an editorial. She was a makcik I fondly nick-named ‘makcik bersila’ – the Che Ngah Nasi Dagang of Chendering Terengganu. I called her so because she served Nasi Dagang sitting ‘bersila’ on a stainless steel platform. And bersila for her is kind of distinctive because in Terengganu women were supposed to be bersimpuh. I also knew her personally because I frequented her stall often, and her architect grandson used to work for me. For that I get VIP treatment at her stall – like getting free ‘kerapah’ - the extra that the fish head was supposed to be after the meat all ‘cobek’-ed away.

In Kemasek when I was small, there was the famous nasi dagang Che Ngah Dayang. I frequented her stall almost every morning to collect the nasi dagang bungkus for sale at my father’s canteen. When we were in the university and later working in KL, the holiday home would not be complete without a breakfast of her nasi dagang even if it meant queuing at her ‘lambor’ in the early morning. Che Ngah Dayang had a similar style with Che Ngah Cendering. They both served their nasi dagang ‘bersila’. You need to ‘kecek’ her for the extra ‘kerapah’ and she would fondly joke ‘Che Ngah tahu doh mung nok kerapah, Che Ngah wi lah. Tapi jangang makang banyok sangat ‘pala ikang, kang bodo.’ (I know you want the head and bones, I’ll give to you. But don’t eat too much fish head, it can make you dumb.)

I love nasi dagang. Yes, my mother make the best one but it’s by invitation only. Next (not in any particular order) would be Che Ngah in Cendering, Kak Pah in Batu Burok, Haji Yeng in Kuala Ibai or Nasi Dagang Batu Enam. I like it so much that even if I heard of a good nasi dagang in KL or elsewhere I would make it a point to try.

I don’t want to talk about the issue of her RM45.00 fish head because it was already so much debated. But if my opinion is worth anything, I don’t think that the RM 1000.00 compound was fair. For a petty trader like her, a thousand ringgit was h-u-g-e

And if this so called price control is allowed to go, soon we’ll hear the enforcement officer imposing fines on the ‘kopi Hai-Peng’ in Cukai, ‘cendol’ trader at Taman Tun, the 'popia' seller at Lucky Garden or the ‘sup torpedo’ at Jalan Doraisamy. Because they all have something in common, their’s were more expensive than others. Perhaps the enforcement officer should include Coffee-Bean and Starbucks too.

And if the enforcement goes on, we would one day be forced to have only a standard priced ‘mi-segera Mawi’ – at all our favorite stalls.

I do not know what our great friend from Putrajaya has achieved by reporting Che Ngah, make her a subject of national debate, but the proverb I use as the title above I guess fits his action.

Monday, April 03, 2006

lok, lok lek and lok lik

Lok, in Terengganu slang means to let, not to bother, couldn’t care less or anything similar.

‘Bakpe mung lok adik mung makang beluah tu?’

(Why let your brother messing up with the food?).

‘Loh gi lah, doh mung bijok sangak aku lok je lah.’

(Up to you, since you are so smart, I don’t want to bother.’)

To ‘lok’ could also meant to let the world passes you by. Or to some extend a reflection of apathy.

‘Ho. Nye lok belake. Minyok naik ke, berah naik ke, lok je. Tak dok nok ca’ra pong.’

(‘Huh. They just let it be. The oil price is up, rice price is up, no one bother. No one even care.’).

If ‘lok’ is apathy, ‘lok lek’ describe a state of indecision or fickle mindedness.

‘Nok gerok guane? Bos lok lek, lok lek nok buak putusang. Kita nok buak putusang kang dia dok setuju pulok.’

(‘How to move on? The boss is still undecided. If we decide for him, he might not agree with it.’)


That has nothing in common with lok and lok lek.

Lok-lik is a delicacy. A rare one made of dried rice. The older generation must have perfected the art of recycling. Rice, the cooked not the uncooked one, from the balance of our meal were dried in the sun for several days rather than thrown to the waste bin. In fact nothing goes to the waste bin. The balance of rice is kept as ‘nasik dinging’ (overnight rice) that makes a good late night supper or morning breakfast. And any ‘nasi goreng’ connosieour will swear that the best ‘nasi goreng’ must use the ‘nasi dingin’. The waste rice goes to the chicken. The sun-dried rice is later pounded in ‘lesung’, mixed with ‘menisang’ or 'gula melaka' and then stir-fried. Something else (I don’t know what) is added to make it a bit sticky. That cake is called ‘lok-lik’ - a sticky sweet and crunchy delicacy.

Ever heard someone saying ‘mek tu lok lik’ sikit (that lady’s a little ‘lok lik’)?

Oh, he meant she‘s deliciously sweet but a little errr… sticky.