Monday, September 12, 2011

Makmur With The Irreplaceable Ganti Susu

As Ramadhan draws to a close and Syawal waltzes in, almost every Muslim household got busy in their kitchen. My mother will be busy preparing her famous Mee Rebus (Palembang Style) and her home-made Rojak. One of these days, I will try to write down her recipes here for all.

Among the snacks that come abundant during Hari Raya are the Hari Raya biscuits. Various types such as cookies, tarts, self-concocted variations and many others seem to dominate the market. My main target, just like every year, is the Makmur. Many of you, I am sure, have tasted Makmur before. It's a cross between a baked cookie dough with a crumbly texture, rolled in fine sugar. The modern Makmur will have either peanuts or dates inside, but the original Makmur has the delicious and creamy Ganti Susu.

What is Ganti Susu? Well, I never found the actual translation that befits the word, but basically it's sweetened and hydrated milk solids (my apologies to those who actually knows the actual meaning) which is derived from boiling milk and sugar and reduced to solids.

Makmur came about to Kedah in the early 20th century. Nobody can really pinpoint its actual origin, but if my research is correct, it is Middle Eastern/Mediterranean in nature. I watched a tv program called "My Greek Kitchen" a few years back and saw that the host did make a similar dessert treat with a Makmur-sounding name and the dish itself uses reduced and solidified milk as its filling as well. As I have mentioned much earlier in this blog, many of the food item in our long family line have been Middle Eastern/Mediterranean in nature.

Again, Tok Wa Arab, our great-grand-aunt, is credited as the person responsible for bringing this tasty treat here. Just like most of the dishes that she popularized, making makmur is also tedious and more meticulous than one can imagine, despite its simple ingredients. I have never tried making it, as making ganti susu alone involves hours of non-stop stirring. My wife used to take orders for makmur and make them during Ramadhan many years back and I remember too well that she sat in the kitchen from morning to night making makmur.

Historically, the ganti susu is made from buffalo milk, which is richer and creamier, but as time goes by and with the buffalos decreasing in number, cow's milk is used and nowadays, full cream milk is used.

I don't know the exact measurement or the ratio of how much milk is used to make how many kilos of ganti susu, but let me give you a brief walk-through the process, and for the adventurous ones, you can always try it.

Before I proceed, I must tell you that some relatives believe that the recipe should never be released, but i believe that it is up for anybody to try. After seeing this, you might understand why.

To make ganti susu, you will need:

1) 2 cartons of full cream milk
2) 250 grams of sugar
3) Full cream milk powder
4) Ghee (clarified butter)

* Pour full cream milk and sugar into a deep pan, turn the stove on to the lowest possible fire and stir continuously. Ensure the stirring is constant to avoid the milk from getting burnt. Stir until it thickens and solidifies.

* Once the milk solidifies (not dry), turn the fire off. Move the pan away from the stove and use a spatula or spoon to ensure that the solids do not stick to the pan.

* Add full cream milk powder to the mixture, a little at a time, until you get the desired texture, which should be not too dry and not too wet and it should be able to be shaped.

* Once it cools down, you can shape the ganti susu into small, oblong pieces. To do this, you need to smear ghee onto your fingers first.

I used to say that making bengkang susu is a time-consuming and tedious work, but making ganti susu really amplifies on that. In fact, I am not that comfortable giving out a recipe which I have never tried before (by choice). One thing for sure, the fruit of this labour is incredibly addictive. One might find their stock of ganti susu decreasing everytime they turn around, preyed by spouse/children or even neighbours. The combination of milk and sugar, concentrated by reduction of the liquid is something to keel over for. Maybe that explains why makmur with ganti susu is such a hot item in certain households.

It is quite unfortunate to know that the number of people who makes the original Makmur are decreasing in number. In Alor Setar, on our last count, there are only 3 of our aunts who still takes order for Makmur. I understand that in KL, there is 1. If the younger generations do not pick the trade up, then even Makmur might just be a lost recipe that old people will keep talking about while the young ones have no idea. Certain family recipes are already considered lost (I might be wrong, I hope), I am hoping that we can still preserve whatever that we have left...and that's still a lot. Maybe compiling it all and make a cookbook out of it will be a grand idea.

To those who would like to try the ganti susu recipe, I wish you the best, and take a chair to the kitchen and place it near the stove. You'll need it.


  1. A similar type of biscuit in The Middle East called Maamoul - with either pounded dates or nuts fillings might be where the Makmur originated perhaps?

  2. Salam HJMisai, Thank you very much. Finally we get new info on this, a very good point to start. Thank you very much.