After licking all my five fingers, I must agree this is perhaps one of the best meal I have ever had after sooo sooo long!
I do not know why recently, out of a sudden I am just so addicted to cooking/baking, an interest I picked up about 2 years back. I have been learning and experimenting new recipes of late. It just won't stop. I find cooking/baking absolutely therapeutic. It really feels so nice and flattering when people give you positive comments, asking you for recipes or even uttering words like "YOU can COOK?". Getting these remarks just makes you yearn for more....and more......and more!
Last Sunday, I decided to cook one of my favourite typical Nyonya dish - Ayam Buah Keluak! Since mom passed away, I hardly had the chance to relish this finger-licking dish. As my wife is not a Straits born, so I thought it's time for me to get my hands down and learn up to cook this Peranakan dish myself.
Well, what is a 'buah keluak'? Basically, buah keluak is a black nut from Indonesia about the size of a misshapen golf ball.
As a matter of fact, it is a very poisonous nut and amazingly we Asians use it as our cooking ingredient. But not to worry as the ones found in the market have been detoxificated. It is boiled for hours and buried in the soil for over 40 days. Amazing yah, so poisonous and yet so edible! Well, like durians, this typical nut is an acquired taste. You either hate it or love it.
Now, how do we eat it? Firstly, a slit has to be made at the 'mouth' of the nut after which we scrape out its contents. It's basically a tar-like paste and the taste is unique and unbelievable. You just need to taste to believe it. Apparently, the supply is rather scarce as not many places sell them. For those who are staying in Malacca, I bought them from the Bukit Cina market and are sold at RM14 for a mere 20 pcs.
So, how do we cook this delectable dish?
First, the ingredients:
A: 15-20 pcs of buah keluak
B: 1/2 chicken
6 red chillies
5 cloves of garlic
2 cm of galangal (lengkuas)
2 cm of tumeric (kunyit)
6 pcs of candlenuts (buah keras)
3 cm of ginger (halia)
1 tbsp of shrimp paste (belancan)
D: 3 stalks of lemon grass (serai), coarsed.
E: 4 tablespoons of tamarind paste, soaked in 1 litre of water and strained.
F: sugar & salt to taste
Second, the steps. Well, I would divide the whole process into 3 parts :
1) Soaking & cracking
As the nuts are poisonous in nature, it is necessary to soak them for at least 1 night. It is also to remove the layer of soil on the nuts. However, according to old people, they believe that the longer the nuts are soaked, the softer the contents we get .
After soaking, we need to make a small opening on the nuts. And this makes your heart pumps a little especially for the first timer like me. It can be dangerous as we need to use the end of the chopper to carefully crack open the mouth of the nut.
This process is basically to make the paste. In a blender, blend all the 'C' ingredients until fine.
With 4 tablespoons of cooking oil, stir fry the paste together with the lemon grass until fragrant.
Add in the chicken and keluak nuts.
Lastly, add in the tamarind juice.
Simmer for about 1/2 hour or until chicken is tender.
And the final outcome is
Well, that's about all. The dish is ready to be savoured. However, if you are cooking for your guest or to get a better taste, an excellent tip I got is be sure you cook the dish the night before. This allows the flavour especially from the keluak paste to soak into the chicken and the taste........voila!