Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Desperation - The mother-in-law of improvisation

It all started with the mention of the word murtabak in someone's blog and for days the image of the bread, swimming in rich ghee, haunted my waking hours. So off I went to Mat Gebu to see if there's something there to remedy these pangs that weren't about to go unless I do something about it. And I wasn't disappointed. But time wasn't on my side (as I am prone to decide iftar menus two hours before iftar!) and preparation of the dough would take time. So, my brain had to work fast to think of ways to remedy this gnawing or more apt, annoying pang, making itself heard in the tummy. The word improvise came to mind.

AG was despatched to buy minced meat and the rest, I thought, were in the cupboard somewhere. Rummaging through the freezer I found frozen roti canai and started defrosting them, while running back and forth to Mat Gebu, and at the same time being entertained by raya songs from his site.

So, that was it, with the fillings all done, I set about to create my own version of murtabak with the frozen roti canai. The verdict from all around the iftar table was most encouraging.

While making my version of murtabak, Mak's words came to haunt me. She has a positive view of looking at things. She says, "Kita buat dia, mestilah jadi!" Thus, jadilah murtabak Kak Teh berkulitkan roti canai.

The next day, it was Rehana's turn to be in the kitchen and she wanted to make something to bring for iftar at a friend's. Again, off we went to Mat Gebu and again he didn't fail us. There was this recipe for prawn toast which Rehana thought would make wonderful snacks for iftar. So, she set about buying the ingredients, investing in a big bag of king prawns which she duly minced. Somehow, somewhere along the way, the prawn toast didn't quite make it to the friend's table as most were burnt. However, what little that were fried and burnt ended on our table and again, the verdict was encouraging. But I was left with a big bowl of minced prawn. What do I do with it?

I decided to rely on my instincts this time without scurrying back to Mat Gebu. I remembered eating prawn balls, not unlike bergedil, in a restaurant somewhere. And it had a somewhat Thai taste. So, I proceeded to make prawn bergedil, adding lime leaves and coriander leaves - all chopped up. That should make it very Thai, I thought.

There were some toasts in the oven which Rehana abandoned after her failed project, and I put them in the blender to make breadcrumbs. All the while, Mak's words kept coming back to me and I felt quite proud of myself, making use of all these things and improvising as I went along.













While frying the bergedil, AG was busy making brocolli juice for iftar. He has taken to drinking brocolli juice and we were at our wits ends as to what to do with the husks. We had tried frying them with eggs and oyster sauce, anything at all as long as we don't throw away the husks. Then, the bulb lit up! Why not, add them to the bergedil? Hmmm, that worked like a dream. So, as you can see we had two versions of the prawn bergedil here.

Well, Mak did say, it is just a matter of wanting to do it or not. "Kalau nak buat apa pun jadi, kalau tak mau buat - pi dok goyang kaki di depan!) Make and effort and everything will be fine, as long as Mr Murphy isn't lurking anywhere near the kitchen.

This brings to mind those days when AG experimented with all sorts or things from bread to croissant, tempe and even keropok.

It was during my early days of pregnancy and I was craving for keropok. As it was summer and mackerels were aplenty, AG, (you can take the boy out of Trengganu, but you can never take Trengganu out of the boy) decided to make his own keropok.
Well, if I remember it correctly, the consistency wasn't quite right. We couldnt throw away the mixture, so, we had keropok lekor instead!

Thus, if necessity is the mother of invention, desperation is indeed the mother-in-law of improvisation.

Other experiments in the kitchen:
AG's Tempe Tantrums

46 comments:

Naz said...

Kak Teh,
I love reading your entries!
I'm still in the bercinta mode with my paperwork at the moment. Nampaknya no murtabak today either!
I have more than my fair share of improvisation here too. Sometimes I get lucky and sometimes...let me put it this way, T eats it anyway dengan penuh rasa belas kasihan :D

Kak Teh said...

