KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — How often have we lamented that it’s difficult to maintain consistency with recipes passed down from generation to generation?
Usually in the old days, it was cooked the agak-agak (estimate) way — a pinch of this, a handful of that. Yes, it is often hard to replicate the same dish once the original cook has passed on.
At Butterkicap (http://www.butterkicap.com), a group of passionate individuals — Nadia Jasmi, Yap Shiuh Wei, Nik Michael Imran and Intan Mohamed — are taking the agak-agak out of these heritage recipes.
Started in March this year, the website prides itself on saving heritage recipes. “We want to make it into an archive,” explained Shiuh Wei, one of the co-founders.
Joining them in this pursuit is television personality Nik Michael who also runs his own restaurant and Intan, a keen cook who picked up her skills from her family.
Nik Michael believes strongly that “traditional stuff needs modern methods.” The dual language website also reaches out to cooks by using the data gathered from the Internet on their preferences.
For instance, a popular search for most people is chicken and fish dishes. Shiuh Wei tells us when they posted their fried chicken recipe, this proved to be incredibly popular.
So far they have worked out 70 recipes for their “kitchen lab” series where they rework vintage recipes.
The website also features articles on food history, food trucks and even fun stories about pick-up lines with food.
With Raya around the corner, it’s time to bring out the wok and cook up a delicious batch of rendang.
In true Butterkicap style, they worked hard to take out the agak-agak from a beef and offal rendang recipe by Intan.
“The rendang is just a combination of different recipes. Everyone has their own rendang recipe. You never have the same rendang as it differs for each household,” explained Intan.
With this recipe, she adapted a recipe by her grand-aunt in Singapore to create her own version — a smoky rich tasting rendang with creamy hits from the usage of offal like lungs, liver and heart.
The “kitchen lab” is the domain of Intan and Nik Michael; they take turns cooking up dishes while the other measures the ingredients and jots down methods to record each step.
Both of them have their own cooking styles and you can see them playfully sparring with each other. “I’m never the boss, I’m the coolie,” laments Nik Michael while Intan tells us, “I’m not the chef, I’m just a housewife.”
Their differences work well together as it leads to a curiosity about the science behind each of the traditional cooking methods.
For instance, Nik Michael tells us they busted the myth about how when you’re cooking a large portion of sambal belacan, you need more belacan. “It does not make a difference as long as you toast the belacan,” he said.
We watch as the rendang is slowly cooked in a three kilogram wok over a charcoal and wood fire. Intan prefers to cook with fire and attests to the fact that it yields a far superior taste compared to cooking with an electric one.
She adds, “Anything tastes good with charcoal fire... even toasted bread” while Nik Michael believes that “cooking with charcoal is like magic.”
Each ingredient is weighed out and notes taken to document the recipe. In her recipe, Intan uses belimbing buluh, an unusual addition.
She tells us that most often after they slaughter the cow and remove the offal, it may have an unpleasant smell hence an enterprising cook will utilise whatever is available in the garden to get rid of those smells.
In her case, it’s these tiny green fruits that have a sourish taste since it once grew in her grandmother’s house.
This Raya, Intan will be cooking up a feast of rendang, dendeng, daging hitam, dalca, ayam kuzi, biryani, vegetable acar and the list goes on.
People look forward to her cooking since she still takes the trouble to cook everything herself rather than take the easier route to cater.
For her, the incentive is seeing her children enjoy the festive mood and the hecticness of it all. For first time cooks who want to tackle making dishes for their Raya open house celebrations, she advises that they be quite precise with their quantities.
Failure to do so may mean you don’t have enough storage for your ingredients and there’ll also be food wastage that can be costly.
For Nik Michael, his Raya celebrations kicks off a day before Raya when he goes back to his kampung at Simpang Pulai. As his father has 16 siblings, meal times are often a long affair with about 100 people to feed!
Even though he is a professional chef, he is banned from the kitchen that is dominated by the ladies of the family. This year though will be a little different since celebrations will be here in KL with his grandmother.
