One of the main goals I had when I returned home to Penang was to build a stronger relationship with my mom. And I realized that could only happen in the kitchen, because when she's not zipping around the morning market with her trolley every day, she's in the kitchen. All day.
Mom is a master chef. If you ask her, she will deny it. But coming from a hawker’s family, cooking is her life. My grandparents ran a famous nasi lemak stall for a few decades in mainland Penang. After they retired, a few of my aunts ventured out with their own food business, but Mom prefers to keep her talent discreet, sharing it with only family and close friends. Her extensive menu ranges from Chinese herbal chicken soup, traditional pork dumpling (bak chang 粽子), Kapitan chicken curry, yam roll, asam laksa, her family's special nasi lemak recipe, and so much more.
The creations start very early in the morning when Mom shops at the Air Itam Market for fresh vegetables, meats, and other ingredients, and continues in her kitchen until she carries out amazing dishes to the dining room table. A routine she has followed religiously for over 30 years. Indeed a long kitchen journey. Preparing food is her way of expressing her love to our family. It is her language.
Surprisingly, she never allowed us to step into her kitchen, thinking that the chore was for someone of lower education. She stubbornly refused to accept that cooking is a talent. Only recently have I convinced her to pass the skills down to me and my sisters.
I will share Mom’s recipes here (and at Season with Spice), as well as a few of my own concoctions.
- Fried Wonton and Fresh Shui Gao (Dumplings)
- Popiah (Fresh spring rolls)
- Fresh Nutmeg Juice
- Spicy Relish for Ikan Bakar
- Easy-peasy Mint Leave Soup
- Tempura Chicken with Spice Blend
- Mangosteen Cocktail
- Fire Dragon Juice