Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Even though there have been many Malay recipe books published and most are in Malay, I fear that these mostly concentrate on basic Malay dishes that keeps being repeated in new cookbooks that to me makes them run of the mill. It is as if hot Malay dishes are limited to just a few select familiar dishes, like rendang and nasi lemak. The fact is that count dishes from the individual states and Malay ethnicity, you can actually easily find a different thousand dishes alone, and that does not include an individual family's take on the dish. The more unfamiliar in general dishes like my family's besamah and gulai daun ubi tumbuk are the ones that risks the most of being forgotten, if the collection of recipes in the Malaysia family that usually rely on agak-agak measurement or guesstimates dies out with the older generation, possibly leaving us with the knowledge of making only generic Malay dishes.
Thus I am heartened by the fact there now seems to be a movement to publish treasured family recipes in order to keep them for posterity. I believe this was initially started by members of the Royal families as a way to share royal kitchen recipes with the masses, though since they are mostly published as expensive coffee table books I wonder how many of us from the masses could actually afford the cook book. Nonetheless a more affordable book from our first Prime Minister kitchen started the ball rolling although the latest Selera Perdana is yet published as an expesive coffee book again, and we now see ordinary families archiving their kitchen legacies in print, be it in the Malaysian languange, bi-lingual or even English.
Being one family's collection of recipes, these cookbooks usually reflect their author's family ethnic or state origins, like the cookbook " A taste of Batu Gajah" that is close to my own family's heritage and heart. The underlying thread that passes through this book and two others that are now in my collection, namely Nostalgia Bonda and Resipi Bonda, with Bonda being the formal name for mother in Malay is that these are actually a collection of the family matriarch's recipes. Thus in a sense all of us get a chance to share in a mother's homecooking through such surrogate memoirs.
So my advice to those interested to purchase such a book of malay recipes, it is better to buy these simpler publications than those published as coffee table books, as these collection of family treasures prepared from a mother's heart, as a buah tangan even though we may not actually get to taste their air tangan.