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.