As a Chinese Muslim in Malaysia, it's not easy to get halal and authentic Chinese food where I live. Oh sure, there's the Hokkien mi stall near my house but the noodles don't taste the same like the ones I had eaten for the first 35 years of my life. The wan tan mi at another stall is also not authentic enough to satisfy me. Don't even mention char koay teow. The ones preferred by the Malays are not to my liking; I prefer the drier version they call koay teow kerang. Still it doesn't taste the same.
So what is there to do?
It's either to do without them, to eat what's offered or to cook myself.
Being a busy woman, I opt for the second choice. But finding stalls that sell authentic chinese food is so difficult in Penang. Sure there's halal Chinese cuisine in restaurants but the price is too steep for everyday, even weekly visits. Anyway I don't fancy having too much ajimoto in my food.
Therefore I try to cook whenever I have the energy and time. Finding the right ingredients for the food is also a great challenge. I mean, even using another brand of soy sauce compared to the one used by my mom may cause the stew to taste different.
Since becoming a muslimah and a mom, I find myself entering the kitchen more often. The children need real food ( or rather, this ummi think they do; they're just happy to munch biscuits) and I'm not a fan of instant noodles.
I've cooked char koay teow, hainan chicken rice, bak kut teh ( told hubby that it's chicken herbal soup when he asked, haha), chaiboay as well as simpler dishes. Alhamdulillah I managed with whatever I could find in the grocery store and wet market.
Last week, I decided to be more adventurous. I hadn't had dim sum for a long time. Not since I reverted to Islam. My favourite is loh mai kai, which is basically glutinous rice steamed with chicken and shitake mushrooms.
Busy Me was too busy to dig into my dozens of recipe books for the recipe, so I did the most common thing most people do nowadays - google. Yup, I googled for the recipe, found the one that seems easy but looks delicious, and started preparing the ingredients. Taking advantage of the current school holidays, I sent the children to the kindergarten before soaking the rice. I did the traditional way, adding in the ingredients without taking proper measurements. Then pray for the best.
And this is the result.
Yes, it doesn't look tempting but as I said I made do with whatever I had. The taste? Yummy. I believe I had the taste right. To me it tasted great as I hadn't eaten it for about 9 years. It was a big bowl of loh mai kai that I ate that day and boy, was I full! Hehe.. then Mr. Husband came home.
"What's this?" He asked as I put a plate of loh mai kai for him on the table.
"Loh mai kai."
"Just eat it," I waited for his reaction.
It's always fun watching a non-chinese eating a chinese dish for the first time.
He took a small bite.
"Pulut?" (Glutinous rice)
"Haven't eaten this before. What'd you call this again?"
And I repeated, explaining how I cooked it.
He didn't finish the plate, citing that it's too much.
No need to guess where the rest ended up.
The boys had mixed reaction; Ikram took a look and simply refused to eat, Ihsan had two spoonful before shaking his head.
Now I've another 500g of glutinous rice left. If I could find some bamboo leaves, perhaps I'd cook some bak chang next week.
That would be a great ending for the school holidays, wouldn't it?