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. .