Naz, T sounds lke my AG. He'll eat anythng that I cook without batting an eyelid. Kesian!

Actaully Naz, I have so much to do, dealines to meet, five chapters to deliver, people to interview - tapi tak dak ilham nak buat tu semua. Dok megadap ni juga. and as for tonight tak tau lagi apa nak masak. Nak improvise apa pun taktau.

zaitgha said...

Kak Teh,

I whole heartedly agree with the kita buat dia bukan dia buat kita ...i improvised a lot of thing in my kitchen...only yesterday my ala Chinese Restaurant masak kicap pun improvised jugak ....turned out very well too.....the broccoli husk tuh goreng tepung sedap kak...tempura style....

melayudilondon said...

will there be an encore of the keropok lekor, kak? mmmm prawn toast....

Kak Teh said...

zai,improvisation in the right hands like yours will be a treat, with us it can lead to disaster, heh!

oh, i have emailed you for the recipe on how to use the husk with tempura flour.

melayudi london man cakap tak my roti john tak jadi. i took pictures to show you -tapi tak jadipun habis dimakan budak2! encore of keropok lekor? pi malaysia hall lah - banyak di situ.

Ida Hariati Hashim said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Talking about improvising food..hahaha, today (BTW, it is Didi's 2nd Bday today) I tried to bake some Ribena Butter cuppies, tunggu punya tunggu dalam oven bila keluaq, i tgk dia punya middle collapsed (tenggelam)..

Langsung i kena cover dgn icing, bila nak makan p buang icing tu pulak. But I dare say, the cuppies were a hit with the kids, imagine as I am writing this now all of them are bouncing pretty loudly, too much glucose, i believe..:-). Haish, pening!

Kak Teh said...

Ida, Ribena butter cuppies? that's something new! Care to share the recipe? If the children liked them it doesnt matter whether it collapsed or flopped...you must have done something right there.

I also made roti john yesterday, but according to a friend tak nampak macam roti john pun, tapi the children liked them - habis!

MA said...

Kak Teh :

When I go makan at a restaurant and liked something - I would korek-korek down the bowl and see what they put in. After that balik rumah I would try them. Jadik ke tak jadik ke, hentam sajalah...

It so happened that one time I was trying one of my hentam-hentam recipe when my kids saw me in the kitchen and asked : Mama masak apa tu?

I said : "Ntah, masak hentam-hentam saja!"

And so that particular dish became masak hentam-hentam to my kids.


Haha...

(it's actually salted vege + diced chicken + japanese toufu + bamboo shoot sauteed in oyster sauce)

Kak Teh said...

MA, I was going to add that as well - when i concocted something strange and when the children asked what it was, I really couldnt think of a name. So, it'll end up like masak kuning,masak merah - depending on the colours.I think i must try masak hentam-hentam and ask the children to google! hehe!

Kak Elle said...

kudos KT soon we can surf into your recipes blog plak:)

ah you could have use that extra mince prawns and steam it with eggs or tofu KT...

Pi Bani said...

I always don't know what to answer when I'm cooking and suddenly somebody comes and ask, "Masak apa tu?" Truth is, most of the time I tak tau apa benda yang I masak. Just make do with whatever ingredients yang ada, campak masuk dalam periuk or kuali, and jadilah dia apa dia nak jadi...

And frankly, I tak reti masak bila ada ramai spectators in the kitchen!! Rasa serba-serbi yang dibuat semua tak betul...

aliff muhammad said...

Salam,
Kak Teh,

Reading this post and the comment make me bursting with laughter in front of my pc. Really funny, "masak hentam-hentam" or following the colors of the gravy. It reminded me to a YB in my hometown, when he was a bachelor about 20 years ago, the neighbor ask him, "what are you cooking today?". He nonchalantly answered "masak experiment"! Ha!ha! Well I used to experiment in making a good bread also (this is my specialty).

