I guess it's going to be a sad truth that some people might have to contend with. For months, I've been looking for Jo, the dadih maker without much luck. So, will the delicious, creamy, lip-smacking dadih be considered extinct from the gourmet world?
What do I mean with "original dadih"? Well, Kedah IS believed to be the birthplace of these sweet desserts, and it seems that with the younger generation preferring (or does not know) Milk Agar-agar to the actual dadih, it looks like an extinction of this original treat will take place.
Dadih has been commonly labeled (or mislabeled) as "Sweet Yoghurt." Dadih is actually milk curds, solidified by means of hydration by enzymes derived from the barks of a tree known as Kasinai. Yes, I couldn't find that on google itself, so it's a bit difficult to describe more about this tree. I have seen it before, but it looks so commonly like other big trees, and not being a botanist, I'm not sure whether I can identify it again.
Going back to dadih, this sweet concoction was originally made from buffalo (Kerbau) milk, which is thicker and richer in taste and texture. In the 1970s, the population of buffalos decreased as more farmers turn to modern farming, and cow's milk became the regular ingredient for dadih. The milk is boiled and once that happens, sugar is added. Close to the end, the kasinai bark is added to the mix and stirred to release the enzymes. Once taken off the fire, the still-liquid dadih is ladled into bowls or, nowadays, into plastic cups which were then left to rest. During the resting period, the enzymes react with the milk and sugar mixture, hydrating it. As a result, water dries off, leaving behind a smooth, jelly-like curd. In some versions, the dadih is then steamed in order to heat them up. The dadih is ready to be sold, and enjoyed.
The actual dadih is served hot, or at least warm. If you leave it in the fridge overnight, the dadih shrinks and tastes sweeter as the hydration process continues. Dadih was commonly sold with Pulut Panggang (Roasted Glutinous Rice Wrapped In Banana Leaf). The pulut is dipped into the dadih and usually enjoyed during supper...as Jo usually sells his dadih after 8 p.m.
It is understandable why agar-agar is used: it is cheap and easy, and many have no idea what the kasinai tree looks like, let alone figure out why it was used. The amount of agar-agar used is not that much compared to making the traditional agar-agar, this is to keep the milk agar-agar softer, but watery.
In the late 1970s, I remember a young Jo on his motorcycle with a special made wooden box behind to keep the dadih warm, honking a hand-held horn. It was sold in bowls for less than RM1.00. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, dadih was sold in a much smaller plastic cup for RM1.00. The cup is even smaller than the milk agar-agar, but at least it is guaranteed that you get dadih, from fresh cow's milk, and no agar-agar. In the mid1980s, I remember Jabatan Haiwan & Pertanian started courses for making dadih where they used a type of culture, almost similar to the one used for making yoghurt, but that too requires refrigeration because after a while, the dadih becomes watery.
The milk agar-agar needs to be refrigerated, or stored in a cold place to avoid the agar-agar from melting. The milk agar-agar usually turns me off because the milk they used is usually full-cream milk, either from cartons or powdered. There are even those who uses condensed milk...well, it's condensed creamer. The original dadih sometimes incorporates a little powdered creamer, or even Coffee Mate. If one tries to dip Pulut Panggang into the milk agar-agar, it won't stick, not to mention the funny taste. Worse among all, the milk agar-agar is always too sweet to my liking. The older generation and those who knows, can describe the vast difference in taste and texture between dadih and milk agar-agar.
Nobody seems to know whatever happened to Jo, or where he is, but as far as I know, he is one of the last people who made the original dadih. He did complaint quite some time ago that getting fresh cow's milk was problematic, maybe that's why he stopped. I did try to call but I think he has already changed his number. For a guy who I met since the late 1970s, he didn't look that old the last time I met him in the early 2000s.
I am just hoping that he, or at least somebody else in Kedah still continues the art of dadih making, or we'll end up with the milk agar-agar and dadih becomes a forgotten history. If anybody knows where I can find the original dadih, please tell me.
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