Mother's Day Special: Preserving the Ultimate Rempah Recipe
Trying to make sure we do not lose our family rempah recipe. The best way to do this....why make it into a kit of course
Our grandmother was a famous hawker back in the day, selling her nyona based curry mee and lam mee to the public in Northern Malaysia. While those noodles are what made her stall famous, her true secret, was the rempah she used...and boy did she use it to make dishes that would make you salivate. Dishes so good that the extended family would, without fail, fly home from all corners of the world, once a year, just to eat them.
For mother's day, we wanted to preserve this family recipe. To do that, we begged our oldest aunt, and only living family member who still knows this recipe, to come down and teach us how to make it.
This rempah forms the base of many of our childhood dishes: Otah, Assam Curry, Perut Ikan, Curry mee. Now that we've learnt the recipe, the only other decision is: What kit should we make?
Mother's day special: Taiping Style Otah
Now, this otah is going to be a bit different than what you're used to. Otah, as we know it, are small longish fish cakes made of ground Batang (Spanish mackeral) and grilled over a flame. Not this one.
We keep the fish in its sliced form, add a bit of keffir lime leaves to brighten up the flavors, layer it with an herb you've probably never heard of, and steam it all into one purse of pure happiness
The Fish: White Snapper/Jobfish/Sea bream (Ang Ko li)
We wanted to keep the fish in its sliced form to use both its natural sweetness and texture to bring out the more complex flavors in the rempah. For this, we decided against the traditional batang (Spanish mackerel). While the batang is an amazing fish, it tends to be firmer, with oils and flavors that would overpower the floral rempah.
Instead, we opted for the ang ko li. You've probably encountered this fish in your usual fish head curry jaunt. Flakier, softer, and sweeter, this fish was the winner of our otah tasting focus group (even our cat / chief motivational officer gave us her stamp of approval)
The herb: Daun Kadut, Wild Pepper, Long Karok
Now, this herb is the reason that we only offer this kit in limited amounts. The reason: It is impossible to find.
What makes this odd is that it is a common shrubbery plant. You'll see these leaves line the pathways in our parks, or maybe even in your downstairs garden. Good luck trying to find it in a market or wholesaler however.
This leaf, is commonly used in Nasi Ulam and Perut Ikan (our other favorite dish) and adds a smoked citrus taste to whatever dish you incorporate it into. Like the ginger flower, this herb has a distinct taste profile that deserves to be on a taste palette wheel all on its own. Once you've tasted it, you'll never want an otah without it.
PS: Be careful before you start foraging from your neighborhood garden, there are actually 2 plants that are commonly mistaken for each other, the Daun Kadut and the Daun Sirih (betel leaf). One tastes good, the other....let's say you wouldn't want to try it
Picture credits: http://nasilemaklover.blogspot.com/2013/04/what-are-differences-between-daun-kaduk.html (thank you!)
The rest: keffir lime leaves, banana leaves, coconut cream
Now all that you have left is to mix all these ingredients and steam the dish for 15-18 minutes. Easy right?
If this sounds like too much work, check back to our store on Wednesday and we'll have a few kits ready for mother's day. Treat yourself or your mother, with a recipe from our grandmother!