He!he!he! Pak Awang buat tempe??? Sampai jadi bisnes pula tu. Macam-macam kisah hidup Kak Teh dan Pak Awang :D So colorful!

Tabby, mungkin dia dah rasa lebih berani dan kuat kot?

mamasita said...

Lanyak jer KT..
main baling2 yang sedap..iyya!Percayalah!

MULAN said...

kak teh, hentam pun ok tapi next time kasi je nama canggih2.. cekodok britney spears ke.. murtabak will smith ke.. he he.. sape tau.. kita yg buat kan..

my recipe book penuh nama kawan/saudara mara.. laksa massnie la, lompang siti la, cekodok zana jakarta la, rendang mak ngah la.. bersempena mereka2 yang kasi recipe, idea & ada cerita di sebalik kuih2 itu..

why dont u publish a recipe book/blog.. together dengan cerita2 menarik tentang itu recipe.. kak teh sure banyak cerita kan..

Kak Teh said...

kak elle, my one famous recipi is being googled all the time. I see the word sardine rolls being serach by quite a few people and that led them to this site. hehe - my only claim to fame.

Pi Bani, I used to be uncomfortable as well with other people in the kitchen, which explains why my children didnt learn much about coking until now. I'd rather be cooking on my own and cleaning and tidying up.

Kak Teh said...

aliff, itu lah kisah perantauan, kan? banyak asam garamnya. yes, i suppose it can be compiled kalau rajin dan ada masa.

mamasita, tu namanya masakan baling-baling, kan? ada yang campak-campak juga.

Kak Teh said...

Mulan, oh yes, of course memang banyak masakan yang diberi sempena tuan yang memasak! I have kari aunty tata, and of course many people saya sardine roll kak teh. Ya, i think there are lots of stories behind every thing and certainly recpies have their own interesting stories .

kay_leeda said...

Kak Teh,

Main masak-masak eh? Your Mak is so right, kita yg buat dia. Of course will menjadikan. I like doing experiments with my cooking too. At times nak masak kicap, in the end rasa satay ada jugak jadi nye :)

Hantam saja lah labuuuuuu :D

[danial][ma] said...

hej! Kak Teh...you are great! yeah, when we are away from our comfort zone, we will be very creative enuff to do things that we could not get what we have back home...and the tempeh case was my mother-in-law of improvisation...hahahaa...i guess the fasting month really make the brain work harder in creative way...;-)

Kak Teh said...

kay, tday i stuck to the rules - no improvisaton and somehow not much excitemnt around the table. looks like i need to be a bit adventurous and creative.

danial - that is true. the brain is being egged on by the stomach to work harder. i need to give my brain a rest - for now. penat already. hehe!

madam gold said...

Salam K Teh,
"Kita buat dia bukan dia buat kita"he..he..that phrase quite popular with me too when I was in faraway land.
But when back in Bolehland,I tend to be a bit fussy.Nak makan mutabak,cari murtabak raja,nak makan keropok lekor,mesti keropok Losong..dll
Yes,lots of improvisation overthere,tak membazir,make do almost with everything..dapat pahala lagi..
Hari berbuka apa pula k teh?

NanaDJ said...

Kak Teh,
I posted the recipe for the easy peezy Murtabak on Mamasita's blog but ada hantu cyber makan my recipe. I have been busy these two days but I will email Mamasita the recipe for her to try out before she put it up on her blog (will cc to you).
Your experiments remind me of when I was in Birmingham I experimented making kuah laksa Johor using mackerel (instead of Ikan parang), it work and sedap pun. At that time it was difficult to get coconut for kerisik so I used dessicated coconut, fry them slowly and jadi pun. So desperate times will make us experiment, tak boleh manja macam in Malaysia.
Happy cooking and experimenting!
What else is AG trying out? I know how to make reasonably good keropok udang. Salam.

ilene said...

A wise advice does bring out the creativity of a person indeed!

