21 March 2009

Nonya Nasi Lemak Class

Attended 'My Grandma's Nonya Nasi Lemak' class at Shermay's Cooking School this afternoon, taught by Shermay herself! The Nasi Lemak recipe and accompanying dishes can also be found in Shermay's updated version of The New Mrs Lee's Cookbook - a precious collection of Peranakan recipes first published in 1974 by Mrs Lee Chin Koon.

Was rather hesitant about signing up for the class initially, because Peranakan food is perceived to involve lots of meticulous preparation, cutting, pounding and cooking with lots of herbs and spices. Especially after watching the drama serial 'Little Nonya' which brought about a Peranakan craze round island recently.

Decided to go ahead nonetheless as I'm really attracted to the recipes.
  • Nasi Lemak (coconut rice) - I love nasi lemak, especially the fragrance of coconut and pandan leaves.
  • Sambal Udang (Stir-fried prawns in thick and spicy sambal sauce) - Hubby would love this dish, combination of prawns and sambal.
  • Ikan Asam Pekat (Braised fish in a gravy made from tamarind and tumeric) - Likewise, hubby would love this dish, which has tinge of sourness from the tamarind juice.
  • Sambal Timun (Cucumbers in sambal) - I love cucumbers! Always a must-order when I come across achar achar or sambal cucumbers at mixed rice stalls or muslim stalls.
  • Bonus recipes: Onion omelet - a simple egg dish, always nice to go along with nasi lemak; and Ikan Bilis (Whitebait and peanuts with caramelised sugar and chilli powder) - to me, a must have side dish for nasi lemak!
Preparation of ingredients is important, whether baking or cooking - a very useful tip that I learnt at Shermay's Cooking School. All the chefs here adopt this practice to ensure a smooth cooking/baking procedure.

Nasi Lemak
Rice in process of steaming. Didn't know that cooking nasi lemak involve meticulous steps as well. Thought it is as simple as using a rice cooker. Probably this is the nonya style, but seriously I can never look at nasi lemak the same way again.
Oh and look at this steamer pot, it is 30 years old! Really amazing that it is in such a good condition despite constant use. Apparently can't be found in shops now. Luckily Shermay found alternative steamer pot at Ikea.

Nasi Lemak all cooked and ready to be served. Just look at the grains, they seem to be glistering. For good nasi lemak, each grain of rice is supposed to be glazed with coconut milk.
I love the traditional Peranakan serveware, the designs and colours are so lively and vivid. Makes the dish even more palatable and appetising.

Ikan Asam Pekat
Spanish mackerel known as Ikan Tenggiri is the type of fish for this dish. Of all fish, my favourite is Ikan Tenggiri as I love the texture and sweetness of the meat. Usually I would just rub slices with sea salt and pan-fry the fish. This is another way of cooking the fish, I must certainly try it!

Surprisely, the tamarind juice and rempah (raw grounded spices and herbs) are not that difficult to prepare. So glad that it is actually achievable (good news, don't have to use mortar and pestle to pound the rempah!)

Sambal Udang
The Sambal Udang is not that difficult as well. Shermay has simplified the recipe into clear and concise steps, so it makes it easier to pick up the gist of Peranakan cooking.
A simple onion omelet. Very nostalgic and humble dish that seems to be a staple side dish of nasi lemak.

Sambal Timun
Have seen different presentations/methods of spicy cucumber salads sold at mixed rice stalls and muslim stalls. I must say that this is actually not difficult to prepare and can be served within an hour (including marinate time).

Ikan Bilis
A must-have side dish for nasi lemak. Although ingredients are simple, to make an outstanding ikan bilis, more work is involved to enhance the flavours. So now I know whether stall owners put in effort for preparing ikan bilis when I eat nasi lemak at hawker stalls.

Food tasting time!
The nasi lemak blew me away, I have never tasted nasi lemak cooked this way before. It is fluffy, yet with a little bite because every grain of rice is glazed with coconut. The smell is definitely addictive due to the fragrance of pandan leaves.
I love the Ikan Sam Pekat! The fish is fresh, with the tamarind juice infused into the meat, enhancing the sweetness. The gravy also whets the appetite and goes well with the rice.
Same goes for the Sambal Udang. The gravy has a unique piquant flavour. But probably not spicy enough, otherwise would be more shiok! Perhaps I could try adding more chillies.
The onion omelet is well, a simple dish, yet would be very missed if not included.
I love the Sambal Timun! The rempah and marinade is surprising quite light, making the cucumbers very refreshing and crunchy, and definitely helps cleanse the palate after the heavy tastes of fish, prawns and ikan bilis.
Second helping with ikan bilis. Opps, gluttony in the works.
The ikan bilis is crispy, spicy with slight sweetness. Totally addictive. Goes very well with rice!
Glad that I attended this class. The food tasting was definitely satisfying and also pleased to receive Canola Oil sponsored by Sunbeam!
So now, I believe I can attempt these dishes too. Can't wait to try them soon!


  1. Hey Meg, if you're into Peranakan, Gina has some nostalgia finds which you might want to check out: http://tasteoftime.blogspot.com/2009/02/nostalgia-finds.html. :)

  2. Hi Jane,
    Thanks! These old Peranakan wares look good :) Not sure whether I want to procure them though... coz my kitchen is filled to the brim! LOL.