Saturday, August 6, 2011

Passing Old Recipes To The New

It's the 5th day of Ramadhan, and I must say it has been some of the hottest days in Alor Setar. The heat was searing, and I keep drinking more and more water during the breaking of fast to keep myself from being dehydrated. Despite all that, and the problem of location, the sales have been fine.

My niece who is studying at a polytechnic in Alor Setar came by for the weekend. Interestingly, tonight she indicated that she wants to learn to make one of the best-selling item during Ramadhan, the Bengkan Susu, or Milk Pudding. And I was always so willing...after all, I taught her younger sister and cousin to make Godam.

It's not actually a close guarded secret, Bengkang Susu came to Malaysia from Palembang, brought by the Syeds and Sharifahs. My research so far made it a fact that the dish did not origin from Palembang. It is most likely of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean origin, like the Godam which originated from Shepherd's Pie. Even the rich, milky kuih Makmur originated from there as there is a dish very similar to that in the Mediterranean. With the migration of the Ba'alawis to South East Asia, the dishes somehow evolved and localized, turning into the dishes that we have today.

The basic ingredients for Bengkang Susu are Milk, Rice Flour, Sugar and water. In the past, buffalo milk was used to create a very rich bengkang, but with the number of buffalos decreasing, milk powder was used as substitute. The best milk powder would be the full cream one. I'm not sure about low fat, but anybody can always try.

The measurement should be quite exact in making this dish, but one can still adjust the amount of sugar and flour for sweetness and soft texture. Milk on the other hand, should be more exact, after all, it is the main flavor here. Even water must be measured exactly, too much will make the dish watery and less will turn it hard and dry.

Once the ingredients are mixed together and stirred to get rid of lumps, the batter is stirred over a slow flame. The stirring must be continous so that the bottom part will not get burnt. Once the batter thickens, it is poured into a well greased baking tray and straight into a well heated oven and baked at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until it is well baked with the top part nicely caramelized.

I must say that she does it pretty well, and for once this week, I don't have to bake anything for tonight. I know her mom will be pleased with her, and I really hope that she will be able to do a repeat performance when she goes home a few weeks after this.

Is this the passing of the torch, or simply handing down family recipes? Whichever I see it, I hope the recipe will continue on for generations to come as there have been a number of family recipes that have long gone and forgotten.

I spoke to Chet, my cousin and Nasi Arab Pak Tuan owner, we hope that one day, we might get down and try to get most, if not all, the recipes of the Syeds and Sharifahs of Alor Setar back and reintroduce them to the younger generations.

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