Thumbs up Kak Teh for not putting good food to waste!

Justiffa said...

KT - i'm also a strong believer of 'kita yg buat dia' just like ur mom so anything goes lol. there's been plenty of 'creative' (or should i be honest and say 'weird' ekekeh) stuff that has graced our family table over the years.

Apapun i've noticed, asalkan panas2 semuanya sedap je ;)

BTW KT planning anything special today? its 09.09.09 ;)

Kitchen Guardian said...

Kak Teh,
1. I think you dok teghingat food you had in KL baru baru ni.
2. I tergelak nasinb baik tak terbalik kerusi while reading yr post, ha ha...made my day!!
3. Talk abt murtabak, when in UK I made murtabak cream cracker, nanti i post the recipe...tapi tak dan dah kot kalau kak teh nak buat for this yr's ramadhan. But am sure yr murtabak tu sedaapp...hmm, i must also put up resepi pie pakai kart's roti canai segera...ha ha...interesting kan!!..hmm cerita pasai masak memasak...terus i segar...tadi terkebil kebil baca document...
4. Yes, I agree wt yr mom...kita yg buat dia...so mesti jadi no matter what...and tt's my attitude when i hias my cakes esp when playing wt sugar paste...inspirasi mai time decorate tu...
5. Lucky you dapat AG...makan je...my dh, ooi high taste, mesti komen kalau tak kena gaya...sebab tulah over the years i hv become KG, ha ha!!!
6. ...sayang tak dapat jumpa you when you came back...kalau tak rasanya borak macam choo choo train kita....

Kitchen Guardian said...

kak teh,
i dah pi tengok mat gebu...tu dia..memang mengancam....nantiu i pun nak trylah resepi dia, posa posa ni terliurq!!!

Kak Teh said...

Madam Gold, sememangnyalah. Bila balik ke tanah air nak semua yang orginal. Sanggup mencari and they shouldnt be a second best, kan? With the food restriction being enforced here - we'll have to make do with anything and have lots of creativity.

NanaDJ, hantu cyber pun suka makan your murtabak? mesti sedap tu!!!! I saw your letter as posted in mamasita's you should start a blog laaa! ( I just got a notofication of email with your murtabak recipe! The wonders of technology!)

Kak Teh said...

Justiffa = yes, 090909! i remember writng an entry for 070707. Perhaps i shd wait for nine nine past nine to write an entry.. 0909090909!
So, you doing anything special?

ilene, a pat on my shoulder indeed! used up everything and the best part is whatever I cooked went in 10 minutes flat!

Kak Teh said...

KG, memang laaa balik baru ni macam dok di food paradise so bla balik mai, terngangalah bila dok ingat.

I think when a husband is fussy about food, then the wife becomes a good cook. My husband tak kisah sangat. tawark, masin, tak ada rasa, semua dia telan.
Oh yes, i have heard the cream crackers murtabak - tapi resipi dah hilang. please, please post one recipe. Thanks.

Insyaallah, next trip we meet. masa i went to dena's tu, dah malam sangat nak merayap kat rumah you...orangtua2 kata tak baik melawat orang baru bersalin malam-malam kan? Bukanlah i tua, tapi orang tua lain yang kata! :)

atiza said...

Kak Teh,

Excess prawn tu should be freezed pastu next day you could make a devilish mee bandung (or spaghetti bandung)...kaki boleh terangkat bila makan...

:)

tapi the begedil looks nice.

3yearshousewife said...

Murtabak, my favourite alas never try to make one.

Kak Teh said...

atiza, mee bandung boleh buat, tapi excess udang yang dah di mincedkan tu nak masukkan macam mana dalam ee bandung, please tell!

3yearshousewife, kak teh pun tak pernah try - until a few days ago - but itupun yang improvised. Do have a look at Mat gebu's website. banyak respi menarik.

Andrea Wh@tever said...

