Kuay teow ganja

So I decided to recreate the most beloved char kuay teow of my youth. No, not Penang’s Chinese style ckt, but the one I ate at warungs, which is slathered – drowned, even – in a watery yet surprisingly flavourful, spicy, and eggy gravy.

Today I found out why. The warung cooks use a complex gravy made up of crushed prawn shells and heads boiled into a concentrated stock, then amped up with oyster sauce, thick soya sauce, light soya sauce, and other seasonings. Then there’s the sambal sauce concocted from cili boh and other aromatics. You need BOTH these sauces to create the Malay style warung ckt, so good it was popularly dubbed kuay teow ganja by some. *salivating*

OK so I tried to recreate this, in a healthier way of course. Can it ever beat Tam’s Char Kuay Teow, which I ate faithfully throughout my decade of living in Penang? No chance.

But it was good enough to soothe the ache for a comforting, hot-off-the-wok char kuay teow for a while 🙂

Nasi ulam

Tadah, my version of nasi ulam!

I used to think, mix some veges and rice only, what’s so difficult? I take back my words! Now that I’ve attempted to make it myself, I have developed a newfound respect for the Nyonya chefs who painstakingly mince, chop, dice the ingredients that go into this simple but labour-intensive dish. For the record, I used bunga kantan, turmeric leaf, daun pegaga, winged bean, lemongrass, Bentong ginger, garlic, shallots, kerisik. Roasted and diced salted fish and dried prawns, and leftover ikan tongkol from a packet of nasi dagang made up the rest of the ingredients. We ate it with sambal, and found out that salted roasted nuts make a great addition too .
For all its pleasures, eating nasi ulam will always evoke bittersweet memories.

It was introduced to me at a diner in Ipoh called Beacon Point. My mum took me there one day in the 90s, saying it was run by her friend Pauline. My eyes were drawn to the chops and pasta on the menu, but to my surprise Aunt Pauline insisted that I try their nasi ulam instead.

Back then, vegetables and I were mortal enemies, so I didn’t have high expectations. Then the dish arrived, beautifully plated and boasting the colours of the rainbow. It was fragrant, tasty and utterly memorable.

So much so that years later, when I got the chance to contribute to a book about Perak food, I immediately suggested Beacon Point.

Just a few years later, Aunt Pauline had an accident in her home and had a stroke. She never recovered.

Thank you Aunt Pauline, for introducing me to this wonderful Malaysian dish and inspiring me to prepare it. .