(Crab in coconut milk gravy)
I love seafood, just like many people that I know. Top on my list are chilli crab, butter prawns and sharks fin & crab meat soup. Anything grilled are good choices too.
Now, I suffer from a major handicap in the culinary department. Thus far in the not so long span of my life, I have not met anyone of akil baligh age who’s less adept than me in the kitchen. Nothing I cook, except for rice and maggi mee, turns out right. The food always turns out too salty or too tasteless, too hard or too soft, overcooked or almost raw.
My predicament is not for lack of theoretical knowledge (or at least I think so). Somehow, the executions always go haywire and for the life of me, I cannot identify the exact moment when my cooking sessions veer off course. I cannot shift the blame to my parents either. My problem is definitely not genetic since none of the other family members suffers the same fate. Even my younger brother cooks better than I do. It’s not that I lack practice either, as I had ample time to improve my cooking skill during my student days in London. Tried as they might, my Mother and sisters failed to help me improve to an acceptable level (by their standard, may I add).
God is fair, however. My life is not really a hardship despite my shortcoming because of the following:
1. I am blessed with a DH who eats anything and everything that I cook. While I can barely swallow the food, he eats them away merrily. He thinks I’m too fussy, but I think he’s just trying to be nice to me.
2. My Mother In Law (MIL) is the epitome of a cooking goddess. She cooks scrumptious, sumptuous dishes and packs them for our dinner everyday. What would I do without her?
3. There is no shortage of food outlets to satisfy our appetite. One of which is Restoren Pok Tek that sells the delicious Tom Yam Pok Tek. Before I found this restaurant, I never knew that a dish by such a name existed. It somehow reminds me of my brother’s pet cat, whom he lovingly called Potek. Potek was a very cute, manja little cat who passed on to the next life a long time ago. He (or was it a she?) was very much a part of the family that I tend to think of him/her more like a person than an animal.
Despite my handicap, I am still hoping for a miracle, and it happens from time to time. So, I have not given up on collecting recipes. Recently, I asked my Mother for the recipe for Gulai Ketam. Here’s what you need:
Ketam bunga, bawang merah (shallots), bawang putih (garlic), lada burung/cili padi (bird’s eye chilli), cili boh (chilli paste), kunyit (turmeric), lengkuas (galangal), asam keping, santan (coconut’s milk), salt.
Agak-agak (that’s the problem when you ask for recipes from your mom. They tend to forget that your agak-agak skill is at its most rudimentary level.)
Method of preparation:
Clean the crab, cut it into 2 and lather with a bit of salt. Blend shallots, garlic, bird’s eye chilli, turmeric and galangal with a little bit of water. Put the crab, blended ingredients and santan in a pot. Cook for about 15 min over medium fire (or until masak lah), stirring occasionally to prevent the coconut oil from breaking (pecah minyak). Add asam keeping and salt when the crab is almost cooked.
Gulai udang is prepared with the same ingredients, minus the bird’s eye chillies. While both gulai ketam and gulai udang are eaten with white rice, gulai udang is also an important accompaniment for nasi dagang, a Kelantanese red rice dish.
A word of caution : if you have not seen a raw crab before, do not be alarmed if it does not look like the cooked version. One day when I was about 15, I was alone at home while my Mother and sister went out to town. I decided to cook gulai ketam for lunch. I opened the freezer and found this blue coloured thingy in the tupperware where the crabs were supposed to be. On closer inspection, those blue coloured ‘thingy’ were actually crabs. I waited anxiously for my Mother and sister to come home to tell them my discovery that the crabs they bought were blue instead of the usual red colour. Of course, my sister laughed at my ignorance before explaining to me that crabs only turn red after they are cooked.
When my sister was in KL last month, she cooked gulai ketam for us. DH and I walloped it like we had not seen food for days.
Now, what shall I cook this weekend?