Kak Teh: Well, at least you had frozen roti canai to start off with. I remember once, whilst trying to cook something Malaysian for some homesick Malaysian friends in London, I brazenly crushed a pack of cream crackers, pour in a mix of egg, onions, minced meat, curry powder; fried it all in a skillet and shamelessly called it Murtabak!!! No one blinked.. probably coz they were too homesick to question what on earth was that!!! Hahaha. You are right, improvisation is the MIL of desperation!

Kak Teh said...

Andrea, crushing creamcrackers? wow, that is the grandmother of all improvisation! Someone did mention creamcrackers - not all crushed up like you did. Must try all versions lah.
you see, nowadays when something goes wrong, we can always say it is improvisation.

my husband is always getting lost while driving, he calls it taking the scenic route.

masterwordsmith said...

Love your blog title, Kak Teh, cos it is like what I have to do in the kitchen hehe....Not only are you a good writer, but you are also a great cook!

After reading your blog post, I have a sudden craving for murtabak. My apologies cos I know it is bulan puasa....

Take care and thanks for sharing.

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Kak Teh,
Whenever my Mama cooks something indescribable she'll call it Masak Sirsau. It comes from the sound you hear when you plonk onion or garlic into hot oil (SIR) and then the sound of the whole concoction responding to water or liquid poured in (SAU). Don't know how it turns out everytime she cooks that. I only eat from the can. Safer....meow!

Kak Teh said...

Paula, i was just thinking, if there's indeed a mother in law in the kitchen, I am sure I would be doing everything wrong. from what i am told my MIL was a good cook and quite proper in whtever did she did.
You know, when you craved fo murtabak, u can actually hail the mamak murtabak - here, where got?

cats in sydney,the srsau sounds dangerously delicious. You dont know what you are missing. Give your mama's food try..ask her to make murtabak from meat in jelly. Could revolutionise catfood. Whiskers can try this.

D said...

kak teh,
sorry, as usual... late!(after 37comments, I consider myself VERY late). Yup, you were sharing this story of your murtabak using roti canai on the phone the other day and I forgot to tell you how I make my murtabak. Rasa biasa la kan, orang pakai kulit popiah? Once I made murtabak this way for a friend (who's very particular about food and not very young - LOL). He was skeptical tapi bila makan baru la dia tau (it did turn out like normal murtabak), orang di perantauan ni very creative and innovative. Kan Kak Teh kan??

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Kak Teh said...

D, yes, you should have told me abt it but then i tak ada kulit popia pun - mesti pi beli jugak and try.yes, orang di perantauan mesti creative, You should see they make lemang - which I am planning to make this raya - whoaaa - pecah rekod!

mekyam said...

kt, i skipped this entry yesterday afternoon because i didn't want to read anything abt food before mentari terbenam di ufuk barat, as the pujangga would say it.

now i can give you, your mum and improvisation's mil my two very impressed thumbs up! :D

Nazrah Leopolis said...

bila dah jauh dari kampung baru la rasa desperate eh? mati-mati mesti bagi jadi! i have been surviving without belacan, i am not sure ic an tahan any longer. ikan bilis n ikan kering pun dah abis...

Kak Teh said...

Mekyam,

Sebelum mentari terbenam di ufuk barat,
tatkala itulah menerpa segala godaan berat,
berdentum dendam perut berbunyi,
berkeroncong berberdikir barat sepanjang hari.

and now I know where lies your vulnerabilites.

Kak Teh said...

Intan, kak teh dah lama tak ada ikan bilis. Di kedai semuanya tak cantik - tak layak dibuat sambal tumis mengiringi nasi lemakku. How to improvise ikan bilis?

bibliobibuli said...

hi Kak Teh,

could i trouble you do take part in a v essential meme to save yvonne foong's sight :

http://thebookaholic.blogspot.com/2009/09/meme-save-yvonnes-sight.html

Kak Teh said...

thanks sharon, will gladly do so!