And if you’re wondering why the website carries the unusual name of Butterkicap, it pays tribute to the delectable combination of butter and soy sauce eaten with plain rice.
The people behind Butterkicap believe that combination of salty, savoury with a hint of sweetness and umami is the perfect representation of Malaysia’s diversity and rich culture — a marriage of two different worlds made better when joined together.
BEEF & OFFAL RENDANG (Serves 12 to 15 portions)
The rendang goes perfectly with rice, lemang, nasi impit, pulut kuning or even fluffy white bread. For more Raya recipes, visit Butterkicap (www.butterkicap.com).
You can also subscribe to their newsletter that offers a free e-book that contains seven of their favourite Ramadan recipes. The e-book offer is only valid for the month of Ramadan.
500 grams cow lungs, cut into 5cm thick slices
500 grams liver, cut into 5cm thick slices
500 grams spleen, cut into 5cm thick slices
2 kilograms beef tenderloin, sliced
Rinsing & soaking ingredients
6 tablespoons plain flour, divided equally into three
2 kaffir limes, juice only
3 tablespoons coarse salt, divided equally into three
To simmer with lungs
3 lemongrass stalks
3 kaffir lime leaves
5 cm fresh galangal
Roasted spice mixture
42 grams (5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) coriander seed powder
11 grams (2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) fennel seeds
15 grams (2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) cumin
5 grams (1 teaspoon) cardamoms without the husk
2 grams (1 teaspoon) stick cinnamon
3 grams (1 1/2 teaspoon) grated nutmeg
2 grams (1 teaspoon) cloves
219 grams garlic cloves, peeled
130 grams young ginger, skin removed
94 grams galangal, skin removed
1.15 kilograms large onions, peeled and chopped
513 grams shallots, peeled
215 grams lemongrass, roots only
11 grams (1 tablespoon) salt
9 grams (1 tablespoon) black pepper powder
340 grams bilimbi (belimbing buluh), sliced in half lengthwise
191 grams palm sugar (gula Melaka)
1 kilogram kerisik
3 pieces tamarind peel (asam keping)
1.26 kilograms coconut milk (santan)
32 grams fresh bay leaves (daun salam), finely sliced
6 grams (about 6 pieces) kaffir lime leaves, middle stem removed and cut into chiffonade
22 grams turmeric leaves, middle stem removed and cut into chiffonade
428 grams rehydrated & blended dried chilies (cili boh)
692 grams cooking oil
In a bowl, roughly mix the lungs with two tablespoons of plain flour, the juice of one kaffir lime and one tablespoon of coarse salt. Rinse with water then leave to soak fully submerged for two to three minutes. Drain the lungs then boil and simmer with lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime leaves and galangal for half an hour. Place a heavy plate or pot over the lungs to keep them submerged. Ensure there is enough water to cover the lungs. Remove and reserve the liquid.
Mix the liver and spleen with two tablespoons of plain flour, the juice of one kaffir lime and one tablespoon of coarse salt. Rinse with water then leave to soak fully submerged for two to three minutes. Drain and set aside. In another bowl, roughly mix the beef with two tablespoons of plain flour and one tablespoon of coarse salt, then rinse with water.
In a dry pan or wok, roast all the items in the roasted spice mixture list on medium high heat until fragrant. Once roasted, grind all the spices with a pestle and mortar until fine.
Blend all the ingredients in the blended mixture list until smooth.
Add oil to the wok on high heat. Once the oil is sufficiently hot, fry the blended ingredients, rehydrated and blended dried chilies for 10 minutes. Add the meat, offal and belimbing buluh. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the roasted ground spices and stir for another 10 minutes. Pour the coconut milk, followed by the gula Melaka, asam keping, daun salam, kaffir lime leaves and turmeric leaves. Stir continuously and cook over a low heat for one and a half hours. Add the kerisik and continue to cook the rendang until it is dry while continuously stirring. This should take up to another 20 minutes. If your rendang dries up before the 20 minutes is up, add about 1 cup of the reserved liquid from boiling the lungs to prolong the cooking time. Remove from the wok and leave to cool before storing.